It seems that lady luck has sided with 007 when Le Chiffre hits 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 to an unexpected savior.
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©1953 Glidrose Productions, Ltd.; (P)2000 Blackstone Audio Inc.
"[A]n intense, fascinating, and moody piece of fiction." (Raymond Benson, author of High Time to Kill)
"Britisher [Simon Vance] takes a suitably urbane approach, sounding as if he is attired in white tails and sipping a very dry martini between takes [and] taking particular pleasure with his characterizations." (AudioFile)
Touching Lives One Martini at a Time
I keep saying this, but Simon Vance nails the tone of the novels. He has a great facility for voices and accents. He also handles foreign words and phrases well (a knowledge of French and German is very helpful in Fleming novels). Vance is able to take Fleming's narrative and make it into something unique. It is like listening to a radio drama. This novel, the first, is not for the faint of heart. It is extremely violent and noirish, almost in a Mickey Spillane tradition. Not one person in the story is worth a damn. It is a hyper-masculine novel filled with violence, sex, gambling, and drink. It does give an interesting look, I should say feeling, of what Britain was like after the devastation of WWII and how they felt about being a second-rate power after its ascendancy during the Victorian Era.
This is a no-brainer. It's James Bond. It is the first story and he is not surrounded by friends. Fleming was a journalist and his writing is very "just the facts, ma'am". Bond is much the same way.
I like the baccarat set-pieces. It is tough to make a card game tense and it was pulled off here. The torture scene is a leg-crosser.
I'll leave that to the professionals.
This novel is nice and simple and it zooms right along. It is also an interesting set-piece about Britain's view of itself and America post-WWII. No, Fleming's books are not deep, but they are a little bitter and that makes them interesting.
Unlike many Bond films, Casino Royale actually resembles the book. The movie was actually more complicated and action-packed, though.
Bond's mission is quite simple: go to a fancy French casino, put some fat stacks on the table, and try to beat the other guy who's actually a SMERSH agent. Of course he does break Le Chiffre's bank, and that's when Le Chiffre gets really desperate, and things get ugly.
If you've seen the movie, you know basically how everything plays out with Le Chiffre, SMERSH, and Vesper Lynd. And yes, the scene with Bond tied naked to a cane chair with the bottom cut out is from the book. Where the book differs from the movie is that Bond isn't such a smug smart-ass while he's getting his balls tickled by Le Chiffre's carpet-beater. Indeed, this is how all of Fleming's novels differ from the movies: Bond is a much more human character than any of his film versions. He feels fear, sadness, doubt, and he wonders whether he's on the right side. But he's still a cold bastard in the end.
I like Fleming's writing. It's blunt and descriptive and full of elegant details but without a lot of backstory. The plots are straightforward, mostly believable, and they cook right along. If you haven't sampled any of the original Bond stories, you should. One thing to be warned of, though, is that if you think the movie Bond is a bit of a misogynist, Fleming's Bond is even more unapologetic about it. Women are silly, emotional things to be used for pleasure (though his love for Vesper belies this), and he's not too enlightened about the non-white people either. But if you can read the stories for what they were and the time they were written, they're quite fun and Fleming does a lot with relatively thin plots.
Casino Royale is a good quick listen, and Simon Vance, as usual, does a great job of narrating Fleming's terse, masculine style.
This James Bond is tough! It is great to hear the real James Bond. He beats the bad guys with his mind and his fists. This is not the gadget-loving Roger Moore but a tough-minded, quick-witted, kind of good guy.
Ian Fleming introduces us to a most remarkable world and character in this first book in the eventual series about 007. A very skillful character sketch of a man, a very unique man and one both men and women can identify inside themselves. While the recent movie was a faithful cinematic (albeit modernised) version of the novel, the listener will be enraptured by this most compelling story that is as fresh and exciting today as it would have been in the early 1950's when it was first published.
While the story is most excellent and well written, the listener will find the narrator, Mr. Simon Vance, to be almost perfect as the quintessential reader of Bond (and any other story). In fact, I became a fan of Mr. Vance as a reader while listening to this audiobook. I must say, the real world faded as I listened to Casino Royale.
