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James Bond: Casino Royale
Firstly, I should probably let you all know that, when a topic I'm interested in comes up (too long a list), I can talk “forever and ever”, and unfortunately for anyone that has actually stuck around long enough (without their ears bleeding them to death), they can vouch for me on that. Anyway, as such, I find it hard to keep to a certain amount of words when writing coursework or anything else. I believe this book review is supposed to be 200 words, approximately? Anyway, as such, do you think we could start counting when we get to the actual reviewing of the book? It'll be more than 200 words still, but at least it'll be a little less than the actual amount... Thanks! I've recently (well, gosh, almost a good year ago now) decided that, being a big Bond fan, and loving espionage/action genre, as well as reading in general, and hearing great things about Ian Fleming's writings, it was about time that, around eight or nine years after being introduced to James Bond through the still superb, “GoldenEye 007”, (and with a remake/”reimagining” out on the Wii next month – November, 2010) on the Nintendo 64. (as much as I now want to talk about my gaming life/timeline, I'll save it for another time), about time that I started reading through the original Bond novels, by Ian Fleming. I don't buy books (well, very rarely), so I use the library for all my reading. I started my search in my local Llanrumney library, where the only Bond novel they had was “Moonraker”. Despite it being in the Roger Moore era of Bond films, though third in the novel series, I decided to read that first. Suffice to say, when I finished it around May-time, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Made my way to the central library towards the end of the summer holidays (despite moaning about being bored, I can't get comfortable reading at home - “too much to do” - hah!), and picked up the first six or so novels in the series (not including, “Moonraker”). I started my reading of, “Casino Royale”, on my first day of college, Monday, 13th September, and finished it on either the Thursday or Friday, which is pretty good for me (220 pages, roughly), as of recent years. [Edit – Oh, how could I forget... My first Bond novel wasn't, “Moonraker”, at all... It came a good few months before that, I'm gonna say Autumn or Winter 2009, I was searching through the thrillers section of Llanrumney library, as I had just recently finished my two 24 spin-off novels, and one spin-off Splinter Cell novel, all three of which I very much enjoyed, and were a further step in my “ascension” to adult fiction, when I noticed, on the “Recently Returned” section, the front cover of a book, the design/image of which caught my attention, big style! The name of the book, “Devil May Care”, sounded pretty cool too, and I had seen the author's name, Sebastain Faulkes, around the “fiction” section (the drama section) of the library (which is prone to happen if you spend your two weeks of work experience working in a library!), and so picked up the novel and had a “proper” look. The top-right of the cover interested me... “A James Bond novel”. Now, I knew that there were various writers who were chosen to take up Bond-writing after Fleming's death in 1964, but this was the first I had actually seen “in person”. My interest, and hunger for an optimistically good action/thriller resulted in my taking the book out, and reading it over the next week or two. Sebastian Faulkes' one-off Bond book, “Devil May Care”, was written for and released on
the 100 year anniversary of Ian Fleming's birth, May 28th, 2008. It is set after the Bond novels, featuring an emotionally weaker Bond, and written in the style of Fleming. I loved the book, everything about it seemed very well-written and it most certainly held and raised my excitement/interest in James Bond even further. I remember thinking of using Devil May Care as a sort of “trial-run” for whether or not I would make much of an effort to read the original Fleming novels. The trial was 100% a success.] (Start counting words... NOW!) “Casino Royale”, released in 1953, follows British MI6, 007 agent, James Bond, who, due to his impressive gambling skills and past record in missions, is tasked with winning a game of Baccarat against Le Chiffre, an ex-Soviet agent (who is now on the run from the USSR). It is the first book in the series, and follows Bond's experience only (a restrictive narrative), which includes his introduction/first mission involving SMERSH, a soviet spy organisation, similar to, but more brutal and “invisible” than, MI6. The first thing I should say about Casino Royale is that, especially when you compare it to almost any other of the Bond adaptations, the (2006) movie, debuting Daniel Craig as the “Blonde Bond”, is actually very loyal to the book, at least until it comes to Vesper and the/her finale, but more on that in a little while. Also, though I don't think it was 100% clear (it wouldn't have needed to be at the time), but it didn't seem like this was Bond's first mission as a 00-agent – he had a good service record on “previous missions” - and so, though the 2006 adaptation is seen as Bond's first 00-mission, I see this as Bond's first mission involving SMERSH. The book, though about half the length I was expecting (on no basis other than most books I've read recently seem to be between 350 and 450 pages), is incredibly well-paced, and never really seems