Review: Casino Royale — Ian Fleming

Read: 17
To Go: 83

Book List:
11. Behaving Badly — Isabel Wolff
12. The English Patient — Michael Ondaatje
13. Atonement — Ian McEwan
14. One Fifth Avenue — Candace Bushnell
15. Daughters-in-Law — Joanna Trollope
16. From the Secret Files of J Edgar Hoover — Athan Theoharis
17. Casino Royale — Ian Fleming

Introducing James Bond: charming, sophisticated, handsome; chillingly ruthless and very deadly. Spymaster M has sent Bond on a mission to neutralize a lethal, high-rolling Russian operative called simply “Le Chiffre” — by ruining him at the baccarat table and forcing his Soviet spymasters to ‘retire’ him. It seems that lady luck is taken with James — Le Chiffre has hit a losing streak. But some people just refuse to play by the rules, and Bond’s attraction to a beautiful female agent leads him to disaster and an unexpected saviour…

I’m exhausted, it’s late, and I’m a little rusty at this (having not read an actual book in what feels like forever), so this is going to be short and sweet tonight. Forgive me!

I’ve been getting unusually interested in spy fiction and also WW2 fiction lately, mainly because of my “History of Espionage” class, so before I’d even bought Casino Royale I’d already committed myself to reading the entire James Bond series.

Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to do that anymore. For such a legendary series of novels, the writing was ridiculously sloppy. By that I mean that Fleming chose to elaborate on all the wrong things. I was treated to a page-long soliloquy about Bond’s bedtime routine, but couldn’t figure out how Bond had come to half of his hunches, because I was never told. It felt sort of like standing in one place, and, just as you’re getting a feel for it, being transported to a new, entirely unfamiliar area and being expected to understand it immediately. His narrative didn’t “add up,” and it was super confusing.

As well, I was told more about James Bond’s traits than I was actually shown them. I didn’t get to deduce for myself whether Bond was an incredibly talented agent; I was simply told that he was intelligent, trained in martial arts, and apparently charming.

I hate to break it to Fleming, but there didn’t seem to be much evidence to support that thesis.

It was a disappointing book, and a disappointing character, and for the first time in my life I will say that the movie was better than the book. The only really cool thing was understanding some of the espionage references because of my class. That was actually really rad.

Next book: that is a relevant question. We shall see.

– Kelsey


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