Casino Royale

15954464by Ian Fleming
Fiction
3 of 5 stars
Debut novel – first in series – 1953

“Mine’s Bond. James Bond.” I finally got around to reading this book because the James Bond franchise is so huge. I grew up watching the old films with Sean Connery and then Pierce Brosnan, and now finally Daniel Craig. I enjoyed the campy spy stories that gradually grew to define the action adventure genre for me, and I had to know how much of it came from the author and what bits Hollywood added in to sell it. Minor spoilers ahead, if you haven’t seen or read Casino Royale.

Fleming’s style strongly reminded me of Ernest Hemingway. It’s dry, sparse, but just when you let your guard down there’s a line that cuts right to the heart of human nature. They both exhibit a negative view toward women, which I expect from the 1950s. People also smoked in hospitals–times change. As a product of that era, this doesn’t bother me but it is worth mentioning.

As on screen, Bond is cool, confident, and misogynistic (a trait he recognizes but shrugs off as a side effect of female uselessness). He views his unexpected partner Vesper Lynd first as an annoyance, then upgrades her to slightly useful. He gets downright excited (professionally and sexually) at the idea of her being a competent partner both in the field and possibly as a wife, but after her betrayal she is downgraded to “dead bitch” (instead of superior double agent?) and he moves on.

What most impressed me was turning the rather dull act of watching a high stakes card game into a fascinating sequence of power plays and tension. It’s easy to narrate game-play. “Draw a card, examine it, determine your move” and so on, but I found this to be more engaging than I expected and it wasn’t stretched overlong. It was also a pleasure getting to know James Bond as the author intended. Bond isn’t as inhumanly capable here as he is in the films, and he actually gets a little philosophical after brushes with death. There’s a lot more going on in his mind than snappy one-liners here, which I liked.

The book itself is quite short (about 170 pages), and if the other novels are the same I’ll probably end up reading more of them. It’s a good, quick read, with understated but believable details. I highly recommend reading up on Ian Fleming himself, as well. These stories are all based on his experiences within the British government.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Casino Royale is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  •  From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming – This is regarded to be one of the best in the series.
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – For unparalleled diction, look no further. This also has a similar atmosphere of war and intrigue, and a man finding his place in it.
  • The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie – This jumps into the mystery genre, but it mixes the humor and darker forces at work in a similar manner.
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