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on November 15, 2015
Most of the the one and two star reviewers of this book were sadly disappointed, expecting that the glitzy movie version of Bond would be found in Fleming's actual books. But, with the exception of Sean Connery's Bond in the first three movies, and Daniel Craig's back-to-basics interpretation in the first three of the current series, the movie Bond character for the most part has been nothing more than escapist fantasy. The literary Bond isn't the superhero of the movies. He's a flawed, cold killer in the service of his country in a dangerous time.

Written during the height of the Cold War, Fleming's Bond novels were based on actual people and operations that Fleming had first hand knowledge of because of his highly placed role in British Naval Intelligence during WW II.

Rather than judge Casino Royale, or any of Fleming's Bond novels, by what you've seen in the movies, instead first learn about the real Operation Goldeneye; the real Operation Tracer; the real Operation Ruthless; the real No. 30 Commando Unit; the real Special Operations Executive; the real 10th Light Flotilla; the real "Smyert Shpionam"; the real Dusko Popov. The tradecraft, operations, units, events, and involved individuals were the very real WW II sources that Ian Fleming used in creating Bond and the world in which he moved. In chapter four of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", John Le Carre also alludes to a small group similar to Fleming's 00s as: "...about a dozen men, they worked solo, there to handle the hit-and-run jobs that were too risky" for Secret Intelligence Service agents stationed abroad.

Fleming's romanticized works have a ring of authenticity recognizable to anyone familiar with or who may have participated in events that occurred during those times. Read Casino Royale; travel back to a time when French was the only international language; a time when Joseph Stalin and the Soviet NKVD represented a very real threat; a time when people feared that threat; and a time when the governments of the Free World had very real people on the payroll like Fleming's fictional James Bond to counter that threat. Perhaps you'll see the same things in it that caused the first three printings to sell out quickly in the U.K., and that later made it a favorite of a Harvard graduate who happened also to be President of the United States.
At the time of Casino Royale (1951), Bond is about 30 years old and has held the 00 number for about six months. He earns the U.S. equivalent of about $5,600 annually (or about $50,000 in 2016 value), and drives a supercharged 1930 Bentley coupe that can reach 100 mph on a good day.

He spends what he earns. He knows that statistically he will have at least 10, probably 20, and as many as 30 very tough assignments before the mandatory 00 retirement age of 45. Too many. He knows the odds of his surviving the coming ten years are slim to none. And that depresses him. How do I know? Ian Fleming tells us so in Chapter One of "Moonraker" (third book in the series).

That's the Bond that Ian Fleming created. Much more interesting and gritty and real and human. That's the Bond Sean Connery portrayed until the Hollywood idiots ran amok after Goldfinger. It's the Bond Daniel Craig resurrected until the new crop of Hollywood fools screwed it up again with November 2015's Spectre.

I'll stick with the books, thank you very much!

Fleming's writing style, while perhaps not rising to the expectations of modern pedantic poseur literary critics, is easy to read and follow. As would be expected from a successful journalist writing for educated U.K. citizens of the 1950s, his audience would have been quite comfortable with his style; his adding color by use of some French terms and phrases in a novel that, after all, takes place in France; and whom would not have needed sub-titles to understand their context. I didn't find that aspect disruptive at all to the flow of the narrative.

If you want entertaining glitz, stick with the movies; if want something more, read the books! I've enjoyed them all immensely in the context of the time period in which they take place.

Bond fans may want to check out flemingsbond.com, a treasure trove of factual information upon which Fleming relied in writing the Bond novels, and "Ian Fleming's James Bond: Annotations and Chronologies" by John Griswald.
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on August 22, 2016
I haven't read these books for 30 years and completely forgot how well-written these books are. I prefer the Bond in the books because he's very complex, yet very human man. You don't have the gadgets or pretty looks. He's gritty, determined and has an inner turmoil that makes him a fascinating character. The pace of the book is extremely fast. The story is suspenseful up to the last chapter.
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on December 30, 2016
The burgeoning legend of James Bond begins here. From such humble origins...

With all the feel of a pulp novel you might find on the shelf of a bookseller and then tell your friends about for decades with no expectation they will have heard of the work, some secret gem you cherish nonetheless, that draws you back time and again, Ian Fleming's premiere James Bond novel sneaks up on you. Like Marlowe and Chandler, Fleming and Bond remind you that SOMEtimes the masses get it right. ONCE IN A BLUE MOON the novels and authors and characters they choose to bestow popular status upon actually deserve it.

Fleming allows you to feel without forcing. Inviting you into Bond's world, and Bond's life, Bond's mind and most secret heart.

James Bond is a flawed man. A very real man. He has one superpower - that he has never had to admit the possibility of failure.

Boy, if that doesn't sum up the man we've seen embodied by Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton, Roger Moore, and (more closely) by George Lazenby and Daniel Craig.

