- Series: James Bond Series (Book 1)
- Paperback: 188 pages
- Publisher: Thomas & Mercer; Reprint edition (October 16, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1612185436
- ISBN-13: 978-1612185439
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (889 customer reviews)
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#14,554 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #365 in Books > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers & Suspense > Spies & Politics > Espionage
- #514 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Action & Adventure > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Mystery
- #794 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Action & Adventure > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thriller & Suspense
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Casino Royale (James Bond Series) Paperback – October 16, 2012
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From Library Journal
The allure of James Bond was best described by Raymond Chandler, who insisted that 007 is "what every man would like to be and what every woman would like to have between her sheets." Who can argue with that? This month marks the 40th anniversary of the film release of Dr. No, which was the first Bond adventure to make the big screen, and two big coffee-table books are being published to honor the occasion (LJ 10/1/02, p. 96). Shockingly, Fleming's original novels have gone out of print, but Penguin here reproduces a trio of the British secret agent's early outings, released in 1952, 1958, and 1959, respectively, sporting stylish cover art. These stories were racy for the nifty Fifties but are quite tame by today's standards. Still, they can be fun.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"[A]n intense, fascinating and moody piece of fiction." --Raymond Benson, author of High Time to Kill --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I first read CASINO ROYALE, as well as a few others in the series, while in my early teens - back when I'd only read stories in order to immerse myself in the plot - to find out what happens next, essentially - not caring a jot about writing style, descriptive detail, or character development. Back then, I found it curious that the Bond of the books was so different from the Bond of the movies (THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and MOONRAKER being the contemporary releases of that time.) I wondered, for instance, why the James Bond in the movies didn't have black hair and why, in the books, he wasn't funny at all...Indeed - well, so much for my pre-adolescent review.
Now, more than 20 years later, indulging on a whim, I'm reading the series again. And I must say I am thoroughly enjoying it - but not for the same reasons I had when I was young. I'm actually nearly through it in its entirety - and must say that, though they're all very good, CASINO ROYALE has a palpable raw depth rarely visible in the rest. I can now see and appreciate the fine quality of the writing, the extraordinary sculpturing of an ideal action hero, and the magical lure that has begotten the most well-known, long-standing film series of all time. And, yes, these books are great fun!
"M," head of the British Secret Service, hands Commander Bond what appears on the surface to be a posh assignment: thwarting an enemy Russian spy, Le Chiffre, in his attempt to win an exorbitant 50 million francs - KGB funds which he had lost through an ill-advised investment in a chain of brothels. Agent 007 lives an intensely hard lifestyle, and he's known to be the best gambler in the Service. He's therefore assigned to break Le Chiffre's bank at the baccarat tables of the Casino Royale, in the French Riviera.
SMERSH, the Russian Secret Service in charge of all diplomatic killings for the Fatherland, is right on to Le Chiffre. Though he's very desperate, Le Chiffre happens to be a first rate baccarat player. He plans on winning that 50 million francs at any cost, employing a couple of potent assassins enforced to help see it through.
Though James Bond must face Le Chiffre as a force of one at the baccarat table, he has his own team of assistants: Rene' Mathis of the French branch, American CIA agent Felix Leiter, and the beautiful Vesper Lynd of the S branch of British Intelligence. Vesper is officially the very first Bond girl - and she utterly mesmerizes our master spy: he sees her as an entity of wonder.
Truly, this story does not own any of the qualities that could easily be made into a movie. There's plenty of tension, plenty of action, and quite a lot of romance to boot. However the tension is mainly in the climatic card game, which, minus the author's excellent descriptive prose, would appear tedious on the screen; the action is definitely intense, but includes a harrowing torture scene which should not be witnessed by the squeamish; and, well, without the advantage of being able to follow the thoughts of our hero, a film version of this story might easily cause the romance to appear as carelessly thrown in.
Vesper's an intriguing Bond Girl, though. Her fateful role exacts a twisted surprise ending, which inevitably sets the tone and atmosphere of Bond's future relationships with women. This is perhaps the only book of the series wherein Bond takes a good, hard look at the moral portents of his own place in his profession - sort of a teasing glimpse into the window of his heart - but only that peek - as it seems thereafter shut fast and hard. Keen, sharp, dark and moody: James Bond remains ever the quintessential Man of Mystery.
As the prototype novel of the Bond series "Casino Royale" has less action and more concentrated violence than the future books. Its mood is claustrophobic but it's grasp of defined character is somewhat airy. Bond is not quite fully fleshed out--what we can grasp is that he believes himself a professional but often loses or comes close in both love and business. He speaks like a misoygnist but falls very badly for women; he plays cards like a pro but needs to be bailed out. The other characters are also compelling--Leiter and Mathis are agreeable national stereotypes, while LeChiffre is the first of Fleming's great villains--subtly monstrous and grotesque to the point of being king devils, not people. Fleming never wrote a convincing female character until he spoke in first person for the heroine of "The Spy Who Loved Me," but Vesper Lynd is one dimensional in a non-shameful way.
Fleming's style isn't yet fully formed, but it's still evident. No one has written better scenes of torture (And this undoubtedly one of the most harrowing torture scenes you'll ever read) or card games than Fleming, and as an action writer on the whole he was undoubtedly a master, and deserves to be acknowledged as one. At the moment his literary reputation is quite low. Fleming was hardly the reactionary super-evil crypto-fascist, rabid-racist, hyper-misognyist, ultra-snob that some have claimed him to be (In books full of astoundingly stupid errors and lazy readings), and the coming years will hopefully force many to fully note his many flaws and his considerable strengths. He deserves the same ranking as Chandler or Hammett--minor artists, but artists none-the-less.
The biggest difference from the later novels is the degree of moral exploration Bond undergoes. The novel's supposed climax is engineered to come very early, and Fleming daringly gives an entire chapter for Bond to afterwards think--he actively questions his job and the role he plays in the entire Free World/Soviet struggle. Beyond that he questions the nature of evil. After CR, Bond never attempts this sort moral exploration again, and the future novels as a result aren't as deep. There's a reason for this....
Fleming's master stroke was his realization that a convincing adventure tale in the spy genre could not arise from the conflict between the ideologies of the Soviets and the West. It was too much of a gray area and Fleming did not want to be a political writer--he wanted to create myths and fairy tales for adults, and he turned out to be the best writer of the century in doing so. So Fleming decided that Bond would not fight against Communist spies but rather the organization of terror that made them spy--evil fantasy villains--so he created SMERSH as Bond's opponent. He would use them as villains until the lessening of cold war tension enabled him to create an even less political replacement--SPECTRE.
The first part of the novel thus details Bond fighting against Communist agents, but Fleming builds the climax early. Afterwards he builds another tale dealing with the ramifications of the first. During this he has Bond question his role, and by the end, with its shocker finish, Bond has renounced the role he has questioned and decided to from now on go after the force that makes spies spy. Having created an all-purpose group of fairy-tale villains for Bond to fight in future novels, Fleming has no more need for any further moral exploration by Bond--the knight doesn't bother wondering whether he should slay the dragon.
That I think is why Fleming's friend Raymond Chandler always said that he had never bettered "Casino Royale" and to an extent I agree--the novel marks the point where Bond is in between the realistic world of betrayals and moral ambiguity and the thrilling world of surrealistically evil villains and larger-than-life exloits. Bond never returns to this point again, and we are deprived of the pleasure of seeing him walk that edge.