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Casino Royale (James Bond 007)
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on 3 May 2017
This must be considered a significant book. In many ways, it does not matter if it is good or bad, as a piece of literature it is the point that marks the beginning of something that would become a pop culture phenomenon: James Bond 007.

This is a book that I first read many years ago and was one that I decided to read again, remembering just how much I loved the Bond books and, of course, to look at through more world-weary eyes.

It seemed to start a bit jerkily as though Fleming was coming to terms with his writing, but it smoothed as it went along. I’ve seen various things written about the book, decrying it for vulgar sexism (it is sexist but I did not think it was as bad as some people have declared), that it goes into far too much detail about the culture of casinos and gambling (not as much as I thought it would and what there was seemed interesting) and that Bond is not the clear-cut hero his modern image shows, in fact he is a bit of a bastard. (He is).

For me the book was an excellent read, and rather than looking at it through modern eyes with modern sensibilities I tried to look at it as it was written, a contemporary piece that has, by the passage of time, become a period piece. It is a rather interesting look at another time, when the memories of war were that more immediate, where the men had been shaped by that conflict, when sexism was just part of the culture, a good decade off from really starting to change although the seeds are being sown. (I’d imagine Fleming would have been against this.)

In short it is a snapshot of a time and place that has long gone, where casinos are no longer exotic places – the big ones probably still are, but they have been diluted through depiction by film and TV, and by the more commercial ones that appear on streets.

The core of the story is a strong one though, something that can be attested to by the more recent movie of the same name. Cleverly the writers of that have kept the main beats and plot points in place, and updated them for a modern audience.

The novel deals with something that is in some ways simple, but as with most things, simple works best. An agent of a foreign power has squandered funds he should not have done and is trying to recoup that loss through card play. The ‘good’ powers are determined to exploit this weakness and send Bond along to break Le Chiffre.

It is a rollercoaster of a ride, with the baccarat part of the novel written well enough that you can follow how the game works, and causing tension to build nicely as the cards are played. It is what happens after that steals the book though, with a damaged and somewhat cornered animal striking out, but even this does not deal with the increasing twists that just keep coming.

It is an old-world story, that catches the feel of its era. Everyone smokes heavily, there is a sense of style that is part of that bygone era.

Bond himself is not a particularly likeable character. He treats women with the sort of contempt that today would be totally unacceptable – at one point basically saying that they should be in the kitchen and house. He is brutal, a shark swimming through a sea of lesser beings. It is only as the book progresses that we see him soften and almost become likeable. This could, of course, be a reaction to the torture he suffers, but all the same it is this humanising of his character that gave him the potential to become the cultural icon he has.

On a final note, there is perhaps a sense of justice, in for all his attitude towards women, that virtually all the men miss the fact that the best spy among them is not male.

Overall well worth a re-read.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 26 March 2015
There are arguments for and against as to Fleming's ability as a writer and I would imagine the more positive critics will home in on James Bond's debut as being the best written of the lot. The story is familiar and even if the excellent film needed to flesh out what is in effect a novella to make a compelling piece of cinema, this remains the most credible book in the series. Having saved this novel until last amongst all the 007 efforts I have read, it is fair to say that the more grounded approach of this book is more akin to the better short stories. Had Fleming continued in this vein, I feel the later books would have been better for it.

The plot is pretty simplistic and whilst I was surprised that the novel effectively reaches it's climax 2/3rds of the way through, the book's tone remains a surprise. One of the worst aspects of Fleming's writing could be the clunky dialogue yet the conversation during the initial meeting with Vesper Lynd struck me as so good that it was hard to believe this was the same author whose villains were often obliged to speak in comic book cliches. Here, Fleming remains taunt and credible and conjures up a story which is only matched by "TSWLM" for a low key story line. The most comparable adventure is "FRWL" and "Casino Royale" shares a similar scenario with the plot also concerning Cold War skulduggery. It is quite intriguing to see how different Bond's first appearance on the page is from later books and the manner in which the plots grew from beating a Soviet-funded Union boss at cards through to less credible efforts to destabilise the world. Even the setting of the Channel coast of France is markedly less glamorous that the more typical Caribbean destinations.

Although "Goldfinger" is the book likely to match the expectations of a reader new to Ian Fleming, the better efforts are those of a shorter length where the writer's excesses are curtailed and the stories not quite so far fetched. The Daniel Craig film was billed as a "re-boot" yet it mirrored the less sensational tone of Fleming's book which eschews nearly all of the elements you usually associate with James Bond. In summary, the exoticism associated with the secret agent is almost entirely missing in this book and offers a hint at how different the stories could have been had the tone been maintained. Amazingly, Fleming's creative powers took a nose dive two books later with the disappointing "Moonraker" and whilst the better efforts are a good, light read, Fleming never quite managed to replicate the quality of writing within the initial effort.
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on 19 November 2017
Love this origin of James Bond and recommend it to those who like the films, as there is enough variations from film Bond to keep you interested. The book is as pictured and in fine condition. Nice to have the old edition as I fear there maybe retcons to gruff and what was meant to be a troubled character.
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on 26 June 2017
I hadn't read any Fleming before Casino Royale, so the chance to start at the beginning was too good to miss. I must say it is very much of it's period which is part of it's charm in places and very uncomfortable reading in others. This Bond is no modern metrosexual and some of the ideas accepted as the norm back then are quite disturbing to a female reader in 2017. I thought it held up well as an action story and was impressed by how much it shared with the Daniel Craig film. However I think it'll be a while before I read another Ian Fleming novel
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on 5 October 2014
Wow!

