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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A competent beginning
The first of Ian Fleming's 007 series is nothing really more than the first few shots fired in James Bond's war with a Soviet organisation: SMERSH.
In print, the world's most famous spy is similar but ultimately different from the loveable rogue that has blessed cinema screens for the past forty years. He is a cruel ruthless killer, ambivelant towards women; in that...
Published on 19 July 2003 by Sam Cooper

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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bond - basic, bitter and brutal.
The first Bond book will come as something of a shock if you have only watched the films. None of the film 'basics' are to be found - no Moneypenny, no Q, brief reference to a male 'M', and nothing by the way of gadgets. This is a new 00 and although he's a sophisticated, intelligent gambler he's new to the spy racket and somewhat uncertain. This makes a change from the...
Published on 13 Feb 2007 by P. W. H. Bradley


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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A competent beginning, 19 July 2003
By 
Sam Cooper (Louisburg, North Carolina United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Casino Royale (Audio CD)
The first of Ian Fleming's 007 series is nothing really more than the first few shots fired in James Bond's war with a Soviet organisation: SMERSH.
In print, the world's most famous spy is similar but ultimately different from the loveable rogue that has blessed cinema screens for the past forty years. He is a cruel ruthless killer, ambivelant towards women; in that he loathes but desires them, but somewhat troubled with his dangerous profession.
In this the first installment, Bond comes up against a known and powerful SMERSH operative named "Le Chiffre". A Frenchman working for the Soviets with a penchant for spending his superiors cash on sideline businesses that he hopes will bring him fortune. In an attempt to hide his massive losses from his Soviet bosses, he attempts to retrieve their lost money by gambling with what remains at one of France's premier casinos.
Bond, an almost fresh but respected agent is sent to intercept "Le Chiffre" and bring him down, not with a bullet, but in a game of baccaret. Hoping to relieve him of his remaining funds Bond becomes involved in a wonderfully detailed game of cards, the aim being to coax a vengeful wrath from SMERSH onto their misguided French agent and thus ridding NATO of a potential nuisance from France.
The writing is of a very high standard. Bond is described well, as are all the other characters, making him seem more human than his on screen personna. Vesper, Bond's naive assistant, is believable and mysterious in her role, attracting Bond but focused on the job in hand. Fleming's talent for atmosphere and ambience are present here, neatly surrounding the main theme and it's absorbing narrative.
Rufus Sewell is a very casual, effortless voice talent. Each character has it's own trademark accent and tone. Such is the fluidity of his words one often forgets that it is just one person reading. Penguin can be congratulated on choosing this highly talented screen and theatre actor to bring Bond's world to life.
A promising beginning to an outstanding series. Sewell will make you love Fleming's work all the more.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ian Flemings debut novel: Suspense written with fast pace, 1 July 2007
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This review is from: Casino Royale (Paperback)
Background

Casino Royale is the place to start when looking for Ian Fleming's James Bond novels. It is the first book of which another 11 followed by the author himself, however other authors have continued the series. This novel was released in 1953 and was the starting point of an enterprise that would gain worldwide recognition. Inspiration for these books partly came from his time in the Naval Intelligence Division during WW2. Casino Royale was particularly influenced from his time in a Lisbon casino called Estoril Casino, which had a number of spies of warring regimes due to Portugal's neutral state.

Personal Opinion

This is the first time I have read a James Bond novel or any of Ian Fleming's work. I started it early evening and finished it the same night as it did have me enthralled with Fleming's quick pace and suspense filled action within the Casino. Unfortunately I seen the film earlier in the year and as the film stays quite true to the book I already knew the twists that take place. However I would still advise someone to read it if they have seen the film as I still enjoyed the book. I do think the book comes to a climax early on (the end of the casino chapters) and I felt as if I had come to the end of the book half way through. Yet overall the book is well written and Ian Fleming is very articulate without lavishing pages of description on setting, this style aids the books fast paced nature. A note to those who are inexperienced with casino practice or games (which I am having never been to one or played), Fleming provides a concise explanation of the main game played (Baccarat, unlike the Texas hold-em poker displayed in the film) and also portrays the atmosphere and setting well enough for me to feel competent about the main theme of the novel.

