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Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

Casino Royale (1953)

by Ian Fleming

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: James Bond (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,0991921,230 (3.54)266
  1. 00
    The Kobra Manifesto by Adam Hall (benfulton)
    benfulton: Very similar spy stories. Quiller is a bit more physical than Bond, I think.
  2. 12
    The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carré (Cecilturtle)

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Showing 1-5 of 189 (next | show all)
The James Bond introduced in Casino Royale was more introspective but just as cold as the Bond of the movies. This was a quick read, a good spy story, but no surprise at the end. Now I want to watch an old Connery Bond film and look for the book Bond mannerisms. ( )
  wandaly | Jun 30, 2016 |
I read the book out of curiosity - "And how does Bond actually look like?" I was surprised with what I saw. This is not a perfect person from the movies womanizer and murderer - he is a professional and above all a man who is not alien to anything human.
In addition to all the construction of the chapters was pleasant - like a chess game. Fleming presented us with the white side and the black one. I can not mind the description of casino game, there was a feeling that it is me playing cards. How many times was the main character on the edge of death and only a miracle saved him? Definitely, the impression from the book is positive! ( )
  selinaadams | Jun 8, 2016 |
(Note:- I'll be discussing some spoilers of the book in this review, but it is an old and very popular book that has inspired a new and very popular film, so you probably know what happens anyway.)

Casino Royale is a novel of two halves – one bad, one good. The first half epitomises everything I disliked about James Bond (more specifically, the literary Bond), who comes across as dour, charmless and snobby. There's a lot of pretentiousness, as Bond (read: Fleming) seems more concerned with cocktail recipes, fine cuisine and fashionable clothes than with the espionage mission. "The trouble always is, he explained to Vesper, "not how to get enough caviar, but how to get enough toast with it."" (pg. 62). A problem that will be familiar to secret agents and men of action the world over, no doubt. It seems at times like every fifth word in this half of the book is in italics, denoting something rather pretentious. Tournedos. Sauce Béarnaise. Coeur d'artichaut. Those are just in the first paragraph after that caviar quote above; the same page also has Bond debating champagne with a waiter (the Taittinger 45 or the Blanc de Blanc Brut 1943? Has any spy ever faced such a desperate choice?). I acknowledge that this high-life is part of Bond's appeal, but the attention given to it in the book is grossly excessive; I quickly grew tired of indulging Fleming's boorishness. Vast swathes of it could have been edited out easily; even when Fleming explains in great detail the rules of baccarat (important to the plot, I guess), I skipped over most of it and still adequately understood the subsequent high-stakes gambling scenes.

These gambling scenes are when Casino Royale starts to redeem itself; tension, violence, torture, action all follow in the second half of the book as we move away from Fleming salivating over what vintage to have with his evening meal to the reader salivating over high-stake thrills. Whilst many of the tropes we associate with Bond as a franchise are not yet present in this first book, it is still the 007 we have enjoyed in his many on-screen incarnations. In a way, the book is Bond moving away from the posh-boys-on-a-jolly idea of gentlemanly espionage still persuasive in the early 1950s towards an ever-changing and increasingly ruthless geopolitical landscape where nothing is black-and-white. As Le Chiffre's taunts express, Bond has been playing a "game of Red Indians" and has "stumbled by mischance into a game for grown-ups." (pg. 133). The old patriotic compass doesn't apply ("this country-right-or-wrong business is getting a little out-of-date", Bond muses on page 159) and the good guys, struggling in a brutal new world where the purported villains often win, are trying to adapt. Whilst the bad guys are trying to kill them.

Casino Royale is in essence Bond's attempt to adapt. He is, as the French agent Mathis notes, a machine – a tool, a Double-O – and machines can become obsolete. But he is also a man, and it is to this side of Bond that Mathis is appealing when he encourages him to "surround yourself with human beings… They are easier to fight for than principles." (pg. 164). But in necessarily drawing on his humanity to help him realign his machine-like functionality, Bond leaves himself open to emotion. Taking the form of Vesper Lynd.

Vesper is interesting because it is she who both allows Bond to successfully adapt to the new world and also fundamentally damages him. The taciturn Bond is clearly deeply affected by her betrayal and death; never has a woman been called a 'bitch' with such repressed anguish and heartbreak. But in acknowledging how she was exploited by SMERSH – the Russian villains of the piece – Bond allows himself to fall back on his old black-and-white morality, morphing it into a sort of mutant that can survive in this new morally-grey world. Bastardising Mathis' advice, human beings become his principles; he turns his anguished hatred at those who would exploit people like Vesper: "He would go after the threat behind the spies, the threat that made them spy." (pg. 212). He has identified his villains and, though he recognises the world is no longer black-and-white, he decides to see it as such anyway because it enables him to cope. He rises above and yet at the same time sinks below the morality of the ordinary spy. Vesper has broken him and yet at the same time allowed him to function. And they say the Bond books lack the conflict and the gravity of the likes of le Carré...

