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Showing 1-10 of 175 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 311 reviews
on January 17, 2017
What is most noteworthy about this entry in the extended series is when Bond enters the story. The novel is nearly half over by the time the signature spy is introduced. Fully half the work involves showing the reader the lengths and effort SMERSH is using to eliminate Bond. This approach was wholly original and helped further define Bond (and by extension, the world in which he operates) by offering so much detail about his opposition.

While the above mentioned set-up was a welcome change of pace, the overt monologuing at the end of the story was... less so. Indeed, "Captain Nash's" speech at the end of the book proved my biggest dislike. Regardless of how part and parcel that practice is with this particular series, it was still distracting and borderline disruptive. It is one thing to accept Bond's greatest qualities as a secret agent are his fortitude and unearthly luck. It is quite another to find his antagonists regularly explaining every facet of their plan, however minute (and at times, not entirely relevant to Bond). Yes, it is part of the charm peculiar to this sub genre of spy fiction, but surely there must be other ways to present that information, even if hat deviation from the formula is only occasional.

All ranting about plot presentation aside, "From Russia With Love" still stands as one of the great pulp spy thrillers. The reasons are many and varied; well worth spending a few hours to discover and delight in. And now for everyone's favorite part of a review... quotes!

"They are hard people. With them, what you don’t get from strength, you won’t get from mercy."

"General G. sought for a final phrase to convey the threat without defining it. He found it. ‘There will be,’ he paused and looked, with artificial mildness, down the table, ‘displeasure.’ "

"Even the highest tree has an axe waiting at its foot."

"A great deal of killing has to be done in the U.S.S.R., not because the average Russian is a cruel man, although some of their races are among the cruellest peoples in the world, but as an instrument of policy. People who act against the State are enemies of the State, and the State has no room for enemies. There is too much to do for precious time to be allotted to them, and, if they are a persistent nuisance, they get killed. In a country with a population of 200,000,000, you can kill many thousands a year without missing them. If, as happened in the two biggest purges, a million people have to be killed in one year, that is also not a grave loss. The serious problem is the shortage of executioners. Executioners have a short ‘life’. They get tired of the work. The soul sickens of it. After ten, twenty, a hundred death-rattles, the human being, however sub-human he may be, acquires, perhaps by a process of osmosis with death itself, a germ of death which enters his body and eats into him like a canker. Melancholy and drink take him, and a dreadful lassitude which brings a glaze to the eyes and slows up the movements and destroys accuracy. When the employer sees these signs he has no alternative but to execute the executioner and find another one."
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on January 26, 2014
Re-reading this novel for the first time in almost fifty years, I was struck by how many differences exist in the James Bond as created by Ian Fleming and the caricature of that persona that quickly took off in the film equivalents of these books. While the film of this novel adhered more closely to the plot of this book than most of the other films, ‘From Russia With Love’ is clearly rooted in the Cold War world of the 1950’s when The Soviets and the Western powers were engaged in covert, and sometimes overt, chess games where, even when one power could not overpower the other through sheer force of weaponry, they would at least win through outwitting their opponents.

The British Empire no longer held the ascendant authority as policeman of the planet as it once had. That role had been seized by the United States. Britain’s impotence was underscored by high profile defections of agents Burgess and Maclean, both of whom are cited in this novel. However, SMERSH, the real-life Soviet counterintelligence agency, still sees Britain as a formidable opponent as exemplified in the exceptional agent James Bond. They list their recent defeats at his hand i.e. incidents recounted in most of the preceding novels of the series and devise a circuitous plan to kill him and embarrass the British Secret Service in a fresh scandal, using a beautiful Russian agent who wants to defect but only with the aid of the great spy James Bond, with whom she’s fallen in love at first sight of a photograph. In return for Bond’s aid, Tatiana Romanova will deliver the Spektor, a prized Soviet decoding machine.

Bond’s superior, M, directs Bond to accept the job despite his disapproval of Bond’s amorous escapades. M and his colleagues are enticed by the prospect of obtaining this machine (inspired by the Enigma decoding machine used in World War II) and see Bond as the most qualified for this job as escort for the love-smitten young Russian agent. They, and Bond, see it, naively, as a fairly straightforward operation.

