Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review - Casino Royale

Casino Royale (James Bond Novels)I've been a fan of the James Bond movies for a long, long time. I finally decided to read some of the books that inspired the movies and where better to start than with the first book in the James Bond series? When Casino Royale came to theaters a few years back, I was a little nervous at first about the new "grittier" bond. I'd always enjoyed the cheesy humor. But I really felt like Daniel Craig did a great job in Casino Royale and I look forward to seeing future movies.

Casino RoyaleAs is expected with any book to movie scenario, there were a few notable differences between the book and the movie. Some of the action scenes were different. A little bit of the flow of the book was different. The interaction between Bond and the other major characters was a little more withdrawn in the book.

Another notable difference was that instead of playing Texas Hold 'Em (as they did in the movie), Bond played High Stakes Baccarat. I'd seen Baccarat played in some earlier Bond movies but I've never played or learned to play. Flemming did a fabulous job of not only teaching the reader the game of Baccarat but in doing so in such a way that felt natural to the narrative of the story.

James Bond: Casino RoyaleThe action sequences were fast paced and interesting without becoming terribly graphic or gory. Even the scene where Bond is tortured extensively is done in such a way that it makes the reader squirm but through higher level narrative or inferences rather than graphic descriptions. Don't get me wrong, there is definitely some lower level fighting and violence but it's done in a way that shouldn't turn the reader off.

Except for Bond, the characters were a little flat, stereotyped and predictable. There were some interesting character interactions and motivations, but generally speaking the book felt like Bond's story was a one-man-show and even though the characters were there, they were just window dressing for him. Bond was a bit flat at times as well…his character being the stereotypical "hard man" who doesn't really like authority, women, or process. He's cold and methodical and gets the job done.

If you've seen the movies, you'll know Bond's reputation as a ladies man. Interestingly, in this novel, he seemed very much against the idea of mixing business with pleasure. He commented that he didn't like having women around to distract him while on a job. He stayed cool and distant towards Vesper. They had a couple of scenes that should have been brimming with romantic tension but instead had a cold and distant bond beside a semi-confused Vesper. We came away from those scenes with a degree of tension but more with a sense of frustration for the romantic connection that could have been.

Bond's interaction with the local authorities and with the Americans was played a little different in the book than in the movie. Once again, Bond was the center of attention and the external forces were wholly peripheral and seemed to exist only to play on Bond's needs. And when Bond needed them, they suddenly arrived just in time with all of the proper resources and aid. This again felt a bit strained, but still worked in the sense of the novel.

When Bond finally did warm to Vesper and their romance bloomed, it seemed a little forced/manipulated. While there was a sense of realism to the nature of his growing to like her, the way it was written left me feeling unconvinced. The ending of the book was much less action packed than the movie but followed a fairly similar plot arc. I didn't feel the same sense of Bond's loss as in the movie. In fact, in the book Bond seemed almost less effected. I think that was largely due to the distant nature of his character through the book.

Interestingly as I look back at my thoughts/review, I feel like I am coming off as extremely negative towards the book. I agree that the book wasn't as good as I'd hoped but it was still entertaining and still pure James Bond adventure. I give it a little leeway knowing that this was the first book in what would become a long-lived series of novels.

I also acknowledge that this is definitely a genre novel that isn't really trying to be anything more than an exciting spy adventure. I think partly I was hoping for more dynamic intrigue or conspiracy. Considering the size of the book (just under 200 pages), it does quite a lot in a short space. It did briefly introduce the concept of a few "spy killer" organizations that could come into play in future books and make things rather interesting. But generally the story and plot were pretty straightforward and unremarkable.

Overall I enjoyed the book and will likely seek out and read more James Bond. It's not deep writing by any means but it is a fun, quick adventure that's just gritty enough to not be "fluff" but not so gritty as to be off-putting.


3 out of 5 stars

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6 comments:

Brian Miller said...

nice...the new book written by jeffry deaver is on my list at the library...and the new movie is slated to begin filming in november...

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

I rather enjoyed your review, thank you! I LOVE Bond, and I have yet to read any of the books. Casino Royale has been hands down my favorite of the Bond movies so far, so it feels appropriate to start with that book first. :)

Man of la Book said...

I actually read many, if not all, of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels and besides the title and a few character names they have very little to do with the movies.

That being said, they are very good on their own. Very dark, moody with great stories and shades of grey. Bond isn't any better than the villains, simply on the other side.

http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

David J. West said...

Cool review.

There is one that follows the book as close as any movie ever does-the first movie Dr. No, after that we are only wildly different rides. I read the short story Quantum of Solace in the last yearish... and while the characters sound like tehy are a little better devoloped than Casino Royale-its isn't a thing like the movie either.

Deirdra Eden-Coppel said...

You have a fabulous blog! I’m an author and illustrator and I made some awards to give to fellow bloggers whose sites I enjoy. I want to award you with the Best Books Blog Award for all the hard work you do!

Go to http://astorybookworld.blogspot.com/p/awards.html and pick up your award.
~Deirdra

Phoenix said...

I thought the movie was fantastic, and (as surprising as it sounds) the movies usually portray Bond as LESS egotistical and misogynistic, so I'm not surprised that you found more warmth and vulnerability in Bond's character in the movies. I don't think I'd be a fan of the books, lol!

Great review, as always, Okie.