Casino Royale – Ian Fleming
“The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.”
And so began one of the most well-loved action-packed thrillers to date!
Casino Royale was Ian Fleming’s first-ever novel and the beginning of the famous James Bond series. First published in 1953, it quickly rose to fame and within a month, every bookshop in the country sold out.
The original James Bond novel is everything you’d expect it to be; full of high glitz and glamour, plenty of alcohol and car chases, and a card game with life or death at stake. It’s set just after the war where the tension between the English and Russians are at an all-time high, giving more credibility to the ‘bad guy’ and his evil plans… unfortunately, it’s set in the mid-1950′s, and therefore racism and sexism are prevalent at every corner.
Loosely based on real world-war-two events, the original Bond is even more ruthless, charming, and bitter than his Craig movie counterpart. The plot’s focused around Royale-Les-Eaux casino. 007 attempts to bankrupt a Russian agent only known as Le Chiffre. He’s assigned a partner in the form of Vesper Lynd, the personal assistant to the Head of Section S with a hidden agenda. There are highs and lows and plenty of explosions, and somewhere along the way Felix Leiter gets involved, Vesper’s true loyalties are revealed, and Le Chiffre realizes far too late that there are bigger problems for him to worry about. The ending’s unexpected yet realistic and leaves readers wanting more.
Having seen the Daniel Craig film before reading the novel, I had more than a few expectations before reading. Upon finishing it, however, I can safely say that the pair are nothing alike.
- The novel has short but captivating chapters, full of unique dialogue and characters.
- James Bond isn’t the confident debonair gentlemen as portrayed on screen. He’s described as having a ‘cruel mouth’, he loses a few card games, he gets himself in difficult situations and doesn’t always find a way out. This version of Bond is by far the grittiest and most realistic form that exists.
- Casino Royale gradually becomes tenser and tenser until the final plot twist almost explodes off the page. It’s written in a gripping and engaging way that makes the reader want to finish the novel in one sitting.
- As previously stated, Casino Royale is set during a time when racism and misogyny were considered acceptable, and the book is rife with it.
- The main plot is somewhat farfetched. MI6 sending a highly trained covert operative to the middle of northern France on an undercover mission to… gamble? It seems to me that there are far easier ways to go about disposing of Russian agents.
- Although Vesper’s character is somewhat thought-out, with a brief backstory and ulterior motives, her role in the novel is primarily that of the ‘love interest’. She’s an interesting character, but not one that the novel needed in order to function.
Overall, I’d give Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale a three out of five. It’s a simple yet entertaining novel and leaves the reader hanging on the edge of their seat, but does contain opinions and beliefs are not acceptable today.
I’d definitely recommend it for die-hard Bond fans if only to get a sense of the original series. For those who started with the films and are happy with their Brosnan’s and Moore’s, I would stay well away.
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