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on 31 August 2002
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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on 29 April 2002
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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on 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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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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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 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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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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VINE VOICEon 28 May 2004
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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on 25 August 2016
This is the best of James Bond. Equally I reckon the best film.
Superb cast.. A Psychopath A fiendish Russian Spy Smersh ..Rosa Kleb . The Orient Express A Girl fight in a Gypsy Encampment in Istambul ...what more could we wish for. I Loved it..
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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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