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.
St. Louis, Missouri
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.
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.
I'm a software engineer working out of Toronto Canada. I enjoy science fiction but have started to drift into other areas.
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 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 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.
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.
Well, I guess as someone who grew up with the Bond movies, I should have known that there would be considerable differences to the books. In general I always found that novels were much better than the movies made from them, and considered this to be true with the Bond novels as well. However, listening to Ian Flemings first Bond novel was a really underwhelming experience in that regard.
The Bond I grew up with (Sean Connery mostly) is smart, witty, a bit arrogant, quite sexist but in a considerate and charming way. He is also tough and of course a lethal advisary to all who oppose him. In addition I think fairness is also an attribute I'd associate with James Bond.
This book showed me a different James Bond. And I must say I really don't like the guy. He is sexist too, but is far from charming most of the time. Even realising the book is from the early fifties, I consider Bond behind his time. He is annoyingly arrogant, but lacks the brilliance to carry it off (like the equally fictional Sherlock Holmes does). Ok I grant him tough and lethal, but he's basically just a pain in the ass with a superiority complex.
The story ... well that's the other thing. I found it quite boring to be honest. Not much going on there and even the scenes that promise action (like the car chase) are not very well done. Which might partly be attributed to the reader. Simon Vance basically does a good job with intonations and emotions, but reminds me too much of Hugh Frasier reading an Agatha Christie novel. And while I quite like her books and Frasier's reading, they're not what one considers action-packed. And neither is this one.
So this is the first and the last Bond book for me. Back to the movies.
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