While Bond has the obvious reputation as something of a playboy, unlike his cinematic counterpart he actually seems somewhat monogamous. At the beginning of the novel he is still recovering from the slow dissolution of his romance with Tiffany Case, the female protagonist of the previous novel, ‘Diamonds are Forever,’ and is not initially eager to plunge into another romantic intrigue. Of course, once he meets Tania (as her friends call her) he quickly becomes intrigued and a bit infatuated to the point that he is concerned about her fate (and theirs as a couple) after this operation is concluded.

The Soviet scheme is devised by chess master Kronsteen and Rosa Klebb, head of Operations and Executions. They enlist the homicidal Red Grant as Bond’s killer. Most of this is unknown by Tatiana, who is a pawn with limited knowledge of the extent of the game she is playing. There is no single diabolical villain who lusts for world domination, just a few psychopathic Soviets out to embarrass the decadent Brits.

As I read this novel, I noted how much space is devoted to what Bond eats for breakfast, the cigarettes he smokes, the martinis he drinks (although the phrase ‘shaken not stirred’ is not used once), how he dresses. Fleming is describing a lifestyle that he envies or at least idealizes as much as he is writing a spy thriller. There are so many passages that don’t obviously propel the plot but simply add atmosphere to the tale. Fleming’s books have been described as travelogues—and they definitely fit that description—but they are also depictions of a fantasy lifestyle of romance, danger and the good life or what Fleming would like to persuade his largely male readers is a good life.

Regarding Bond’s ‘license to kill’ I noticed how, when his Turkish ally Darko Kerim vows revenge against a Bulgarian refugee named Krilencu, Bond accompanies him but inwardly recoils at Kerim’s killing of the man ‘in cold blood’ (shooting the man in the dark using an infrared sight after he escapes from a trapdoor embedded in a movie billboard, emerging from Marilyn Monroe’s mouth). I sense that Bond is at heart still tied to an ideal of sportsmanship. I don’t recall if the license to kill was depicted in the novels as consent for Bond to kill with discretion as it seems to be in the films. I will have to revisit more novels and films to make an assessment of that feature.

I will not be revealing a spoiler by stating that it ends with Bond being stabbed by a poison tipped blade emerging from Rosa Klebb’s shoe and falling to unconsciousness as ‘From Russia With Love’ is only Novel # 5 of 12 (Fleming also wrote a couple of collections of James Bond stories). He certainly intended to leave Bond’s fate up in the air at the novel’s conclusion. Perhaps he saw this as a possible exit strategy much as Arthur Conan Doyle had done with Sherlock Holmes at the end of his story “The Final Problem.” Obviously, he continued the series. Far from being the final Bond novel, ‘From Russia With Love’ falls clearly within the first half of the series.

Although Fleming’s Bond fantasies bear only a tenuous resemblance to real life MI6 operations (it took John Le Carre’ to bring a sense of authenticity to the real life of a British secret agent in the Cold War era), they still seem more rooted in a world resembling ours than the film series that grew progressively more absurd and exaggerated. Fleming describes a character that is not simply a killing machine or a seduction machine or a ‘shaken not stirred’ martini drinker. While he is never as conscience-ridden as most of Le Carre’s protagonists, James Bond is a recognizable man who worries and berates himself for not measuring up to ideals that have been set for him or that he has set for himself. I think he basically wants to be a good agent (it’s the only job for which he’s really qualified) but he’ll live as much of this ‘good life’ as he can along the way.
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on June 24, 2017
Much better than the Bond movie! The plot is tight-knitted and it's not that predictable. The sex scenes are delightful but not overly exploited. The actions are explosive, but not overly violent or gory.
I found the Bond character much more believable than the movies, with real emotions and human flaws. Very likable indeed. Lots of fascinating details to entertain. Probably there are some parts uncomfortable for today's readers such as bias toward cultures and nations other than British. It reflects the period of time when the book was written.
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on April 30, 2017
JFK's like of this book is understandable. Bond is caught up in a battle with the bad guys that presents a beautiful girl to pry the needed info from him. The information was not as important as the the girl falling in love with Bond. Nothing like doing your job and have a romantic relationship in the process. Fleming does a great job of presenting the plot that includes espionage along with an initimate romance of an innocent lady that was recruited to pry the info needed info from Bond regardless of the romantic moves that Bond was known to use. JFK may have used some of these tactics in his job at the White House.
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This is one of my favorite James Bond books. I read it as a child and I recently repurchased it for the Kindle to reread it. I still own all of the original paperback books but they are so fragile that I am afraid to read them as I fear they may come unbound.

