First published in 1953, I'm willing to bet that most people have grown up on "Hollywood Bond". So it was for me. Having listened to this book, I can say that I have done the book and myself a disservice.
The story is quite crisp and well paced. There is none of the overt complexity and silly "wow" factors of the modern screen Bond. The novels' characters were believable and much more complex. The basis of the story was simple, but very captivating.
A warning, however, and that is there are a few chauvinistic passages in the book. Smoking is also featured heavily. It was written in 1953, after all.
As always, Simon Vance put in another sterling performance. He was made for Ian Flemings works.
So, if you haven't invested some time to investigate where the Bond character started, I recommend you give this audio book a try. You will be pleasantly surprised.
Live on edge of National Forest with lake, birds & wild animals. No more perfect place to indulge life-long love of reading.
I bought this book because it was on sale. It is a light frothy book, very traditional Bond and without depth ... and nevertheless quite entertaining. I've been listening to long and heavy novels of late (i.e. Jakes' North and South Trilogy). This was the perfect palate cleanser between those novels. I'm happy to have listened and simultaneously happy that I didn't have to spend a whole credit on it.
Much of the fun of this book was due to the outstanding performance by Simon Vance. One of my audible favorites.
Although I've only seen a few James Bond movies before reading this first book, I don't know if that created too much expectations between the gadgets and far-fetched scenes of the movies to this James Bond character written in 1953. I was disappointed to read that his mission is to bankrupt a Russian agent by trying to beat him at the baccarat table. It sounds more like the work for a professional gambler than a spy. It goes into details about the gambling, odds, and strategy. The suspense builds as the stakes increase. However, all the characters are flat. Maybe because it was Fleming's first book... it's a rough outline of who they are. There is James Bond, the cold and calculating British spy. He has support from Mathis, operative from the French branch, and Felix Leiter, CIA agent. There isn't any back story to explain why Bond is so cold or the depth of relationships between Bond and any of the other characters. Occasionally through dialogue or Bond's inner voice, the reader get a sense of him and his focus on accomplishing the mission. If some woman gets in the way and gets hurt for it, so be it. This book would probably rate higher for fans of James Bond or pulp fiction genre (easy read for entertainment).
Fantastic all the way around
Almost cried towards the end
The first audio book I listened to and I'm hooked
Kowalski, someone's looking at my profile. Find them. Rico, time for boom boom. Private, send the family a funeral bouquet.
The movie was different enough from the book that I still felt suspense while reading (though it ended up being more like the movie than I expected). After working my way through the Game of Thrones series I felt saturated with overdone sexuality, so when it got to those moments in this book I found myself a bit hopeful that a book written in the 50s might leave more to the imagination, even if it's James Bond. It wasn't too spicy, but one line made me stop reading for a couple of minutes until I stopped laughing. Bond and Vespa were standing, clothed and kissing, then "he slipped his hands down to her swelling buttocks. . ."
I think I'll try some version of that with my wife. Maybe, "Hey baby, your swelling buttocks are talking to me, and I like what they are saying." Or perhaps, "Those pants make your buttocks look swollen," or, "Are your buttocks swollen for me, or Mr. Darcy?" Hmm, those might need some work.
THE essential spy novel - no gadgets, no contrived international plots, just a cocky young spy in love with the lifestyle, keener on the gambling than on his license to kill. Until he learns the hard way that he can't have it all, and becomes the James Bond we know and love. His evolution at the very end of the book is honest and incontrovertible. We're right there with him, poised for his next adventures to start.
This book will NOT ruin the movie for you or vice versa. It has actually heightened my appreciation of the film, which I now understand as a coherently updated version of the same coming-of-age-as-a-spy story. The original Bond is very much a 1953 spy, Daniel Craig is very much not.
Just one note of warning, this 1953 spy novel is also unapologetically racist and misogynist. Take it as a charming time capsule, take it as terribly offensive, just know it's there.
(And on the narration - Simon Vance is incredible! You can practically feel the martini and champagne in his soul here. By sheer coincidence I listened to another book of his right before this and can't believe that this man seems equally destined to read James Bond as Winnie the Pooh!)
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
Tough decision on Fleming. Having seen the movie versions of his books, how can one block out that version of James Bond and those cinematic depictions of his adventures? Casino Royale would stand up better without that comparison. On its own, it is the story of an ordinary agent (not one who is just shy of super-hero) on an ordinary mission (mere financing of a political movement, not a diabolical scheme to rule the world). That story is complicated by the relationship he forms with a fellow agent, as well as the doubts about the credibility of his cause that form after being tortured by his adversary. That is worthy literary stuff, especially for 1953. But how can you not imagine the movie Bond and feel that this Bond comes up short? As for Simon Vance, nice reading -- not so good that one would specifically seek him out as a narrator, but well cast for this particular novel.
You can't conceive of changing an Ian Fleming James Bond story, not on the written page (obviously, the creators of the recent screen version beefed it up, while retaining the core plot, but a film adaptation is a wholly different issue than suggesting changes to a classic novel). The only thing that would have made this work better is to block out all preconceived notions of James Bond and take it for what it is -- Bond's 1953 debut as an ordinary agent. But is that possible? Was not for me.
The showdown at the baccarat table in the casino between Bond and Le Chiffre. Fleming does a great job of explaining the game and describing the battle between the two opposing agents over the money that Le Chiffre would use to finance his organization's activities.
No. Baccarat is not a popular casino game in America. The movie version wisely substitutes Texas Hold'em, one of the most popular casino games in America. I don't need to be inspired to take that game up, as I already play it.
One has, almost by definition, a different outlook on a work of art like a novel when looking at it outside of the specific context in which it was written. Long after the fall of the Soviet Union, and with all the information that has come out since then, the machinations against a French labor unionist (Le Chiffre) by the CIA and MI6 don't really carry much weight more than 60 years later. On the other hand, Bond's doubts about what constitutes good vs. evil, and his role in that war, is timelessly classic outside the scope of this particular setting. Beyond that, I learned after listening to Casino Royale, that Fleming wrote it to distract himself during the planning of his wedding -- without spoiling the surprise end, it is certainly interesting to wonder where his head was regarding his impending nuptials in the context of how Casino Royale concludes.
This audiobook was one of the best I've listened to
Simon Vance is an incredible narrator. He does various accents very well without overdoing them. His voice is absolutely mesmerizing. It's what I think James Bond would actually sound like!
Near the top
The details about life in the fifties
When 007 sets up his hotel room at the casino.
Better story than I remembered.