I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Review: Casino Royale

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Casino Royale
James Bond novel #1
by Ian Fleming
Spy Thriller
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:

In the first of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, 007 declares war on Le Chiffre, French communist and paymaster of the Soviet murder organization SMERSH.

The battle begins with a fifty-million-franc game of baccarat, gains momentum during Bond's fiery love affair with a sensuous lady spy, and reaches a chilling climax with fiendish torture at the hands of a master sadist. For incredible suspense, unexpected thrills, and extraordinary danger, nothing can beat James Bond in his inaugural adventure.


I did enjoy this book overall, but unfortunately I had a whole lot of issues with the story, the writing and the characters.  I find it so weird how James Bond is not really likable.  Maybe admirable, but he's so cold-blooded and analytical that he has so little warmth and whenever he expresses any affection it seems very grudging and tempered by  irrational criticisms of another's character.  I'm mostly referring to his attitude towards women.  There's very little humor to make up for his lack of chivalry so I find it unbelievable when women fall for him.  But his personality is very distinct and he gets the job done, so I suppose there is an allure there.

The story itself is pretty flimsy and it's hard to really imbue drama in a card game.  The writing is very straightforward which doesn't help to lend any flair to such an uninteresting mission.  Of course there are a few twists to liven things up after the card game, however those twists are pretty predictable.  There wasn't as much evidence in here of Bond's cleverness and resourcefulness either to help make this story more exciting so that the only draw to the plot I think is the suspense of not knowing the Bond girl's secret.  Although I did have an idea of what it must be.

While my review of this book isn't glowing, I think there is a charm to reading the original books and comparing them to the film incarnations.  I'm sure this isn't the best Bond novel, but it is intriguing to see how Ian Fleming started off this iconic character and see how the world of James Bond can grow.

** This audiobook was narrated by Dan Stevens from Downton Abbey if anyone was curious!

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  1. I have never read one of the books and I always thought it would be interesting..
    Quick q... how do you do the box with the synopsis?

  2. It is! It makes me feel like watching the old movies again to compare - because I'm pretty sure James Bond is more charming and humorous in the films! :)

    In html editing mode, you sandwich your text with the blockquote tag - like here http://www.w3schools.com/tags/tag_blockquote.asp (you don't have to do that cite part in the example on the website)

    The look of your blockquote will depend on the coding of it in your blog. Hope that helps!

  3. You are quite right that the Bond of the books is much less charming and heroic than the Bond of the movies. The early films (the first three) preserve some of his unlikeable qualities and certainly his chauvinism. Dalton's Bond is also quite close in his cold, cynical outlook on life and unsurprisingly those films proved less popular at the box office.

    For my money the closest adaptations are On Her Majesty's and From Russia With Love.

    Out of interest, how was the audio narration here? :)

  4. Dalton Bond is very, very 80s for better and worse. The Living Daylights has a wonderfully kitschy theme tune from A-Ha while License to Kill has shades of Miami Vice in the styling...

    I think the comparisons are interesting because there is definitely a departure as the gadgets became a grabbing point for viewers. By the time Moore was playing Bond the plots of the movies were quite divergent from the novels and many of the later movies borrow bits from the books in a scattergun, 'bit from here, bit from there' way.

    Glad to hear Tennant was a good choice. The versions I listened to are read by Simon Vance whose reading style fits Fleming's workman prose but does not necessarily enliven it. I will have to seek out Tennant's recording to compare. :)

  5. Oh yeah, I forgot that it would be the 80s! That's probably going to make it worse for me! :) I didn't realize that the films moved away from the books over time though, I've always been pretty fond of Moore and his era, so I suppose they did something right if they were trying to appeal to the masses more.

    It is sad when an audiobook reader doesn't capture the book just right for you. That's why I really like this audiogo series that has different British actors reading it - it makes every Bond book just a little different. I'm planning to listen to Live and Let Die next which is read by Rory Kinnear - hope he does a great job!

  6. Interesting, I have never read the book but I LOVE the movie version! I have a problem with the with the depiction of females in Bond but I liked at least in the film version that it emphasized Bond's vulnerability as well as his strengths....also nice that the woman has the upper hand in this particular story..but I don't know how close it is to the original.

  7. The Craig film was really good - I think maybe it was more exciting to see the card games than read about it! And I did think it was kinda funny how women fall at his feet in the movies, in the books I was more upset because (at least in Casino Royale) we can read Bond's thoughts and he's can be so unkind to the Bond girl. The film did change things up with Vesper - I think she was weaker in the book, she had less control over things if I remember the film rightly.

  8. Amber @ bookgeekspeaksApril 16, 2014 at 1:54 PM

    hmmm yea not sure what I am doing.. I thought I had it but it didnt quite go.. I am going to keep trying! Thanks for the tip.

  9. Oh no problem! I'm willing to try to explain it better, maybe with some screenshots or something - just let me know!