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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Bond book.
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...
Published on 31 Aug. 2002 by George Owers

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Too slushy
Bond is an assassination target of SMERSH in his 5th outing as the super spy. The first third of the book details the reasons why the Russians want Bond eliminated (mainly because of the past trouble he has caused, and they want to show up the secret service). A plan is hatched which will enable the Soviets to capture Bond in a scandal large enough to make a mockery of...
Published 21 months ago by Bridgey


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Bond book., 31 Aug. 2002
By 
George Owers - See all my reviews
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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
4.0 out of 5 stars As entertaining today as 40 years ago, 29 April 2002
By A Customer
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Fleming's Best Works, 17 July 2005
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Bond's Best, 25 Jan. 2005
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars From Russia With Love: Ian Fleming - One of Fleming's best, 26 Nov. 2013
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ironic - critics finally get there, 28 May 2004
By 
Jl Adcock "John Adcock" (Ashtead UK) - See all my reviews
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars 007, Granit and Spanish secret police, 19 May 2013
By 
Carlos Vazquez Quintana "cvq" (Linares- Spain) - See all my reviews
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I remember well the film based in this novel. I ever thought it was the best film about James Bond, but it's clear time has passed for everybody, not only for Sean Connery, but for me also.
And now I rarely taste films or books of spies if not very good, but now the novels of agent 007 are easily accessible, not as in my youth in Spain, so, I had the curiosity to read this, and "Casino Royale", and I think Casino Royale is best conceived.
This is in the rare case in "From Russia with love" that the film is better than the novel. It's only my idea, but the screenplay I find is better structured.
Here, Fleming commits an error in the structure so, the action seems to be sharply cut in three visible parts as a play, but it's a novel.
We see, the novel begins with a long -too long- presentation of the Soviet machinations so, the reader feels Bond arrives too late. The SMERSH personages and plans, no matter how sinister, and they exceed in that, are not so interesting. Half of the most important in the SMERSH are madmen and madwomen.
The second part show us basically the long voyage to return in the Orient Express, not very believable instead of an airplane, but romantic. This is more interesting with the personage of Kerim, the man who wants to die for living too much and full.
The final it's basically the terrible confrontation between Bond and Granit, the criminal SMERSH mad killer, and with the evil Rosa Klebb.
All the parts are recognizable in the movie, but as I say, that's better easily conceived than the book. It's only my opinion but Casino Royale seems to me a more logical novel without disruptions.
And a touch of humor in this novel, from the 1950's decade, is the remark of the SMERSH about the high quality of Spanish police against communist agents, this is, Franco's police I knew. Few Spaniards today should agree with that as these was effectively a corps as a little Spanish SMERSH.
At last both British and Spanish police and his secret agents seem to have been in close collaboration until now and it follows owing today's new class of terrorism. Life has these paradoxes as the relations seemed by 1954 much more cold but you don't have to believe to the politicians.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Impossible to put down, 23 Mar. 2013
By 
Ian Thumwood "ian17577" (Winchester) - See all my reviews
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In many respects it's incredible that the books from 1950's have endured and I suspsect that much of this is attributable to the fact that the films have become so iconic. This is the first James Bond book that I've read and I would have to admit that that, whilst swathes of this novel were old-fashioned and rather dated in their attitude, there were also elements where I felt the writing was quite crisp and more profound than I had expected. Certainly, I would have to argue that any notion that Ian Fleming was incapable of writing need to be quickly shot down. The prose is lean and economic and does all that it needs to. The first third of the book deals with the creation of the Russian Secret Service plan to ensnare Bond and there were moments where the element of mistrust between the various psrties to this operation recalled George Orwell's "1984." I would also have to say that the grotesque Rosa Klebb is an extremely memorable character and perhaps is more menancing than the hit-man Donovan Grant.

The appreance of Bond some 130-odd pages in to the book marks the point at which the tone of the novel becomes much lighter. It is fair to say that many elements will be familiar if you have seen the film and like it's cinematic equivalent, the story then becomes something of a period piece. Bond himself is almost character-less and certainly not as infallible as he appears on screen. Some of the other characters such as his Turkish contact "Darko" illiminate the story from this point and once Bond is involved it is fair to say that the book becomes impossible to put down even if the story and it's conclusion are familiar.

