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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 31 August 2002
From Russia, With Love is stunning. Fleming writes in an unusually excellent prose for a thriller writer, combininng the threads of the complex plot to excellent and often harrowing effect.
The characterisation is the best feature of this tour de force. Every character is fully and artistically developed - Red Grant, the psychotic killer, is the ultimate Bond enemy and he still packs a punch fifty years on. Rosa Klebb is written vividly, in all her detestable glory. Romanovna is not the average Bond girl - she is well introduced, as well as being a most luscious Bond girl, and plenty of backround to her life is given, something often lacking in Fleming's other efforts. Bond himself is also developed marvellously, and quite aside from the cardboard cutout characters we often get in a Bond book, none of these characters are lacking in depth and dimension.
If the plot is good - SMERSH plotting to kill MI6's best agent and also to create a world wide sex scandal with far reaching implications for the credibility of British intelligence into the bargain - then the execution is better. Every page is a masterpiece in itself, and the whole plot moulds perfectly and seamlessly, from London, Istanbul, the Orient Express and France, with perfection.
Fleming, with FRWL, proves himself not only to be a top rate thriller writer, but a top rate story teller and descriptive writer as well.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2002
If, like me, you grew up watching the James Bond films, it is a fascinating experience reading the original books which gave rise to the blockbusters. And they do not dissappoint.
Each of the three stories in this book differ significantly from the film versions; so even though you find yourself visualising the scenes you recognise, you are still confronted by surprises and twists in the plot.
Another major difference is the depth of character that Fleming gives to Bond, the girls and the villians - one possible criticism of the films are they are a bit "cartoonish".
Finally, although the books are set in a by-gone age of Cold War espionage, they capture that time perfectly with a refreshing "Britishness" which readers of my generation are not used to.
I highly recommend you try them out.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
If you don't already own any Ian Fleming novels, this wonderful omnibus edition from Penguin Modern Classics is a fantastic starting point from which to dive into the James Bond literary ocean.
FROM RUSSIA, WITH LOVE is almost universally regarded as Fleming's masterpiece novel, and is the first novel in this collection. The plot is fairly similar to the 1963 film. The biggest difference is that the organisation that Bond is pitted against is SMERSH, rather than SPECTRE as it was in the film. SMERSH try to lure bond into a trap, the bait being a Spektor cipher machine. (It was called Lektor in the movie) Bond main ally is the memorable Darko Kerim. The girl is a Russian cipher clerk named Tatiana, and the villain is Rosa Klebb, a repulsive woman who is described brilliantly by Fleming. This is a great taut, suspenseful novel right down to the final twist on the last page.
DR NO is second in the collection and is another great read. This was the first Fleming novel I ever read, and it was a very nice, easy read. The plot is fairly simple, and the characters move fluidly within it. Honey Ryder is the Bond girl this time out, and Quarrel (from Live And Let Die) returns. Many of the scenes are the same as those in the movie, although the villain's death is very different (And quite bizarre!!) Bond is attacked by a deadly centipede and a giant squid and comes out the other end in one piece as only 007 can do!