I liked this book a lot because of the detailed plot by SMERSH and their plans to entrap Bond and kill him. The assassin is a master killer with a devious and detailed plan to complete his mission. I won't ruin the story for you but you probably already know it from reading the book before or watching the movie.

I think that Ian Fleming was at his best writing when he wrote this book. I feel that in his mind the Bond character was fully developed as well as the hated of the Russians for Bond who always seemed to be able to thwart their devious plans with his skills. This story is solid and well written with love, romance, murder, trickery and suspense in it. I truly enjoyed this story and it is one of my favorites. If you are a James Bond and Ian Fleming fan then this is a must read for you. Even the ending is dramatic!
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on May 23, 2017
Well written with great character development and knowledgeable descriptions of mid-century Europe. Check your reality hat the door, and you join the exciting ride on the Orient Express. However, the ending is poor....that is to say there is no ending. What happened to JB, did he die? And the girl? Looking for more pages and I get the review request. Probably a sequel somewhere. Put up with this and I do recommend for adventure/mystery enthusiasts and Fleming followers.
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on August 28, 2017
"From Russia With Love" is one of the best James Bond novels. Well-written and paced. Unlike the movie, there is no Specter (except a decoding machine!). The Soviets are the bad guys. A couple of little inconsistencies at the end, but just as FRWL is one of the all-time best Bond films, this is one of Ian Fleming's best novels!
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This is, to me, the most "spy story" spy story that Fleming writes with James Bond as the lead. It has the cold war battle between spies, it has allies, henchmen, killers, intelligence gathering machines, and a beautiful girl all alongside a hard at work James Bond.
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on January 8, 2013
Im 21 years old and ive become a very picky reader.
I've grown up watching all of the bond films and enjoying every second of it all, i love the whole bond universe.
And a few months ago a professor had told me that the bond books were a fantastic read and were very much like the movies.
She had also told me that her favorite book was "from Russia with love"
So i decided to pick up this book a few days ago and i was in love with it.
The whole setting, mood, everything about the novel was just beautifully crafted and kept me interested and hooked.

I highly recommend this, for anyone!

PS: i enjoyed this book so much that i couldn't turn the pages quick enough haha
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on February 25, 2014
SPOILER ALERT--It is painfully obvious why Ian Fleming wanted this to be the last Bond novel--he was obviously running out of ideas by the fifth book in the series. Rather than presenting a plot-filled spy caper, he gives us a novel whose first half is heavily dominated by the proceedings of the Soviet govt, even to the point where he engages in the ill feelings that the heads of the various departments feel towards one another. Some of it is amusing, but Fleming belabors it. Then, we get this thin scheme that a Russian spy will claim she has fallen in love with Bond, which Bond's ego will allow him to fall for, and a meeting in Turkey is arranged. The problem is that Bond's lengthy ensuing exploits in Turkey end up having nothing to do with the Russian scheme, and simply kill book space, as Darko ends up playing none of his expected role in arranging the meeting of Bond and Tatiana--she simply shows up in Bond's bed one night. In a matter of a few hours, she falls for Bond--with no explanation as to how or why--yet, as a cheap plot device, she still insists that they take the train to France (in step with her govt's plan to kill Bond) rather than follow Bond's suggestion of going by plane, and we get no explanation for why she does this. The train scene, like the scenes in Russia early on, simply drag out, as Fleming takes us from one country to the next, at one point devoting an entire chapter to the removal of two Soviet spies by customs. When Nash shows up, Bond simply assumes he was sent by M, even though he was distrustful of Nash from the first moment. While there is some satisfaction with the way Bond kills Nash and avoids being killed by him (even though it was foolish of Nash to assume he killed Bond), it is ruined by Bond's sheer clumsiness in handling the shriveled old Klebb later on, during which he gets himself killed (as Fleming planned it). While Fleming intended for his follow-up novel, Dr. No, to be an outrageous caper that would turn off his readers demanding more from him, it ended up being a far more engaging piece and produced a much more satisfying ending than From Russia with Love.
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