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Casino Royale - Ian Fleming

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Author: Ian Fleming / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 06 September 2012 / Genre: Crime & Thriller / Subcategory: Espionage & Spy Thriller / Publisher: Vintage / Title: Casino Royale / ISBN 13: 9780099576853 / ISBN 10: 0099576853 / Alternative EAN: 9780141028309

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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

    4 Reviews
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      06.12.2011 16:55
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      4 stars for my edition - 5 stars for the book as a whole.

      I must be one of the very few people on the planet who have not really watched a James Bond movie. I did go to the cinema to see one many years ago, but I went with a large group of friends, including a couple of complete nutters who ended up more entertaining than the film, and as I was still a teenage at the time, I have completely forgotten the actual film. After recently reading and enjoying Young Bond so much, of course I had to try the adult version, and have made a point not to watch any films before I could read the book.

      Unfortunately this book was still somewhat spoiled for me, as I made the mistake of reading the back cover of the book when it arrived. It does not give the story away in Black and white, but it does provide enough info that I would class it as a spoiler in a review here. It also provided enough for me to easily guess every major event in the book. As this is the first Bond book, I am sure no one will be too offended by my mentioning that he does survive. And of course we expect him to get into some dangerous situations. It wouldn't be a James Bond book if he sat home sipping tea. But I would very much have preferred not to know how he would get out of those situations, and whom he could really trust. I prefer to find these things out by reading the book, so I would advise anyone purchasing this not to read the blurb on the back of the book.

      It is worth noting that I own the most recent edition of this book, with cover art from the 2006 film. It is possible the spoiler is not included on other editions. I would also note that while the book features a photo from the film, it is the original Ian Fleming text rather than the updated, modern story depicted in the movie.

      The story sees James Bond sent to destroy an Communist Operative known as Le Chiffre in a most unusual fashion. It seems Le Chiffre has been dipping into party funds and the idea is to completely bankrupt him, disgracing the party and forcing his own party to deal with him. The game is Baccarat and Bond must win in this high stakes game in order to complete his mission, but as one would expect there is much more to it then this. There are other plots and sidelines here, but I do not wish to go into detail lest I give a reader enough information to guess at the outcome of this book and ruin fun of trying to figure out all the factors on your own. Of course there is action and adventure, a beautiful woman, and a luxurious vehicle, but in this, the first book, it is a Bentley rather than and Aston Martin. There are a few gadgets, but not as many as I had expected. I will avoid mentioning any though, again to avoid spoilers.

      Ian Fleming is often praised for his descriptive style of writing, and this led me to believe he might go into minute detail, describing every aspect of his meals, the setting and so on. This was not the case, but with a rather limited amount of text, he does manage to paint a very clear picture, so that one could imagine themselves in the smoke filled casinos, hearing the sounds of gaming machines, or sitting down to a lovely - if often simple meal. Of course even scrambled eggs would have been a luxurious meal to readers in post WW2 Britain. But while others have described Fleming's description of the meals as something that readers still on rations could enjoy vicariously, I must say it was description of cigarette smoke which I could figuratively fill my lungs with. Perhaps because cigarettes are something I so deeply miss, but this book should have been sponsored by the tobacco companies!

      This book is obviously written for a male audience, and I do think a man would likely enjoy the book more than I did. I did enjoy this, in spite of the spoilers, but in all honesty, I prefer the Young Bond series. My son would like to read this as well, and I have decided he will not. Ian Flemings turns his talent for making one feel as if they are in the room to his description of foreplay - and I must admit to feeling a bit uncomfortable. I do not think it is suitable for a 6 year old child to read. That said I am sure this is quite tame compared to many of the modern romance books available now.

      James Bond is a man's man. There is no getting around that. This character was not written to be a romantic ideal, he was created as what I suspect a great many meant secretly wish to be like. In the case of women I will quote Bond himself from a very early part of this book: "Women were for recreation". The basic premise seems to be that they exist to fill his needs - but he does display some chivalrous attitudes later on ---- not too chivalrous though!

      I can certainly see how his character would appeal to men, even in this, his first incarnation before the addition of so many gadgets, guns and powerful automobiles. Although I am not the target audience, I did enjoy the book, and I will certainly want to read the rest of them. I would certainly have given this book 5 stars, it has earned it's place as one of the classics of modern literature except for the blurb on the back cover. For that reason - I am giving my edition 4 stars, but if the cover could be blacked out, I would happily award this 5.

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        12.07.2010 12:51
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        This is a great inrto into the world of Bond, and sets you up to read the rest!

        Casino Royale is the first book in the series written by Ian Fleming, and introduces us to the character of Bond. And it's a very good book indeed.

        This book is set around a casino (yes, the title is a bit of a give away!) in France. Bond is set the task of gambling, with government money, to try and financially ruin a man called Le Chiffre. Le Chiffre is a Soviet agent, mainly involved in the financial dealing of the party. But he has used party money to his own ends, and takes control of a number of brothels in western Europe. This has serious implications, and the Russians put SMERSH onto him. Le Chiffre basically has to make the money back at the baccarat table, or SMERSH will kill him.