Other links: Casino Royale (film 2006), Casino Royale (film 1967), Live and Let Die (the second novel)
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bond takes a chance and wins an audience, 5 Feb 2006
By 
F. Orion Pozo "Orion Pozo" (Raleigh, NC USA) - See all my reviews
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This is the first James Bond novel written by Ian Fleming so it provides a delightful view of the character before he became an iconic figure. While Bond is particular about getting his drink right and which car he drives, they are not the same drink and car we have come to identify with him from the movies. Also, although his boss is a mysterious character referred to as M, there are no Moneypenny or Q in sight. Without Q's inventions Bond relies more on his wit than his toys to stay alive.
Originally published in 1953, Casino Royale takes a young Bond who is questioning rather than convinced of the righteousness of his tasks and puts him in what I see as an improbable situation. Le Chiffre, a French Communist labor leader, was embezzling union funds to purchase a string of whore houses only to have them closed when they are outlawed by a new law. He needs to earn back his lost funds and decides to do it through casino gambling. Eager to discredit Le Chiffre before SMERSH hitmen can kill him, Bond's superiors send him to Monte Carlo to beat Le Chiffre at Baccarat. The game between these two is described wonderfully so that even someone who has never gambled can get caught up in the excitement. However it is hard to believe that the British government would bankroll someone to defeat an enemy agent at a game of chance that wasn't fixed.
Unlike the movies, much of what is in Bond's mind is revealed in this novel. His sexism is fully-developed with thoughts like this: "These blithering women who thought they could do a man's work. Why the hell couldn't they stay at home and mind their pots and pans and stick to their frocks and gossip and leave men's work to men?" Even with an attitude like this, he manages to develop a romantic interest in his partner Vesper Lynd.
This first Bond novel is exciting and well-written. The premise seems far-fetched, but once past that it is an enjoyable introduction to the greatest spy in 20th century literature.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Quick Relaxing Read, 19 Sep 2013
By 
Charles Vasey (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This is a rather short novel to start so illustrious a career. The Bond revealed here is not the smirkingly oily Sean Connery character - rather more Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim. He lusts after the ladies and desperately displays what he assumes to be savoir-faire; you can see where Connery's Bond came from, but this Bond is still close enough to Smiley's people to shake hands. The explanation of Baccarat is clear enough even for me, and the "Prestige" when it comes is a very nice surprise which blindsided me. I was interested to note Bond actually asks the waiter what he thinks of his order, something I cannot see anyone doing today, autres temps, autres moeurs. Then he asks for more toast.....
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Bond of three parts, 1 Nov 2012
By 
Andromeda Descendent (Tarn Vedra) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Casino Royale (Audio CD)
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Well, I'm amazed I'm saying this after giving a frustrated three star review to Goldfinger, but I found this to be a very enjoyable Bond novel. It helped that it was only four discs; - being a shorter novel than I'd imagine most if not all of the rest are, it meant that the writing was tight paced and I didn't ever feel bored, waiting for something of substance to happen. Bond is a thoughtful character in the novels, and the chances of him actually punching or shooting anyone are remarkably low compared to your expectations. When we meet him he has killed two people in his career and although the occasional hope that he'll get to kill a henchman he doesn't like crosses his mind, he's ultimately not in a hurry to kill again because he empathises when he himself is painted as a target.

That unpleasant torture scene from the Daniel Craig film is here in the book too, and was perhaps the main reason Casino Royale went un-filmed for so long before the franchise masters decided audiences could stomach it. Before we get to that though, and in act 1 of what is essentially a three act book, we spend a long time with Bond trying to bankrupt Russian operative Le Chiffre at the card table so that his paymasters will assassinate him. This section of the book is surprisingly riveting, and it didn't matter that I know very little about any type of card game, let along baccarat - the writing drew me in.

