A while ago, I picked up the Ian Fleming James Bond audio novels on 36 CD’s and I recently started listening to them on the drive to and from work. Having just recently finished Casino Royale, I thought it wise to put up a book review. I should mention that I’ve actually read all the Ian Fleming James Bond novels before, but that was before I had this website. With that said, even though this is primarily a book review, I’ll also mention a little bit about the audio CD’s, for anyone that may be interested. So, let’s grab a chair at the baccarat table and get on with this review…
Short nitty-gritty plot description from the back cover is as follows: Introducing James Bond: charming, sophisticated, handsome; chillingly
ruthless and licensed to kill. This, the first of Ian Fleming’s tales of
secret agent 007, finds Bond on a mission to neutralize a lethal,
high-rolling Russian operative called simply “Le Chiffre” – by ruining
him at the Baccarat table and forcing his Soviet spymasters to “retire”
him. It seems that lady luck is taken with 007 – Le Chiffre has hit a
losing streak. But some people just refuse to play by the rules, and
Bond’s attraction to a beautiful female agent leads him to disaster and
an unexpected savior…
The character of James Bond came to life 60 years ago, in 1953. He was a suave spy, who loved to smoke, eat and treat women like sexual playthings. He was basically a symbol of what every guy wanted to be back in the 50’s and 60’s. Nowadays, every guy still wants to be like that (I hope the treating of women thing is not included). In Casino Royale, Bond is tasked with bankrupting a villain by the name of Le Chiffre. In order to do that, he must beat him in a high stakes game of baccarat. Le Chiffre had some bad investments and is tangled up in an organization known as SMERSH (a Soviet counter intelligence agency). Le Chiffre needs to get that money back, so he can continue living and Bond needs to make sure Le Chiffre doesn’t win, to stop their enemies from getting their hands on a lot of money.
Helping James Bond, is Mathis of the French Deuxième Bureau, CIA Felix Leiter and the lovely Vesper Lynd. Vesper is a beautiful, yet mysterious British operative, who Bond instantly falls in love with (a bad habit that Bond seems to continue in the later novels). So, will Bond secure the funds and win the heart of Vesper, or will Le Chiffre win it all and secure his life? Let’s just say, the stellar movie Casino Royale has a lot in common with the book, even the painful torture scene. Yeesh!
Casino Royale is an incredibly quick read and supremely engaging. Ian Fleming was a man who loved the finer things in life and that is evident in his writing style. He describes, with noticeable glee, the foods Bond eats and the exotic places Bond visits. Fleming is very much a visual writer and he easily transports the reader into the life of Bond.
Fans of the Bond Movies might be a little taken aback by the lack of pure action in Casino Royale. The book takes it time with the high stakes baccarat game and spends a good portion on it. Honestly, this was my favorite part of the book. It was incredibly tense, even though I’ve never played the game before. Fleming describes it in grand detail, so you feel like you’re sitting at that same table, sweating bullets with the rest of the players. The other parts of the story, is pretty much a love story between Bond and Vesper and yes, it’s a tragic love story, ending on an extremely bitter note, which goes to build the groundwork for Bond’s personality in the latter novels.
A quick note for those interested in the audio CD of Casino Royale. It’s read by Rufus Sewell, of Dark City fame and he does a great job at portraying different characters, changing his accent up and keeping the tension alive. He never once stumbles over words, or mispronounces anything and thankfully he’s got a sexy British accent, to sell the James Bond character. Also, he does a great job with the lady roles, surprisingly.
Casino Royale is superb writing and my favorite Ian Fleming James Bond novel. It’s combination of tense moments, mixed with heart breaking love, makes it rank high in the Bond universe. It’s also the beginning of an iconic character, that will live on forever and for that, Casino Royale is perfect in my humble opinion.
Rating: 5/5 (The one that gave us James Bond and the one that also has a wonderfully arresting story to boot.)