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on 15 December 2017
Just read this for about, oh, the sixth time. Is it the best Bond? Compared to, say, 'Diamonds Are Forever', yes, probably (I can barely bring myself to mention 'The Man With The Golden Gun' or 'The Spy Who Loved Me'). 'DAF', like 'Goldfinger', is a letdown.
Donovan Grant, though, is a wasted character (as in the film) - and Klebb is only slightly better (Would Grant really have been a smoker?). Yet the opening - featuring Grant - is quite unforgettable, just like that of 'Brighton Rock' - not to mention 'Casino Royale'. The ending is also superb, with Fleming at the height of his powers. Bond, as usual, is a bit of a dull dog - the first couple of films improved upon that, with Connery breathing life into him as Fleming never did; and this was Connery's finest hour, particularly the fight in the train with the miscast Robert Shaw.
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on 30 May 2016
I really enjoyed the film of this novel which is more than I can say for the middle to later Bond films with the odd exception. But the film's basic flaw is absent from the more realistic action of the book. The flaw being that Grant's mission is to shoot Bond once through the heart make it appear as though the killing was suicide after planting evidence that would implicate him in scandal.

In the book Bond is no match for the beast that is Red Grant but judging him correctly to be a psychotic but professional killer he reasons that when Grant says he will shoot Bond once through the heart – that is what he will do and Bond prepares for the moment. The whole success of the mission depends on the death appearing to be suicide.

In the film proceeding one of the best movie fights I have ever seen, Grant taunts: ‘The first one won’t kill you, neither will the second…”

I don’t know many suicides who shoot themselves more than once in presumably painful places thus destroying the illusion of suicide. But I do still rate this film.

All the books are more realistic in their treatment of action and that’s why I prefer them. I love the fact that Bond knows he is no match for Grant and must therefore use his wits and experience to best him; which he does with gruesome results.

The downside of the books is that they are heavily stained with Fleming’s opinionated prejudice, however this doesn’t distract from the fine descriptive passages at which he excelled.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 26 November 2013
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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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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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 31 August 2012
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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on 23 March 2013
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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on 23 May 2016
A completely different style of story for me as I am working my way through Fleming’s 007 books.

From Russia With Love has massive detail on the old enemy, SMERSH, on which this tale focuses more than on Bond – who doesn’t even appear until well into the story.

Filled with vivid descriptions and great characters, this is a slower paced novel than the previous ones, but sets the scene for the rest of the series, so I am still ready and hungry for more.
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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 7 April 2009
'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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on 28 July 2009
There is something deliciously comforting about the beginning of each Bond novel. Familiarity actually heightens one's appreciation of the plot. We become immersed in the bizarre personality of Bond's adversary, are given the background to a politicio-economic threat that, 50 years distant, it's easy to slip into.

I'm not too sure, even today, whether Fleming is a natural home for female readers. They are much more chauvinistic than even the weaker carbon movies. I'm not sure Fleming would have cared.

The three novels collected in this volume are undoubtably the finest. Consistently gripping, the plots entertain and provide the field to test Bond to the limits of his skills and endurance. Rarely can we find comparable enemies depicted with such enduring menace. Dr No is silky meglomania, Goldfinger a rational gambler able to manipulate heavy odds in his favour.

If this is your first Bond read, jump in head first - if you're a veteran with a lengthy abstinence and a poor memory, put away your sceptism as Bond needs a partner - what good is it if you defeat HM's enemies and no one knows about it...?
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on 10 February 2018
What an exciting book, very enjoyable. Ends with unexpected cliff hanger. The book was written in a different political time, so may be deemed shocking or non-PC in parts. I wanted to travel on the Orient Express when I read this.
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