Casino Royale, by Ian Fleming

June 16, 2011 at 15:39 (Book Reviews, Fiction, Mediocre Books, Thriller) (, , , )


Fleming’s written Bond is a barbarian. There are no quips or wry grins, no debonair manners or good breeding. The technology is simple: there are razor blades and grenades, bombs in bags and pistols slipped inside jacket pockets, or one ingenious walking-cane rifle. Even when Bond rhapsodises about quitting his dirty and painful job, he is an unsympathetic tyrant, who appears quite melancholically ambivalent about grotesque physical torture and the failure of his government’s mission.

Ironically considering Bond’s fame in the matter, Ian Fleming seems to be totally hopeless at writing anything romantic: the rather brutish scenes between Bond and his love interest are easily skipped, and seem to be the exact incapsulation of how a sexually-frustrated 1950s mysoginist might imagine love to be. This leaks rather badly into the real plot of the novel, when Bond’s lucklessness in love utterly blindsides him to treachery in the field. Superbly written in parts, but ends up with Bond looking rather pathetic as a secret agent and making something of a pig’s ear of the entire mission.

In fact, it is left to the reader to wonder if Bond is Fleming’s idealised vision of a secret agent, a thinly-disguised memoir, or a disgruntled and bitter retort towards a debauched and inept secret service full of thuggish brutes with hairy palms, utterly incapable of succeeding against the organisation of foreign enemies. This book could honestly be any of the above, or even a conscious or unconscious blend of several, and this depth–sad and mangy as it is–makes this a deeply intriguing novel, if not an appealing one. Bond is extremely difficult to cheer for or empathise with, but also difficult to dislike or even pity, leaving the reader to simply watch agog the antics played out. Brutally entertaining and uncomfortably gripping to the end.

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