GOLDFINGER is arguably one of the most famous titles in the world thanks to the 1964 film, and it rounds off this trio of novels. The highlight is undoubtedly the game of golf with Goldfinger. I actually enjoyed the first half of the novel more than the second half. The whole gangster scenario was a little difficult to follow, and the whole ending is not as good IMO as the film version. Nonetheless it is a great novel, and deserves a place in any collection, as do all of Ian Fleming's works, which tend to be underrated.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 January 2005
The fifth Bond book is far and away the best I've read of the series. Much of its strength comes from an excellent beginning-almost a quarter of the book passes before Bond appears. The story starts in Moscow, where the Soviet intelligence community has decided it needs to pull off a major coup in order to maintain its prestige. The SMERSH division (for those who are new to the series, or for whom it's motto of "Death To Spies" isn't clear enough, SMERSH is in charge of eliminating internal and external spies) is tasked with killing that perpetual thorn in the side of international communism, James Bond. All the major villains are introduced in this early section, from the psychotic ace hit man (alas, his full-moon madness is an unnecessary and silly element), to the deviant older woman who runs the operation, to the chess mastermind who plans it, and finally, the beautiful and more or less innocent honey pot who will be set in front of Bond as bait. Two of these scenes are mini-masterpieces, the very first, where the naked hit man lies by his pool and gets his massage, and then later, when the planner is met in the middle of the Moscow city championship match.
Only after all the pieces are in place, does Fleming finally pull away the curtain to reveal the object of all this attention, 007. This is a brilliant technique for heightening interest in a character and building suspense (Hitchcock was the master of it), and it sets the stage beautifully. We find Bond more or less indolent, having recently broken up with Tiffany Case (his girl from Diamonds Are Forever), and growing surly with inaction. The Soviet plot lures him to Istanbul, where he is met by another vivid character, Darko Karim, who is head of British intelligence in Turkey. After minor adventures there-notable is a lurid gypsy catfight-they make contact with the female lure, and the trio steal away on the Orient Express. The rest of the story takes place on the train, as it makes the four day trip through Europe, across Greece, and through places like Llubljana, Belgrade, Trieste, Venice, and on to Paris. It's an extended cat and mouse game, as the reader waits for the Russians to spring their trap.
The one complaint I would have with this otherwise gripping book is that, as in many of the Bond series, the super spy is a bumbling idiot who manages to escape death only through the most unlikely actions of his foes. As in earlier and later books, he manages to miss rather obvious clues and lets others do the heavy lifting for him, only to walk into a rather simple trap. In this instance, Fleming makes an attempt to account for this by continually noting that Bond's senses are dulled from inactivity and that he's not sharp, and so forth. This grumble aside, its a very entertaining work,and definitely the best Bond I've read. Oh yes, Fleming does commit one gaffe with Bond's history that seems a little strange. At one point, it is mentioned that Bond has never killed in cold blood; which makes no sense, because it is explicitly stated in the very first book (Casino Royale) that he did! His shooting of a Japanese spy in New York, and knifing of a Dutch double-agent are what earned him his 00 ("Licensed to Kill") designation, so it's strange that here Fleming would suggest otherwise. In any event, if you only read one Bond book, make it this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
From Russia With Love, first published in 1957, is the fifth of Ian Fleming's books to feature the superspy James Bond. And it is one of his best, right up there with Moonraker in the thrilling read stakes.