        For Bond, ruining Le Chiffre will rid the would of an important Soviet agent. However, Bond is considering resigning from his line of work. He seems bored of it all. But this mission plays out in such a way that he resolves to carry on.

        Vesper Lynd is put at Bond's disposal; an atractive woman to assist in his mission. But she is not all that she seems..... but you'll have to read the book to find out why. The Russians are monitoring Bond, and even try to blow him up, to make sure he does not ruin Le Chiffre. Not because they value Le Chiffre that much, more that they want their money back. Bond is engaged in a tense battle at the baccarat table with Le Chiffre. He is helped along the way by a CIA agent, who crops up in many of Bond's adventures; Felix Leiter. Bond has one more attempt made on his life at the table.... very discreetly. But I won't spoil the story.

        I won't say any more about the plot, as it would give too much away. But all the elements are here for a classics Bond novel. Suspense, mystery, girls, classy cocktails and gambling! Really, this is a fairly simple story, with a fairly simple plot, but it's a great introduction to Bond. Fleming's style of writing, with his amazing eye for detail and his seemingly endless knowledge of all things, makes this a very readable and enjoyable book. It's not as good as some of the other novels, but it's still great.

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        15.05.2009 23:24
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        "Casino Royale" is the book which introduces Ian Fleming's James Bond. I was interested to see how this book would compare with the more modern thrillers and if it had stood the test of time. First published in 1953 there were always going to be things which were hard to relate to but I was pleasantly surprised with how relevant this book was. Testament to this is how little the recent "Casino Royale" movie tinkered with the plot.

        Bond is introduced as a cold hearted gambler who is fond of a strong drink or two. He has been selected to take on Le Chiffre at the gambling tables in Royale. Le Chiffre is described as "a formidable and dangerous agent of the USSR" who has been using party funds for his own benefit. When the extent of his losses is starting to be uncovered he views his only option as being the recovery of his funds at the tables at the Casino in Royale. If he can recoup his losses and replace the funds before things are fully uncovered he may escape sanctions from the USSR and more particularly their branch SMERSH which have started looking into his dealings. SMERSH is formed from a conjunction of two Russian words "Smyert Shpionam" which translates roughly to "Death to Spies". They are described as a lethal and merciless organisation whose involvement in matters would mean certain death for Le Chiffre and would also be very bad news for Bond. Bond is aware that by defeating Le Chiffre at the tables would be a way of signing his death warrant but equally aware that by losing he would be letting the man of the hook by providing tax-payers money to fund his operation.

        The character of Bond is an extremely complex one. He is easier to relate to now that Daniel Craig has brought a more authentic version of the character to the screen. On reading this book you will wonder how Roger Moore's version of the character ever saw the light of day. However, he is chauvinistic, there are comments about him viewing women as recreation and one quote of "Do they think this is a bloody picnic?" on hearing that he will have a female government companion, Vesper Lynd.

        We learn how the double 0 status is achieved (two kills in the line of duty) and how Bond achieved his. Rather than glorifying these moments Bond seems almost to regret them, reflecting on the length of time it took one of the men to die. I think this was what I liked most about the book. Bond seems in turmoil with himself. He is intelligent enough to realise that had he been born somewhere else then the chances are he would view the British as the enemy. There is no black and white, just different shades of gray. As he puts it in one of the most interesting parts of the book, the devil didn't get a chance to write a book, there are no parables justifying evil. This kind of conflict is similar to what Jason Bourne goes through in those films, especially in Ultimatum. This is a further example of how ahead of it's time this novel is.

        The gambling centres on the game of Baccarat. This is a game I had heard of but was not familiar with it. Fleming does an excellent job in not only explaining the rules but also in covering the tactics and nuances of the game. This is covered in the story by Bond explaining it to Vesper so it is dealt with in a natural manner. I can't speak about 1953 but I suspect that relatively few people are aware of the game these days so this part of the story was essential.

        This is a story I thoroughly enjoyed. Fleming is a master of creating suspense and of leaking details of the plot. There is not a wasted word in the book.

        The climax of the book is played out beautifully. Bond, a man seriously contemplating resignation is suddenly instilled with a reason to carry on. This sets up the next book in the series "Live and Let Die" and the ongoing battle with SMERSH.

        At 213 pages long the book can easily be read in one session and like most books it is probably beneficial if you are able to set the time aside to do this.

        I bought this book as part of the James Bond collection when it was available from www.thebookpeople.co.uk for £14.99. I have also seen it in Tesco for the same price. It came in a boxed set and each book has an introduction from a fellow author. In this case it's Jeffrey Deaver.

        ISBN 978-0-141-02830-9

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          13.03.2008 16:36
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          "Bond...James Bond."

          'The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.'

          Casino Royale is the first ever James Bond novel and was originally published in 1953. Post war readers were thrilled by the Fleming mix of colour, escapism, sadism, sex and food and both the author and his creation went on to become world famous.