Even though most of us have seen the movies first, and perhaps, think that is all there is to Mr. Bond, all will find that the novels themselves are a whole other world and just as intensely interesting and exciting. There is also something wonderful about stepping back into this romanticised fancy of the Cold War. Dear Mr. Bond is something of a knight.
Of all the Bond stories, this is my favorite; it sets the mark, the standard, and gives us _Bond_. All of the Bond stories on Audible are first rate, but this one, Casino Royale, is the first--and for several reasons.
Because the book doesn’t have a brigade of Hollywood art directors over-dressing every scene. Because the book isn’t beholden to the orthodoxies and political pieties of our own particular time. And mostly because, unlike a moviegoer, a reader (or listener) can see into the mind and heart of James Bond and discover much more than the heavily armed, libidinous playboy portrayed on the screen.
This James Bond has doubts. He feels pain, both emotional and physical. And he has worries beyond where his next cocktail is coming from and whether or not it will be shaken or stirred. Most surprising of all, in this first of the series we discover that the predictable cycle of a love affair (bed—more bed—no bed—weak excuses—break up on a doorstep in the rain) bores and even embarrasses him. No, that’s not the most surprising revelation in this book; the most surprising revelation is that James actually makes up his mind to…but no, you need to find out yourself.
True, the Daniel Craig version of Casino Royale did plumb the character deeper and try to bring out the hidden insecurities and not-so-hidden flaws. But in the book we see Royale and the casino that is the town’s main attraction for what it really is: a shabby kind of place that has seen better days—under Napoleon III. We hear Bond spout the sort of relativistic reasoning regarding good and evil that wouldn’t be really fashionable until the 70’s. And we see him argued out of the retirement from the fray that he contemplates—first by a French ally and then by circumstances.
Also, for someone raised on the movies the nearness of World War II always comes as something of a surprise. It was the place where Bond, his allies and his adversaries learned their trade. Missing arms and eyes remind you of the shadow that still broods over every character, whether they were soldiers or civilians.
Long story short, this isn't fantasy Bond. And Simon Vance brings to the story just the right dramatic edge—this is still, after all, a spy thriller—while remaining true to the book’s basic realism. Flemming was a very good writer and Vance makes him sound even better.
A science fiction fan for as long as I can remember but I also enjoy history (fact and fiction) and humor.
If you've seen the teatrical release of Casino Royale, you owe it to yourself to listen to this excellent reading of the original story.
I read the book many years ago and had forgotten just how good it was. It is, without a doubt, one of Ian Fleming's best novels (even if somewhat dated with Cold-War references to Redland and SMERSH). The story provides insight into James Bond's personality and some historical background to the stories which followed. It also introduces characters, like CIA agent Felix Liter, who become significant in later adventures.
I listened to the story at work during lunch hours and ended up having to set the alarm on my computer to prevent me from running over time.
The reading is crisp and well-paced and the sound quality is excellent.
I really liked the down to earth Bond in the book. He is human and dispite his double 0 status he does not kill anyone in this book. He is bothered by the two killings he has done.
Much better than the movie. The movie should have captured the eria of the book and made him less super-hero like.
I loved this book...a straight ahead good vs evil secret agent story that introduces James Bond.
Flemming's construction of the "Bond Universe" is so meticulous that there is no need to suspend your disbelief.
I also like the relatively short length of the Bond stories which provided instant interest and smooth but rapid story development.
Simon Vance delivers a pitch perfect narration which only enhances the story.
Well worth the credit.
I was pleasantly surprised by how good a writer Ian Fleming was. The first half of the book is very good. Among other things, James Bond is different from the James Bond of the movies, and that makes for added interest. The second half of the book is not bad, but odd. Fleming sets things up for a final twist, like most thriller writers, but readers will see the twist coming a mile away. Worse yet, you have to wonder why Bond doesn't see it coming. Despite that problem, this is a solid read.
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.
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