The book opens with a long detailed description of the history of Red Grant, a psychopath used by SMERSH as their top assassin. There then follows a long and tense section in which the inner workings of SMERSH and the Russian intelligence apparatus are explored as a committee meeting is held, the ultimate conclusion of which is a death warrant for a certain James Bond and the start of detailed plan to kill him and bring the British intelligence service into disrepute. It is only a quarter of the way through that we meet our hero, as he is sent out to Istanbul to deal with an offer from a Russian agent that looks very inviting form many respects. In Istanbul Bond meets one of Fleming's best characters, Darko Kerim. A larger than life Turk working for British Intelligence, he fills the role usually taken by Felix Leiter in earlier books, and provides Bond with staunch support and firm friendship. After a series of adventures in Turkey, Bond decides to take the Russian bait and a flight across Europe on the Orient Express is soon in motion, and builds to a final crashing conclusion as Bond finally meets with Red Grant, and the full depth of the Russian trap is revealed to him. There then follows an interesting post script to the adventure which ends on a thrilling cliffhanger that readers in 1957 had to wait until the publication of Dr No to see resolved.

It's a thrilling read from start to finish. Populated by well drawn characters of varying degrees of charm or monstrosity. I especially enjoyed the Bond-less opening quarter of the book in which the opposition is studied and the seeds of the plot sown. Fleming, as usual draws a series of grotesque figures to pit against Bond, but balances these with characters such as Kerim who are complex, morally dubious and firmly on Bond's side. Fleming also writes superb action scenes and sets scene with a prose style that drips with imagination and atmosphere. No other author I have ever read can describe a scene with the clarity and intensity of Fleming, and he uses that skill to his usual good effect here. The plot is one of his best, and the book well constructed so that even though the reader knows that there is a plot, the exact extent and nature of it is kept hidden up until it is revealed to Bond as well. It's a classic, thrilling read, 5 stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
From Russia With Love, first published in 1957, is the fifth of Ian Fleming's books to feature the superspy James Bond. And it is one of his best, right up there with Moonraker in the thrilling read stakes.

The book opens with a long detailed description of the history of Red Grant, a psychopath used by SMERSH as their top assassin. There then follows a long and tense section in which the inner workings of SMERSH and the Russian intelligence apparatus are explored as a committee meeting is held, the ultimate conclusion of which is a death warrant for a certain James Bond and the start of detailed plan to kill him and bring the British intelligence service into disrepute. It is only a quarter of the way through that we meet our hero, as he is sent out to Istanbul to deal with an offer from a Russian agent that looks very inviting form many respects. In Istanbul Bond meets one of Fleming's best characters, Darko Kerim. A larger than life Turk working for British Intelligence, he fills the role usually taken by Felix Leiter in earlier books, and provides Bond with staunch support and firm friendship. After a series of adventures in Turkey, Bond decides to take the Russian bait and a flight across Europe on the Orient Express is soon in motion, and builds to a final crashing conclusion as Bond finally meets with Red Grant, and the full depth of the Russian trap is revealed to him. There then follows an interesting post script to the adventure which ends on a thrilling cliffhanger that readers in 1957 had to wait until the publication of Dr No to see resolved.

It's a thrilling read from start to finish. Populated by well drawn characters of varying degrees of charm or monstrosity. I especially enjoyed the Bond-less opening quarter of the book in which the opposition is studied and the seeds of the plot sown. Fleming, as usual draws a series of grotesque figures to pit against Bond, but balances these with characters such as Kerim who are complex, morally dubious and firmly on Bond's side. Fleming also writes superb action scenes and sets scene with a prose style that drips with imagination and atmosphere. No other author I have ever read can describe a scene with the clarity and intensity of Fleming, and he uses that skill to his usual good effect here. The plot is one of his best, and the book well constructed so that even though the reader knows that there is a plot, the exact extent and nature of it is kept hidden up until it is revealed to Bond as well. It's a classic, thrilling read, 5 stars.

The unabridged audio reading from Toby Stephens is pretty good. Stephens really has a feel for the pace of the book, and his reading reaches fever pitch in the climactic scenes. He really helped the story flow along, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The book comes on 8 discs in a pevex spindle case, and clocks in at 8 hours 55 minutes. I assure you that those nearly 9 hours will fly by. There is a short and totally disposable interview with Stephens at the end of the eighth disc. All in all 5 stars for an excellent reading of an excellent book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 19 September 2012
A very well read Bond, back to the Cold War and the beastly Russians! I enjoyed it, especially with Toby Stephens reading as I recently heard him playing James Bond in a radio broadcast of "From Russia with Love" There is a good build up of tension in this book, especially as we know a lot about the assassin who will clash with James Bond sooner or later. There is a cliff hanger ending and the very evil Rosa Klebb. Good stuff!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Ian Fleming's novels were once dismissed as trash by several critics at the time of their original publication. How things have moved on. The whole Bond phenomenon remains hugely popular, and the novels are where it all began. Yes, these novels are modern classics, and it's only proper that they're treated as such. Fleming's prose is elegant, exciting, page-turning; all the things you expect in good writing. As one reviewer put it, there's never a wasted word - and that in itself is a real art. All the novels are worth reading - and in sequence you can track the development of Fleming's style, through to where he himself grew bored with his own creation. The three novels here are probably the peak of his output - From Russia With Love is perhaps the finest book in the series. If you have never read the original Bond novels, a treat awaits.
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on 11 April 2015
My project to read all of the original Bond novels in 2015 continues!