The second act, as I've mentioned is set around a very graphic torture scene, and the third act deals with Bond's recuperation and takes an unusual (for Bond) twist in that he starts falling in love with his latest conquest instead of just falling into bed with her. Until you discover the final twist of this story, as a modern reader you're likely to find Vesper Lynd to be written in a patronisingly poor way, but as you think back after the end of the novel you realise that she was actually more three dimensional than a good deal many of the later "Bond girls". The tragic romance section of this book may not be to everyone's tastes, and may seem to some an unnecessarily long epilogue, but I found it interesting for its uniqueness amongst the Bond canon, but also simply interesting in itself.

Dan Stevens reads the audio book extremely well, although I found the voice he used for Le Chiffre quite bizarre. There's an interview with him at the end, which is mildly interesting. It would have been nice to hear a few words from the producer, Lucy Fleming, but sadly we don't. I find the front cover of these "reloaded" audio sets uninspired - being merely a picture of the reader. I'd have liked artwork based on the original covers, or at least something with a bit more imagination. But it's the content that matters, and I enjoyed this Bond novel a fair bit. My literary experience of 007 so far has been one mediocre Bond and one good Bond. I may yet be tempted to listen to more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "It's not difficult to get a double-O number if you're prepared to kill people. That's all the meaning it has.", 15 Oct 2012
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Casino Royale (Audio CD)
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`Bond saw luck as a woman, to be softly wooed or brutally ravaged, never pandered to or pursued. But he was honest enough to admit that he had never yet been made to suffer by cards or by women. One day, and he accepted the fact, he would be brought to his knees by love or by luck. When that happened he knew that he too would be branded with the deadly question-mark he recognized so often in others, the promise to pay before you have lost; the acceptance of fallibility.'

It's perhaps telling that what would become a global phenomenon - more due to the extraordinary success of the film series that moved increasingly further away from his novels - begins with the acrid, sweaty stink of a casino in the early hours of the morning, its glamour stripped away as James Bond calculates his winnings and losses. The premise of the book may be slightly fantastic (though rooted firmly in a failed scheme Ian Fleming himself proposed to bankrupt a Nazi spy during the war) but the approach is more down to earth, with the emphasis on the details (conveyed through intermittent quotes from secret reports or Bond's imaginative speculation) and atmosphere to make the tale more credible than it sounds. The senses are also evoked, Bond's sense of taste and smell often to the fore whether it's a casual mention of the villain's flatulence or the aroma of roast mutton in the air in a vivid description of the aftermath of a botched bombing. Described as looking like singer Hoagy Carmichael, far from the veritable superman he would become, this Bond is described as absolute Hell to work for, with not much heart and a tendency to get hostile when he senses himself getting too friendly. He doesn't even harbour any resentment for the victims who earned him his 00 rating, acknowledging that they were probably quite decent people who just got caught up in the gale of the world. As he notes, "It's not difficult to get a double-o number if you're prepared to kill people. That's all the meaning it has. It's nothing to be particularly proud of."

Where Bond walked through most of his screen adventures the same infinitely self-confident hero at the end as he was at the beginning, his certainties are challenged more in his print incarnation as he falls in love and questions the nature of his life - though in a way that's far more reminiscent of Raymond Chandler, one of Fleming's favourite authors, than great literature: the novels may be a bit more down-to-earth, but they're still superior examples of pulp fiction (so much so that the original US paperback was retitled You Asked For It). Thankfully it receives an excellent reading from Dan Stevens on AudioGo's unabridged 4-CD audiobook, managing most of the accents well without overplaying Bond's swagger or cynicism. The CD also includes a very unenlightening interview with Dan Stevens, who admits that hasn't read any of the books and focuses on the many differences to the film incarnation.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bond - basic, bitter and brutal., 13 Feb 2007
The first Bond book will come as something of a shock if you have only watched the films. None of the film 'basics' are to be found - no Moneypenny, no Q, brief reference to a male 'M', and nothing by the way of gadgets. This is a new 00 and although he's a sophisticated, intelligent gambler he's new to the spy racket and somewhat uncertain. This makes a change from the buffoon as played by Moore for example, and is much closer to the Connery version. (Craig plays him as a thug, which he certainly isn't in this book.)