          The plot of Ian Fleming's Casino Royale involves a Soviet agent named Le Chiffre. Le Chiffre is connected to SMERSH - a ruthless organisation similar to the KGB. Le Chiffre has taken control of a number of brothels in the west with SMERSH money. He knows that he is a dead man unless he recovers the money he has used to fund his bad habits and therefore comes up with a plan. He will use his considerable gambling abilities to make up his losses at baccarat in the casino of Royale-les-Eaux. The British cannot take out Le Chiffre for fear that his death will be used for propaganda purposes agaisnt them. Instead they decide to use MI6 agent James Bond. Bond is the best gambler in the service and is assigned the task of playing agaisnt Le Chiffre at the gaming tables. If Bond beats him then Le Chiffre will be ruined and quickly eliminated by SMERSH. Covert Soviet influence in France will be greatly damaged...

          The first Bond novel is more restrained than many of the books that followed. James Bond himself comes across as a slightly jaded but urbane cold war warrior. He is a 'blunt instrument' used by the British government to protect their interests. A slightly mysterious and sophisticated loner with the darkly handsome looks of a film star, Bond is a man of many vices who has cultivated expensive tastes through his job and missions. 'An expense account snob' as he was described once by someone who escapes me. Despite the urbane charm he can project in the appropriate circumstances, Bond is also a trained assassin - we learn that he became a Double-O with two kills on missions during WW2;

          "I've got the corpses of a Japanese cipher expert in New York and a Norwegian double agent in Stockholm to thank for being a Double-O. Probably quite decent people. They just got caught up in the gale of the world"

          Apart from his baccarat skills, Bond is also chosen for the mission because he is notorious for being 'tough'.

          Casino Royale doesn't have a huge amount of action but it unfolds in an entertaining manner. Early on there are attempts on Bond's life and although the events and different characters can be a litle confusing at first the book captures the paranoid feeling of the cold war where everyone is looking over their shoulder and making sure their room isn't bugged. While his prose could be simple at times, Fleming was known for being a very descriptive writer - especially when describing things he loved like gambling and food. While this sometimes veered a bit too close to 'padding' in some of his books it was also a strength of his writing and one of the reasons why his books were so loved.

          If James Bond sits down to dinner Fleming will tell you exactly what he's having with the relish of a Restaurant critic. This fastdious approach to food is something I've always enjoyed about the books. "You must forgive me," Bond says to Vesper. "I take a ridiculous pleasure in what I eat and drink." Bond's attitude to life is linked to the knowledge that in his job every single day might be his last. Even if you don't know your 'Taittinger 45' from your 'Blanc de Blanc Brut 43' it's fun to enter this world.

          In the book Bond is teamed with another British agent named Vesper Lynd, although he isn't very happy at first to be working with a woman ("Do they think this is a bloody picnic?"). Lynd, the original Bond girl, sets the template for many of the women that Fleming would write about in his books - gamine, beautiful and slightly messed up. Felix Leiter, an American working for NATO, is also on hand to help Bond. Leiter is used to illustrate the Atlantic alliance and the ties between Britain and the US.

          Although a short book with a simple plot, Casino Royale is structured around some vivid set-pieces that provide the twists and suspense. The baccarat showdown is relished by Fleming and his knowledge of the subject leads to some very descriptive and absorbing passages. The high stakes, desperation, risks and euphoria of a winning hand is skillfully conveyed. I won't give away the last sections of the book but Bond is put through the mill as the mission becomes more complex and dangerous. I think Casino Royale grips the reader more as it progresses.

          Fleming's Bond took his share of good hidings and, a bit like Indiana Jones, it was part of the fun of the character. We knew he would take his punishment and live to fight another day. The Bond of Fleming's Casino Royale reminds you of Phillip Marlowe a bit. A flawed man who needs a few whiskies to get him through the day and is constantly being beaten up! Like Marlowe, the Bond of the books is required to do more old-fashioned detective work than the cinematic Bond.

          The romantic aspect to the novel is used well to imbue James Bond with an introspective quality. He is often gazing out to sea or questioning his loyalties and life. This makes the character more human and enigmatic than his cinematic version.

          The fun of Casino Royale and Ian Fleming's work in general is in being taken back to another era and having it lovingly described. The decor of hotels and casinos, the cars, food, diamonds, clothes and style. Everyone smokes constantly and drinks like a fish, meals are lavish. James Bond is a fantasy window into another world that is fun to escape into now and again, although Fleming's work would not pass many PC tests today!

          Although the most restrained and human of the Bond novels, Casino Royale serves as a stylish introduction to perhaps the most enduring hero of them all and remains an entertaining and important book for anyone that loves popular culture.

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          'A dry martini,' Bond said. 'In a deep champagne goblet. Three measures of Gordons, one of Vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice cold, then add a thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?' 'Certainly, monsieur.' Introducing James Bond: charming, sophisticated, handsome; chillingly ruthless and very deadly, this, the first of Fleming's tales of agent 007, finds Bond on a mission to neutralize a lethal, high-rolling Russian operative called simply The Cypher' by ruining him at the Baccarat table and forcing his Soviet spymasters to retire' him. It seems that lady luck is taken with James. The Cypher 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 saviour.