Before reading From Russia With Love I listened to the 2012 Radio 4 adaptation and also watched the movie again (this was the second James Bond film but the fifth Bond book). Both of these were useful to familiarise myself with what was to come in the book. The novel itself continues on in the same vein as previous books in the series and made me realise just how closely the first few Bond movies got the tone of the paperbacks right. By right I don’t mean that I agree with Bond’s misogyny and use of inappropriate language but how they managed to translate the now familiar Bond formula to the big screen. From Russia With Love sees a villain who like to talk in detail about his plans instead of just killing Bond, we have lots of action, including the excellent train scene between Bond and Red Grant, some gadgets and of course sexy parts (gypsy girl fight; boobs exposed!)

Interestingly, the first quarter of the book doesn’t feature Bond at all; the plot is described from a Russian perspective and Bond doesn’t appear until much later. This was an unexpected and brave move by Fleming. In this section we are also introduced to all of the main baddies via some nice set pieces. So with all of the main elements of the story in place a depressed Bond is revealed, haven broken up with Tiffany Case, mooching about, having breakfast with his housekeeper, getting scared on a turbulent flight and wondering about the morality of his mission. The literary version of Bond therefore comes across as much more human.

The plot line leans heavily on the Cold War paranoia around at the time of its writing and is fairly unbelievable, even for a Bond book: Romanova falls in love with Bond after seeing his photograph. But then of course, actually falls in love with him. Red Grant (one of the best Bond villains ever) comes across almost like a Terminator: a completely relentless killing machine who stops at nothing. Fleming’s writing is really intense and snappy. The reader is transported to exotic locations which are described in atmospheric detail and help to provide just enough realism to the plot so it doesn’t descend into pure fantasy.

However, as I’ve mentioned in previous Bond novel reviews, Bond seems to evade death through luck alone as opposed to any real skill on his behalf plus he misses some fairly major clues as to what’s actually happening to him. So, not he’s not a super-hero after all.

It also occurred to me that being a man in the 1950s seemed like hard work. It appears that you constantly had to be prepared to spank misbehaving ladies or even give them a beating if they put on too much weight. Really?! Perhaps it was only playboy spies that had to do this and not normal run-of-the-mill people? By novel number five I’m beginning to realise that writing realistic female characters isn’t Fleming’s strong point. For sure, the female characters have more dimension and depth than normal but Tatiana Romanova, comes over as a particularly dumb Soviet spy who simply agrees to prostitute herself for Russia and Rosa Klebb is a mad bisexual S&M loving granny.

So in summary From Russia With Love is another entertaining read and probably the best Bond novel so far. In fact, if you only ever want to read one Bond book, make sure it’s this one.
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on 29 March 2014
This book was written around 1956 - 1957 and it's film version was made in 1963. A time when the Cold War was at it's peak. The film sticks close to the book which is the closest James Bond comes to the real work of espionage.

What makes this a great piece of fiction is the plot and the characters that the reader gets to know. On the side of SMERSH the Soviet organisation that believes in "Death To Spies". There is the evil Colonel Rosa Klebb and the psychopath Donovan 'RED' Grant.

Bond is helped by the brilliant Kerim and there is brief appearance by Rene Mathis who was in Casino Royale.

The epicentre of this is the love interest in the shape of the beautiful Corporal Tatiana Romanova. The 24 year old who was selected by Rosa Klebb to make contact with the British with the offer of defection as she has fallen in love with the photograph and the on file data held on a certain James Bond of the British Secret Service. To help with this Tatiana is willing to give the British a Spektor. A Soviet decoding machine which holds Top Secret Information.

Tatiana who has just been moved to a post at the Soviet Embassy in Istanbul. Is to draw Bond to Turkey with the ultimate aim he will meet with his death for his part in embarrassing the Soviet Union in his earlier exploits that were featured in his first three adventures (Casino Royale, Live and Let Die and Moonraker).

There are thrills on the Orient Express and two Gypsy woman fight over the love of a man. To me this is a classic James Bond adventure which along with the escapism brings the reader into the world of real espionage.
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