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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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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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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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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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VINE VOICEon 21 June 2017
I cannot believe that it has taken me so long to begin reading these books. This is superbly written, told at a good pace and with good characterisation. Yes, there are parts that seem old fashioned today but that should not put you off.

Now onto the next.
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on 20 April 2017
Easy to see why these books became so popular. Fleming had a great knack of atmospheric description.
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on 28 April 2017
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on 9 March 2017
Excellent product.
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on 4 June 2017
Comes with a different cover design. The pictured one is much prettier and so it is deceiving and badly advertised. Apart from that - Great!
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on 16 June 2017
A great start to the Bond series. Highly recommended for Bond fans and action book lovers. Well written and highly descriptive.
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on 2 December 2015
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