Fleming provides texture to the world. Rapacity. But writes with a sparsity that focuses the reader to follow the threads of plot through the characters. It's modern noir. His work can be taken together as one whole, or Casino Royale may be taken alone as one singly important work perfectly capable of standing on its own. Either way, it's easy to envision Fleming's work uncovered in some future circumstance to stand as our generation's Gilgamesh or Beowulf. The work is fulfilling. The feeling at conclusion that this was a ride worth taking.

It is.
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on December 9, 2016
Possible spoilers below-
This kickstarter to the James Bond novels is written very well. From the start, Fleming creates a bond (no pun intended) between the reader and the cold, calculating spy that is James Bond. The atmosphere of the novel is indeed tense, and the expressions on the characters' faces are easily imagined. I was particularly impressed with the Le Chiffre character, who is written in a clear and convincing way. Fleming describes his facial expressions and mannerisms in a way that you feel almost familiar with him, and it's somewhat terrifying.
There is a torture scene that is quite difficult to read, but its aftermath is what makes the novel. Despite all his coldness, James Bond's humanity is revealed in his romance with Vesper Lynd. You can feel his happiness at possibly having found a soul mate, his frustration when the relationship sours, and most of all, his bitterness and deep hurt when Vesper denies both of them happiness by committing suicide and revealing herself to him in a suicide note.
In the end this is an enjoyable novel, though it feels a tad rushed, and is not really a "spy novel" per se. Only about half the book contains the "meat"- the poker battle with Le Chiffre and the later confrontation that sees Bond brutally tortured. The rest is more of a love story, but still provides valuable insight into the Bond character.
The physical book is well put together, I might add. I prefer the modernized look and design to the rather suggestive covers normally used on Bond novels in the past.
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on July 1, 2014
I bought all 14 Ian Fleming era James Bond novels from the Thomas & Mercer line in conjunction with the UK exclusive Vintage printings. I did so not only for comparative reasons but also for the possible authentic British experience. I am American. So in that sense, this is somewhat of a dual review. Though only when necessary.

At first feel, the novel has a comfortable smooth finish, not like a plasticy, slick finish, but more soft and more pleasing to the tactile senses. As a nice little extra attention to detail, the red 007 dot is raised and sleek. Now, here is where the fun begins. As far as the cover art is concerned, I like it. Quite a bit in fact. It's minimal and classy.BUT, I believe I favor the UK cover just a fraction more. The deciding factor? I'm just not crazy about the New York Times quote. It feels tacked on, fairly unnecessary, and, well, slightly tacky. Whick is hard for me to say because otherwise, on the whole, I prefer the quietly brilliant, minimalist vibe to the topographical wordplay of the UK books. All in all, very close but not perfect.

The pages are a silky, paper-white. Scent is pleasing. Being slightly larger and thinner than its UK counterpart, the product is well crafted and ergonomical. For a book. A paperback at that. Time for another comparison. The text size in this print is just ever so slightly a little small. But only when looking at the Vintage printing. And I'm under the age of 30. Now don't take that minor criticism for negativity, I'm merely being objective here and warning to not expext bigger font in the bigger book. You will actually find that in the smaller UK exclusive. Irony.

For my final comparison, this will be all around appeal. Minus cover art, the Thomas & Mercer printings just simply have better construction and quality. It's felt right away. And I'm not trying to toot the American horn here but quality is quality and the details are present here. For my money, I would stick with the US Amazon books. But they're not all created equal. And that, my friends, is where i must leave you. In time I may, perhaps, get to the other books in the series, for now let me leave you with my final thoughts.

