Monday, December 12, 2011

Casino Royale (Book Review)

 James Bond is one of the most well known fictional spies. He has been portrayed by 8 actors (if you count Barry Nelson in a TV movie and the David Niven James Bond parody film “Casino Royale”). Whether you watch these movies (and TV show movie) or not, you know who 007 (Double-0 Seven) is, but where did he first appear? If you are mainly a cinematic-based person, you would think that his first appearance was the 1963 film “Dr. No”. But, NO! That is not his first appearance! In reality, his very first appearance was in the 1953 novel by Ian Fleming, which is called Casino Royale!

Writing style
Ian Fleming is a wonderful writer. His writing pieces have become part of pop culture, so I don’t really have to think to say he most definitely would be classified under the classic writer title. His style actually surprises me. I always thought the literary James Bond would have more vocal lines. Instead, the reason Fleming’s books have become classics (at least in my eyes) are their description. Mr. Fleming has this attention to detail which I really don’t see in the movies. I guess this attention to detail spurs from his time as a spy (not a James Bond sort of spy, but he did work in the spy agency world enough to catch on). In addition, there are much more thoughts and feeling which round out his characters that you also don’t normally see in action novels. To say the least I think you would miss out if you just watched the movies, because you don’t usually get to see all these feelings and thought s when you watch a movie. You can’t jump into James Bond’s head to see what he is thinking, fearing and feeling.

Basically, a Russian agent by the name of  Le Chiffre (which translates to be "the Number/cypher") needs to make up a lot of funds in a short amount of time, so he heads to the Casino in Royale. M (whose first appearance is also this book of course) sends his best agent/gambler for the job and of course that agent is James Bond. 007 is helped on his way by a fellow MI6 agent named Mathis, a CIA agent named Felix Leiter (who would appear in several other James Bond novels) and of course the beautiful Vesper Lynd.

A Different Bond
Upon reading this book I was surprised to find how different Bond is from what I have seen in the movies. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still the confident and tactically knowledgeable man you see in the movies, but he does have feelings. Fleming’s writing adds depth to Bond by allowing us to see behind the “razzle-dazzle” to see his feeling, worries and sometimes even his doubts. In this book, I see James Bond doing things I actually can’t see actors like Sean Connery doing. Sean Connery—just love saying his name—‘s Bond is always perfect and, while I love his rendition and his acting in general, I have to say that is not the Bond we see here. James Bond here is able to vomit after nearly getting killed by a bomb, and even more scandalous he is able to fall in love. This James Bond is vulnerable to say the least. He is not the perfect James Bond I have always pictured and I must say that is not a bad thing.

“This is not a romantic adventure story…”
Sort of continuing the whole “imperfect” Bond, the story itself is not what you would expect. I must admit I thought this story would be less important and maybe not as good as the other stories. Right off the bat Fleming has a story which could be set in real life. I mean, life isn’t perfect and this novel reflects that fact. The villain of this novel puts it best when he says, 
This is not a romantic adventure story in which the villain is finally routed the hero is given a medal and marries the girl. Unfortunately these things don’t happen in real life.
I didn’t realize how true this quote was until the end.

Views on Women
One thing I have always been annoyed about is Bond’s treatment of women. I don’t know what Fleming believed, but James Bond had this to say on this subject:
“Women were for recreation. On a job, they got in the way and fogged things up with sex and hurt feelings and all the emotional baggage they carried around. One had to look out for them and take care of them.”
 He even adds later,
“These blithering women who thought they could do a man’s work. Why the hell couldn’t they stay at home and mind their pots and pans and stick to their frocks and gossip and leave men’s work to the men.”
As a man of today’s generation, I am disgusted at Bond’s words toward women. They shouldn’t be forced to do things they don’t want to do. I know some wonder women who didn’t wear frocks who have done some wonderful things. Just think what the world would be like if Rosa Parks or Maya Angelou stuck to their gossip. Would we be where we are today without them to guide the way to a better way of life? I like Ian Fleming and James Bond, but things like these statements make me hesitate.

This is a good novel. The descriptions are wonderful and the story is thrilling even to very last page. In some ways, the movies (at least the ones I’ve seen) don’t give this author and character justice. I will say I’m not a fan of some details, but if you forgive those scenes this is good book! If you enjoy James Bond you might like this!

Quote / Picture of the Author
 “Mine’s Bond—James Bond.
--Ian Fleming (as 007, Casino Royale pg 052)

And so an icon is born.

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