In conclusion, this book was far better than I had expected. Whilst the screen-play of the recent "Skyfall" suggested that Bond as a cinematic character had been served with a better quality of writing than he has every previously enjoyed in all other mediums and thought Fleming's character is perhaps slightly more colourless than Sean Connery's portryal would lead you to suspect, the quality of the writing in "From Russia with love" is surprisingly good. If you recognise that these books were actually set in the 1950's and not in the following decade as the iconic films, it is possible to appreciate their appeal. I think successive writers like Le Carre and Len Deighton were capable to writing books which may have been more realistic, however Fleming captures the feel of the time when Britain's political influence overseas was clearly on the vain. There are elements of the book which don't appeal (the attitude towards women must have been lamentable even at the time of it's writing and the descriptions of foreigners is patronising a best and racist at worst) and you half feel that Fleming should have been writng for the Mail and not The Times. I think I can just about forgive Fleming these failings as in the best passages of writing he is very good indeed. Like many pieces of fictional writing that are over 60 years old, some elements of this novel are a bit creaky yet Fleming could write a cracking yarn that moves at pace.

All told, "From Russia with love" may have produced the most dated of all the James Bond films (at least those featuring Sean Connery.) However, as writing on the page, I feel that the first third of the story is almost Orwellian in it's description of the State machinery of old Soviet Union and the craftmanship with which the plot is constructed allows the reader to set aside the more fanciful elements of the remainder of the book. I anticipated that this book would have materialised to have been the work of a lazy, hack journalist. The reality is that the writing may be of it's time but , on this basis of this book alone, Fleming's writing deserves as much credit as the oft-lauded films even if the James Bond within these pages is something of a different animal from his screen equivalent. I polished this book off in a matter of days. (Word of warning, the printing in this edition is extremely spacious and this is still a relatively short book.)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ian Fleming and James Bond at their best, 31 Aug. 2012
By 
Graham Mummery (Sevenoaks, Kent England) - See all my reviews
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I've been a fan of the Ian Fleming, James Bond novels from an early age and read every one of them many times over. They still are a refreshing read, even though my tastes have expanded to other things. They can be for me the equivalent of comfort food, being books I turn to when feeling ill, wanting some light relief.

Kingsley Amis (who authored what is still probably the best Bond story not written by Fleming Colonel Sun: A James Bond Adventure), wrote in his definitive study of the books, The James Bond Dossier, about a stylistic feature he called the "Fleming Sweep." This was his term for Fleming's ability to carry the reader along on a fantastic journey. This is a quality that is on show in these novels which are three of the very best. It's perhaps no surprise that these were the first three of the books to be filmed.

To readers who only know Bond from the films, will recognize the plots in these novels, unlike those is some of the later films especially in the Roger Moore era. All of them are show Bond as a tough agent, but more human than he appears in the film. Even if they are escapist, there is an element of reality that keeps the reader on the ground and helps suspend disbelief when facing the improbable villains and and always pneumatic women. This perhaps also explains Bond's lasting appeal, and maybe why the books are still read where some rivals and imitators are not.

I bought this book so I had a single volume to carry with me when needed. It is good value if this is your introduction to Fleming also. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. This is him at his best.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Bond, 7 April 2009
By 
C. Green "happily low brow" (Quenington, Glos, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: From Russia with Love (Paperback)
'From Russia With Love' was always one of my favourite Bond movies. It might have lacked the gadgets and style of some of the later movies but there was something about the plot that always had me hooked. Every element just seemed to fit together so well.

Having now read Fleming's original novel I can see that it is he I have to thank for most of what subsequently appeared in the film adaptation. Although some details were changed (SMERSH were replaced by SPECTRE as the bad guys for the film and extra action was injected) the essential mechanics of the plot were pretty much as Fleming originally conceived them, which is hardly a surprise considering how brilliantly he did so.

I can see why FRWL was the book that made Fleming and Bond's reputation. Compared to the four novels that preceded it this is the first time that the character we now traditionally think of as being James Bond appeared fully formed on the page. Moreover all the other elements of a classic Bond Adventure are present and correct for the first time. There are the girls, the gadgets, the globetrotting, the exotic locales, the evil organisation up to no good, its ugly minions and evil henchmen and the inevitable action. Other Bond books might have had one, two or possibly more of the above elements but none of them manage to put them all together into such a compelling package as FRWL.

Nor did any of the books that came before FRWL have such a highly tuned, compelling plot to them. Its no surprise to discover that Fleming spent a great deal of time refining FRWL to get the story and the details that accompany it just right. There isn't a loose thread or plot hole to be seen. Everything works just like clockwork, maintaining tension from the get go right up to the very suprising ending.

If you've read some or all of the first four Bond books but gave up on the series before picking up the fifth novel then I can highly recommend giving the literary Bond another try by reading FRWL. This is where everything comes together into a perfect formula. The Bond on the page remains very different to the Bond of the screen, but with FRWL you get an almost perfect blend of everything that makes Fleming's original Bond novels so compelling and long lasting.
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From Russia with Love
From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming (Hardcover - 1 Jan. 1957)
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