In this respect, even Bond's chauvinism serves a purpose. Whilst I can't fully get behind a character who thinks women should stay in the kitchen (pg. 116) and says with apparent sincerity that it's better to seduce enigmatic and reticent women because then every "conquest of her body… would each time have the sweet tang of rape" (pg. 186), his attitude to women is illustrative of his growing and begrudging acceptance of the realities of his new world and the death of the old one. When he ends the book with a seemingly callous "The bitch is dead now" (pg. 213), it is not just Vesper Lynd he is referring to. It is the heroic ideals of the old Empire of Queen Victoria, still clung to by many at the time the book was written. It is the goddess Britannia on her throne, just a few years before the Suez Crisis really drove that lesson home. It is this which gives the book its gravity and illustrates its literary importance; Casino Royale was one of the first books to really acknowledge the frightening reality that, in the decade after the largest conflict in history, the world had fundamentally changed." ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
A good enjoyable read, Ian Fleming's time in naval intelligence certainly comes through in his story telling. Bond as played by Daniel Craig is much closer in tone to the Bond that Ian Fleming created. ( )
  KarenDuff | Jun 1, 2016 |
"Bond guessed that he would kill without interest or concern for what he killed. He had something of Lennie in "Of Mice and Men", but his inhumanity would not come from infantilism, but from drugs, Marijuana, decided Bond."

I started to read the book because James Bond is a modern icon. Much can and has been be said of the films, but the most obvious thing is usually left out in Bond-related discussions; The quality of a book is but seldom translated to the wide screen.
Only the later films with Daniel Craig as Bond brings in a little bit of the troubled human being Fleming writes about. Fleming makes a portrait of a person coming out of World War II knowing that inhumanity exist, an inhumanity that will continue to unfold unless opposed. In the films such opposition comes in violent comic book style and at no cost to a hero that always lands on his feet - a cartoonist translation of the "stiff upper lip" which is the realist response to life. What the reader is left with after having read the book, is not the action at all, but the personal cost of the pragmatical choice when in front of evil, a portrait of the person knowing of the cost of his actions, and still going on. Anyone born in the 50 and 60ties having a father, uncle or grandfather partaking in World War II, will recognize something of the troubled soldier Bond. The atrocities of World War II, and the attitude of the survivors / of the troubled soldier - is the book´s underlying nerve, a nerve true to it´s time, which of course explains Bond´s status as an icon.

"He needed to reestablish that focus which is half mathematical and half intuitive and which, with a slow pulse and sanguine temperament, Bond knew to be essential of any gambler who was set on winning".

Style surprised me as well as the contents of the book. Both Steinbeck and Hemingway springs to mind - I believe the "slow pulse and sanguine" being quite descriptive of the book itself, and the key to Fleming having won the attention of the filmmakers in the first place.
  Mikalina | May 30, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ian Flemingprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Deaver, JefferyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fahey, RichieCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Alternative titles
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Important places
Important events
Related movies
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First words
The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.
The Devil has no prophets to write his Ten Commandments and no teams of authors to write his biography. His case has gone completely by default. We know nothing about him but a lot of fairy stories from our parents and schoolmasters. He has no book from which we can learn the nature of evil in all its forms, with parables about evil people, proverbs about evil people, folk-lore about evil people. All we have is the living example of the people who are least good, or our own intuition.
"surround yourself with human beings, my dear James. They are easier to fight for than principles. But don't let me down and become human yourself. We would lose such a wonderful machine."
“Your own injuries are serious, but your life is not in danger... If all goes well, you will recover completely and none of the functions of your body will be impaired... But I fear that you will continue to be in pain for several days...”
Last words
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Publisher's editors
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Book description
James Bond

closed his eyes and waited for the pain. He knew that the beginning of torture was the worst.

Le Chiffre
The formidable, dangerous French Communist with large sexual appetites. Paymaster of SMERSH and a master sadist.

Vesper Lynd
the conquest of her body would each time have the sweet tang of rape.

A superlative thriller. Replete with elegant, enigmatic women, superb food and service, explosions, torture and sudden death. - Boston Sunday Post

The best gambling scene one can recall and the most revolting torture scenes. - The Birmingham Post

Hums with tension - Time Magazine
For James Bond and the British Secret Service, the stakes couldn't be higher. 007's mission is to neutralize the Russian operative Le Chiffre by ruining him at the baccarat table, forcing his Soviet masters to "retire" him. When Le Chiffre hits a losing streak, Bond discovers his luck is in - that is, until he meets Vesper Lynd, a glamorous agent who might yet prove to be his downfall. This audiobook includes an exclusive bonus interview with Dan Stevens.
Haiku summary
Double Oh Seven
gambles with a union boss
who's a SMERSH agent.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 014200202X, Paperback)

In the first of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, 007 declares war on Le Chiffre, French communist and paymaster of the Soviet murder organization SMERSH.

The battle begins with a fifty-million-franc game of baccarat, gains momentum during Bond's fiery love affair with a sensuous lady spy, and reaches a chilling climax with fiendish torture at the hands of a master sadist. For incredible suspense, unexpected thrills, and extraordinary danger, nothing can beat James Bond in his inaugural adventure.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:50 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

In the first James Bond novel, originally published in 1953, 007 takes on Le Chiffre, a French communist and paymaster of the Soviet murder organization SMERSH, as the suave agent becomes involved in a high-stakes game of baccarat, enjoys a fiery love affair with a sexy female spy, and endures torture at the hands of a master sadist.… (more)

» see all 12 descriptions

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