There are several shocking moments - when you realise that Bond has a scar down the right hand side of his face, his 70+ a day cigarette habit and a quite shocking reference to 'the sweet tang of rape'. This really is NOT the Bond we think we know - he's far harsher, more cruel and his dislike, even hatred of women, comes out very clearly.

This is Bond at his most basic, bitter and brutal, yet still compelling. The storyline is actually very dull, and the book is short, to be read in a couple of hours maximum. The secondary characters are quite poor, and if this was a 'one off' title it would have sunk without a trace. However, as an introduction to the whole Bond saga it is worth reading. If you have anything more than a passing interest in Bond, this should be right at the top of the list of books to read, but beware - you're in for some shocks, and not all of them nice ones.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The original and the best Bond book, 22 Jan 2007
By 
Ms. N. Wrebel "nicola8447" (Lincoln, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Casino Royale (Paperback)
I wished I had read this book before watching the film as the former is much bettr than the latter. After watching the fim I was highly confused with regards to the plot, the characters, I felt that the story raced along far too quickly for people to keep up with. After reading the book a lot of things fell into place but the film is no comparison to the book which is gripping and rather dark for a Bond book, I read it in an afternoon and could not put it down, perhaps film makers should have stuck to the books original plot rather than adopting it to suit todays audiences... saying that, Daniel Craig plays a good Bond, I think he plays him as Fleming himself would have wished for him to be portrayed. Ian Fleming has to be the best novel writer of our time. A must have for Bond fans like myself and those who wish to understand the film better!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's good, but it's not Goldfinger., 25 July 2007
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This review is from: Casino Royale (Paperback)
Although I enjoyed Casino Royale I thought it was clear that Ian Fleming had not yet mastered his art when writing this his first James Bond novel.

I very rarely say this but the film was an improvement on the book. It had more depth and complexity of plot, and it even valiantly succeeded in portraying the awkward love story that makes up the latter third of the book.

If you are going to read only one James Bond novel then I would not recommend this one; give Goldfinger a try instead. But if you are reading this book because you've seen the film then prepare to be disappointed.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bond : The Beginning, 29 May 2009
Like most people it seems, I picked this up long after watching most of the films, including the recent Casino Royale movie. On the one hand I was pleased to discover that the film really does use much of the original plot but on the other I was genuinely shocked to discover how utterly different this Bond is from the Bond of the movies, regardless of who plays him.

Perhaps the most striking difference is the lack of action. In the book Bond flexes his muscles just once and is involved in just one car chase, and even that is hardly high-speed. Moreover the entire second half of the book is given over to the development of the relationship between Bond and Vesper Lynd and contains no identifiable 'action' whatsoever. Evidently Fleming, at least at this stage, was far more interested in examining what was going on in Bond's head than in show-casing his physical prowess. The reader is offered an interior monologue entirely missing from the films. Bond is exposed as, at times, vulnerable, scared, brutishly angry as well as calculated and cold. Here is a far more interesting, distinctly human being than the Connery/Moore/Lazenby/Dalton/Brosnan/Craig amalgam. Sometimes he get things wrong too, which add to his humanity.

It is not a difficult read and can be consumed quickly. Fans of the more dynamic film Bond may find it a little slow but I would recommend persevering if for no other reason than the insight if offers into the character Fleming clearly wanted to create. The writing is not great but serves its purpose and the supporting cast, including Felix Leiter, are imaginatively drawn. Overall, not what I expected at all but not necessarily the worse for it.
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Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (Hardcover - 1953)
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