I've been late in getting around to reading Fleming's Bond novels...was fairly happy to watch the films, until now.

The fact that Daniel Craig's first outing in 'Casino Royale' is my favourite Bond film (possibly sharing the honours with 'From Russia With Love'), and the fact that it's the first novel in the collection, encouraged me to pick up 'Casino Royale' first.

All I can say is that this book is exceptionally (and being of fan of Tolkien, I mean exceptionally) well written and the story, the characters and the twist are utterly compelling and thoroughly worth growing attached to.

In hindsight, I was quite impressed by how much the modern film took from this truly vintage book. But I can say with all honesty that this book doesn't feel 'old'. It doesn't feel dated or out-of-touch or from a bygone era. There is a truly timeless quality to it, and Ian Fleming deserves credit not just for Bond himself but for the truly superb quality of this story.

I have read a great many books in my time (and plan on reading a great many more). I do not exaggerate when I say that this is quite possibly one of, if not THE, best...
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VINE VOICEon 31 December 2012
I first read this book in the 60's because no proper film had been made from the title and you had to be 14 to go and see Bond films in those days. I remembered much of the book up to the sado-masochistic section, but nothing afterwards, where there is less action and more emotions along with some sexual references. Interestingly there is nothing particularly dated about the book; the cars are classics, today and much else sounds quite familiar except that there were less crowds of tourists and a thousand old francs to the pound, so the book seems fresh, even the sex which is not over-done but was much more poignant back then. James Bond became an icon, probably through the films, the character of Sean Connery and Ian Fleming's lack of detail about the literary Bond, making him a kind of adventurous everyman, or what every man would lke to be. Nevertheless, characterisation is shallow, dialogue is perfunctory although the sense of place and the description of the casino and the game of baccarat is good. I seem to remember, from other Bond books that I have read, that he is prone to falling in love, but unlucky - this is the book where it all started and Bond, who at this time, has a reputation for being a cold-hearted killer, finally makes up his mind to become one. The book is a page-turner and can be read quickly, while holding your interest, but it aint Hemmingway or any other literary heavyweight; a good holiday read or something for a long train journey.
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on 29 September 2015
My memories of reading the Bond novels, soon after originally being published, were of delighted surprise. Re-reading the first one now showed how much times have changed, and how fiction generally has improved.
At the time they were described as "sex, sadism and snobbery", and all three of these still exist. With hindsight,, the snobbery was all too evident, the sex and sadism weren't necessary, and the long and tedious descriptions of how Bond was feeling made it hard not to become impatient.
My intention was to read all of them in order, but I have serious doubts as to whether I should bother.
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VINE VOICEon 28 January 2013
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
Ok, I admit it - I have NEVER listened to an audio book. Ever. I prefer to read books myself at my own pace, as I don't seem to take in what I am listening to (my teachers at school may back me up here).... People tell me they are great in the car, but when driving my mind tends to wander and so I have missed a vital part of the story....

However, I love the Bond books (the films are good, but are not the books), so I thought I would give this a go.... I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, although to be able to lock myself away in a room for 5 whole hours meant it was listened to in installments. So, as a weekly "treat" whilst ironing, this was listened to.

If you know the book, then you know the story... if you don't it was the first Bond book written by Fleming, and for once the recent movie is an accurate representation of the contents of the book. Plenty of reviews here tell the story, so what of Dan Stevens' reading? There is certainly a "Daniel Craig" about him, and most of the characters are voiced well... there is the odd exception. Stevens can obviously speak French adding to the "listenabilty" of the discs.

A great book, given great service.... now for On Her Majesty's Secret Service.... that's 8 hours (or a lot of ironing).
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VINE VOICEon 3 December 2012
You could hardly miss the 50th anniversary of 007 in the cinema, but I suspect the upcoming 60th anniversary of where James Bond really started in 2013 will attract slightly less attention.

Casino Royale is almost 60 years old, but it's as fresh and exciting to read as it probably was back then. It gets the Bond series off to a terrific start, and has been very enjoyable to re-read as my part of re-visiting the original Bond novels. What stands out more than anything is the freshness and directness of the writing. The story is told briskly, through efficient, stylish storytelling, and even though this was Fleming's debut novel, it reads well, and the trademark style is well-established right from the first book.

Bond is portrayed as a ruthless, cold instrument of government policy. There's little to like or admire about him as he goes about his business with calm, detached efficiency, and very often he is likened to a machine. It's an exciting read, pacy, well-executed. Some of today's bloated, over-written techno-thrillers look poor by comparison.

The Kindle edition is fine - a good, clear read but with one or two foolish typos that more rigorous proof-reading would have spotted.
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VINE VOICEon 19 September 2013
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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