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Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

By jim of the lowercase | Books | March 31, 2010 |

By jim of the lowercase | Books | March 31, 2010 |

My next two books were my attempt to read my first Ian Flemming James Bond novels. For years I have read the film adaptions of the films that were never based on novels. For example Raymond Benson’s adaptatin of The World Is Not Enough on a fantastic, dawn of the millenium, observation carriage train journey from Indianapolis to Chicago. But I had never tucked in to Fleming’s work. For my first I chose his very first novel, Casino Royale. I had heard that the literary James Bond was less the bombastic action hero of the films but instead a much more downplayed English gent with a hard streak and intelligence. This definitely holds true and Bond’s actions are barely that of the film Bond before Daniel Craig.

Although seemingly having a knack for womanizing, this Bond is a post-war product who reacts indignantly when he realises he is to work with a woman. Taking away all the times I laughed at outdated mentalities, though, this was a very different Bond, less showy (unless on the poker table) and more interested in keeping his nose out of trouble if he can. But if he cannot he is still willing to go all out to get his man and to accomplish the mission. This Bond lends itself to the writing style of the novel which is economical and exactly the opposite of the bombastic nature I was expecting. This impacts perfectly on the poker scenes. Meaning that they are very easy and simplistic to follow, allowing Fleming to rachet up the tension and the stakes throughout.

The novel bears up well in comparison to the recent film version. Up until the end the film adds and changes things in an organic way, be it the chase through the bodies exhibition in Miami to showing Bond being smart and athletic in his chase of the terrorists in Miami and Africa. This worked much better to me than the book which contains mostly passages about French seaside towns (these bogged the book down in that I worried so much about where in France the book was set and what the purpose of the town explanations were that it became stagnant) and failed bombings by terrorists from the Balkans. Where it failed and where the book excels is the ending. In the film, Bond realises Vesper Lynd’s betrayal and follows her and enemy agents through a sinking Venice house. Vesper gets trapped in a lift and dies while Bond tries to save the traitor. In the book Vesper commits suicide from the guilt of her betrayal. This turns Bond from the fairly involved (romantically) man of this mission in to the cold-hearted bastard he has to be. The film’s version means that Bond’s change into the man who intones “the bitch is dead” makes less sense. In the film Vesper is given too many outs. The book makes it clear that whatever the status of his lover Bond cannot forgive her.

Overall though the book was a fun romp and a quite fascinating insight into the origins of a classic character. I enjoyed it so much I immediately went out and snapped a set of James Bond short stories.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of jim of the lower case’s reviews, please check his blog, Everyone’s Favourite Nobody.