to be particularly uninteresting. I cannot recall any particular chapters or scenes that weren't necessary or unenjoyable, though I was surprised to find that the excitement did slip just a little, very slightly, in the second half or so, after Bond won the Baccarat game. That brings me onto another point... I don't really play card games, though Top Trumps (lots of memories over many years and places) and Snap! were also great fun, and I was at one stage a massive fan of Solitaire and a little of Hearts. As such, I've never been any good at really understanding how these gambling card games, like Baccarat, and Texas Hold 'Em, work. However, Fleming provided a truly great and rather simplistic overview of the game, a large part of the first half of the novel. Though I think I would still need a visual/first-hand experience of the game to make sure I definitely understood it, I believe I understood it very well from the description provided... Though, I should also point out that it sounded very similar to the “Pazaak” game played in the two Knights of the Old Republic games. Jumping back a bit, especially considering its pacing and shorter-than-expected length, I found that Fleming was able to introduce and flesh out the characters extremely well. Bond's introduction at the start of novel was straight to the point, and I was very quickly able to get the feel of his character, learning a lot about him in a short space of time. Another aspect of the writing I was honestly very impressed with was, and I say this with “authority”, being someone that usually skipped two or three pages of “description” in the Harry Potter books (a.k.a. I don't like reading much about the description of sceneries, clothes, or even, believe it or not, how tender her skin was during the sex scene), the descriptive writing in this was made a part of the novel. Following Bond's point of view throughout the novel, when we were introduced to characters or places, they were made a
part of Bond's thoughts and the things he picked up on. I'm well aware and experienced that this isn't exactly a stand-out point in novels, and a lot of the authors I read aren't very descriptive either, I'm guessing it has something to do with the fact I'm a big fan of teen action/spy novels by male authors such as Charlie Higson (author of the absolutely awesome Young Bond books), and Anthony Horowitz, responsible for some great horror stories, as well as the more global, fantastic, Alex Rider (still must get round to finding and then reading Crocodile Tears), which served as my true “sequel” to the Harry Potter novels (… As my next series of books to read, not an actual sequel... That's just weird!) and “Power of 5” series. However, the description fitted Bond's character – he's a top-notch spy who pays attention to detail, to the things that matter, and so any description that is included is usually helpful in showing us Bond's thought process, and so even the slightly more descriptive sections were able to easily hold my interest. Contrary to the series of Bond films, for what I assume are obvious reasons (the movies have been adapted and/or padded out from the novels), there isn't as much action in the novel, but when the action does turn up, it's certainly turned up to full volume. In particular, the now infamous torture scene from the 2006 movie is almost exactly the same as the novel's original scene. And, as a teenage boy, let me tell you, reading through that scene did make me wince and get a little “squeamish”. It's not a very nice scene to even imagine (let's not even think about experiencing), and I can have a pretty vivid imagination at times... It was horrific, and yet well-written enough to never truly describe the actual “action”... I assume it was Fleming's intention to leave the description of that scene particularly “interpretive” (through the lack of in-depth description) in order to let our imaginations really run wild with ideas and images. However, I must confess... I somehow found the “pinkie finger”-breaking scene from Live and Let Die, the second novel, to be a much more, for myself at least, painful read, as I can somehow feel the pain much stronger than... Well, the aforementioned scene. Also, I guess it's all part of the “charm” of Bond, but, oh boy, do I love following cynical, British, 1930s, sexist/misogynistic, heavy-drinking, and heavy-smoking, men with licenses to kill. All of those “charms” above are easily identifiable on most pages of the book, and I've got to say that a particular high-light of the book was a small line or two where, after engaging in some “sporting entertainment” when in their hotel room together, Vesper starts crying. A lot (seriously, she seems to cry on every other appearance). This particular line (I don't actually have the book handy to quote), following her sudden outbreak after their “entertainment”, went something along the lines of, “Bond decided to let her have her cry”. I'm honestly not sure quite why this stuck in my mind so strongly – I think it was just that, in addition to it being immediately after their “fun and games”, it seemed a very misogynistic and simple thought for Bond, and yet, probably, was the best thing to do. Overall, it was a fantastic read, that I'm struggling to find points to criticise it with, and I would thoroughly recommend the book to any action/thriller readers out there, especially if you're a fan of the Bond films/games/toys/cars/etc..
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