The simplistic, streamlined design and minimalist color scheme coupled with uniform binding all add to great shelf-appeal. Welcome additions to any bookophile's library. It's unfortunate that this series isn't available in a box set from Amazon for a discounted price, that would make for a great buy. Nonetheless, I am a happy and satisfied customer and you will be too. Whether you love James Bond or simply collecting these are great to own.
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on January 31, 2016
I usually read the book before I watch the movie, in this case the latter proceeded the former by some time. I found the two versions interesting in their own way. The book, as always transpires with a good wordsmith, brought out the life of the story. It fleshed an unknown and dressed an image. Boldness and vision gave us a lasting idea that has walked among us for a fraction of several generations now. People who saw the movie version will find some familiar faces, but each carrying a different load. As happens with seeing the modern film before reading the much earlier written work, the visuals projected between the two stories are not comparable even though they be from the same seed. It may be the time difference between the two, one being told many years ago in a less technical time, written for and read by a people with a similar experience, and a movie full of modern explosive breathtaking visuals, being absorbed by sophisticated ticket holders critiquing every twist and turn. I have always in the past found movies lacking in relation to the book, disappointment followed by disgust for the so called, artistic license, where the writers, directors and producers slash, burn, and cut the original work before they insert a new chapter (sex..sex..boom) an absolutely unrecognizable change of direction, which is not really required; its just there to sell the product. Jazzing it up to keep that 7 minute attention span thing going. But then again, I fully understand that its hard to tell in two hours, what a writer took hundreds of pages to develop and people are paying to be entertained, not lulled. In this case, surprisingly, the movie was told much better. It completed the vision of the original in the minds eye. It was like a twinning. The book introduced to us a character, James Bond, a man in the shadows. Doing exciting dangerous deeds, daring death to take a life without his permission, then arrogantly becoming its master, weighing and covering the face twice with the hand of darkness, to earn his way, so he tells us. Maybe the next assignment, moon raker will race our heart faster, as the page turning, yarn telling matures. But don't get me wrong, because all in all, I truly liked this start, this journey. It was pleasant, it was smooth, we've got a foundation to build on and as the saying goes, "get your sun screen out, because it is a very beach ready read".
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on July 10, 2016
IF you're a bond fan, then you need to read it. Many of the movies have made casino royale look dumb or cheesy, the latest movie with daniel craig is actually the best version to date (in terms of matching the intensity of the book). We all know Bond as this adventurous player, doing crazy things that as a man you admire, but this book reveals such a darker, more sexist version of the character. The movies make him seem like this over-the-top alpha male, but the book really shows that he has his own issues, and his view on women is much more harsh than the movies. I think they know that people love to think of Bond as a hero, but in this first novel, he treats this woman he loves (who is actually his equal in every way) as "just a woman". I was surprised to see that Bond wasn't some amazing guy, but a human who just seems to get lucky in so many deadly situations, who is skilled but terribly flawed. It inspired me to read all the other books too.

In terms of the book itself, it's well written (though confusing as characters/entities in the fictional world are introduced without explanation) and a very fast read. It was suspenseful, dark, witty, and awesome.
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I read all of these books as a child and I still own all the original paperbacks. I recently purchased all of them again in the Kindle format as I wanted to reread them and using the Kindle is just so much easier on my eyes. I was quickly drawn back into the thrilling and dangerous life of 007, James Bond!

Ian Fleming was a master at telling a good story and this first book was the groundwork for developing the James Bond persona and what drives him to become one of the top master spies of all time. This is a wonderful book and you will enjoy it if you like the James Bond character.

This story is the perfect starting point to learn about the history, passions and life long drive of Bond and why he chose the life he did. You learn why he is an "OO" agent and why the British secret Service depends on him so much. This story tells of his skills, his weaknesses and his desires for life that you will not get in some of the other books. I recommend the story to you as worthwhile to read.
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on September 1, 2015
After having seen all the Bond movies, I decided to try the novels from which they came. To say I was disappointed would be putting it mildly, especially considering that the books are almost always better than the movies. I found this book to be lacking in action and very slow paced. The Bond character was portrayed as very cold and distant, stating at one point that all one needed to receive a double-oh number was the willingness to kill someone. This was said in the same casual manner as someone stating they liked sugar in their tea.

Bond did seem to have some skills, although the ease in which he was captured showed his lack of experience in such matters. It was during and after his capture that Bond became a more human, likeable character. This was, however, short lived as the tragedy which befell him dropped him back into the cold operative mode. It was obvious that Bond was deeply hurt emotionally and I did have a certain amount of empathy for him.

The whole premise behind the casino sting also had me scratching my head. Even if they were successful in bringing down Le Chiffre, wouldn't someone else simply fill the void created? I find it puzzling that England would risk one of it's top operatives for the job. Yes, I understand that Bond was lucky and one of the best card players, but luck is fleeting and I question their judgement. Something along the lines of the CIA involvement was more reasonable, but then that would make an even more boring story.

One other thing I would like to bring up is Fleming's use of French. While it is not overdone, it was annoying to me. Yes, I know the story was set in France and it adds to realism, but I do not speak French. To put this in without translation is just wasted space to me. In my mind, this narrows the audience to English readers who also speak French. Fleming was not the first to do this and I'm sure he will not be the last, but it has become one of the little things that detract from my overall enjoyment

All in all, I found this to be just an average read. Perhaps I am being influenced by unfair expectations, but I was rather disappointed. This was the first in the series, which is why I chose it, and Fleming would have ample time to hone his craft and develop the "Bond" character. Also, as far as movies went, this was one of my least favorites. I only mention this to suggest their is plenty of upside to the series. I will definitely read more.
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on December 11, 2016
An incredibly strong introduction to a great book series. James Bond from the novels is a nervous man who is often in deeply over his head and struggling just to survive. He indulges in fine foods and hotel rooms while on duty because it's on an expense account. This makes the written Bond a different kind of badass from what's depicted on the big screen. That characterization combines with Fleming's unique prose style to make the books extremely compelling reading. His style is extremely evocative and reminds me of the very best Pulp writers. Imagine a combination of Robert E. Howard and American Psycho and you'll get a rough idea. Just read the first page and you'll know if it's for you. Only problem I can think of: the eponymous movie adaptation from 2006 was extremely faithful to the book. So if you're a fan of the film you will know what happens next.
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