I'll give the background to this one.

Yesterday I was having a drink with sone friends and was astounded to hear someone say: "James Bond is miles better than the Hobbit". That just seemed to me such a philistine thing to say. I don't think he's seen the film, and maybe Jackson doesn't make a good fist of it, but I suppose he's going by the book. But if so -- really ...

I suppose Fleming has a good plain prose style, and I suppose any reasonably intelligent boy passing through an expensive English public school education in those days would have. (Ignorant of science possibly, but able to construe a sentence almost certainly.) As I remember, one can probably expect a reasonably interesting plot and some lively incident. There'll be some humour (more perhaps in the films than the books). That, I think, is probably about as far as the virtues go.

With the Hobbit you have what must surely be one of the greatest children's books ever written. At an artistic level there is a sure hand with both prose and poetry. It also draws on over a thousand years of literature, and that material is reworked in interesting and unusual ways. It's charmingly written and has a good deal of wit and humour. It evokes wonder and longings for the I-don't-know-what. At a moral, even spiritual, level it's a deeply serious book. While it's for children (unlike the same author's later books) and written to their level, it touches on important matters like loyalty (and its proper limits), the nature of evil, forgiveness, mercy and much else, none of which you're going to find treated in an Ian Fleming novel.

The Bond novels, by contrast, seem nihilistic at their heart. If there is a "value" in them it's probably snobbery. They're about the best suit, the best shirt, the best car, the best champagne. And there's also a sprinkling of how to tell a lower-class person from the way he knots his tie or holds his cutlery. Their attitude to sexual relations is deplorable -- depersonalized and predatory. They are, perhaps, the original "sex and shopping" novels. You could get some entertainment from the novels -- although something by Ian's brother Peter would probably give you a little more in that way -- you couldn't get anything else.

But maybe it's just me. What would other people sooner watch?