James Bond is cool. That’s not a statement about the property, the movies, the stunts or anything at all. That’s just a fact of life: James Bond is cool.
Why is he cool? Well, let’s go down the list: He’s a spy. He can kill anybody he wants. He can pretty much bed any woman he wants. He can drive, fly or push with his feet any form of transportation. He can turn into a 50 ft robot and destroy Tokyo and there’s nothing Godzilla can do about it. Okay, maybe not that last part, but you get the idea.
I had to say that so you will understand that I get it. He’s the man all women want to be and the man all men want to have him or something. The formula is there and I came to the same conclusion that everybody else did as a youngster watching all the movies.
So I say all that to say this: James Bond is an a#$hole. Really, just f#$k that guy and this weird ass spy tale I just read.
I read Casino Royale for the first time. Actually, this is my first James Bond novel and if they are all like this, I’m pretty much done with this franchise as a whole.
I know that sounded harsh, especially from someone critiquing a first book in a series written sixty years ago, but I mean it.
The plot is pretty basic when it gets around to it. There’s a spy accountant with a gambling problem and Bond is to go to the casino in Royale and bankrupt the guy with his super spy gambling powers. Yup, that’s what happens, except only for about a third of this story.
The book is broken up into three acts. The first act is setting up the British secret people, Bond and the mission. Then we ditch all that in London and go to the meat of the book where Bond squares off against the evil dude, meets a pretty lady, gets the ever loving hell beat out of him, and has his ass saved deus ex machina style. The last third of the book is Bond getting laid a lot, feeling emo about his lady, and somebody ending up being a traitor. These sections do not flow together very well, jumping from one situation to the next in jarring fashion. And most of this is padding and attempts at showing the character growing, but none of it fits. My boring ass office novel becomes a kickass spy novel that then becomes some weird romantic drama that ends with no one changing.
All throughout this story, Bond is cool and confident and doesn’t do a godd^%m thing. Our hero’s most awesome act is to bet really hard at the baccarat tables. And he f#$ks that up the first time around and has to be bailed out. That’s all he does.
I would say this is a noir with the beating and the detecting, but there’s no detecting. Bond does not figure anything out, he does not grow, he just exists as a block of ice thinking up drink recipes and trying to get laid. F#$k this guy. All the solutions to his problems are laid out to him, solved after the fact by somebody else while he stares at the sun while lying naked on a beach. He will stand there and look you in they eye and no matter how many faces you make, he will not smile. How very boringly British.
Aside from Bond, the other characters are wonderful. Vesper, the main love interest, is painted with a delicate brush where you know something is wrong with her, but you do not care what. I did hope that these two crazy kids would get together, as this seemed to be Bond’s only real goal in the entire novel. In the end it was not to be, causing this to be even more of a detriment to Bond’s character as he literally resets himself. All that he learned about love in the end is thrown out and Bond just keeps on keeping on.
Bond’s spy friends Mathis and the other guy (he’s interchangeable with Mathis) are fun distractions if kinda crappy at their jobs. I enjoyed when Bond would sit and attempt to talk to them before they just threw up their hands and said, “We’ve go work to do, dude” and then went and did work.
The stand out character of the novel is La Chiffre, our gambling villain accountant. He sets up danger and tension while gambling without saying a word and later, when he has Bond in his grasp, he unleashes a torrent of the best villain speak ever. The torture in itself is brutal and distinct, sticking in my mind forever after this. If you have seen the recent adaptation of this book, you know what I mean, only here it seems even more evil and relentless. I have to applaud Fleming for creating this man and for allowing him to be taken out of the story not by our hero, as Bond was not worthy of this fight.
Anyone interested in the spy or hard boiled detective genre should think about reading this, but most everyone can settle themselves in and watch the Daniel Craig movie version. Should you find this book on an afternoon with nothing to do, however, it is a fast read and enjoyable if you can get past the Bond we all know not doing anything interesting.
I do not ban this book outright, but must mention the extended torture scene, the importance of alcohol, cigarettes and sex to the characters, and Bond’s blatant sexist and misogynistic attitudes as reasons to place this book on the banned shelf. I wouldn’t give this to anyone below high school without knowing if they have either really cool parents or a solid internet connection.