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From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming
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2,721463,169 (3.78)93
  1. 00
    Be Shot For Sixpence by Michael Gilbert (SomeGuyInVirginia)
    SomeGuyInVirginia: Sex, international intrigue, broadly drawn villains, and lots of improbable action. Very entertaining.

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[b: From Russia with Love|3764|From Russia With Love (James Bond, #5)|Ian Fleming|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1439104844s/3764.jpg|2918888] is second only to [b: Casino Royale|3758|Casino Royale (James Bond, #1)|Ian Fleming|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1413708915s/3758.jpg|2503304], and followed all too closely by [b: Moonraker|19498|Moonraker's Bride|Madeleine Brent|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1297725122s/19498.jpg|1046508].

[a: Ian Fleming|2565|Ian Fleming|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1364532740p2/2565.jpg] has crafted a well developed tale of intrigue in this book. We begin with SMERSH rather than MI6, which contrasts beautifully with the daily doldrums of MI6's paperwork in [b: Moonraker|19498|Moonraker's Bride|Madeleine Brent|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1297725122s/19498.jpg|1046508] and even to an extent [b: Dr. No]. [b: From Russia with Love|3764|From Russia With Love (James Bond, #5)|Ian Fleming|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1439104844s/3764.jpg|2918888] allows us to see just what is going to happen. SMERSH needs to make a strong impact on MI6, and to let the world know they're not messing around. Why not do it by publicly shaming, and then assassinating, the world-famous James Bond? The scheme, naturally, is to throw a girl his way - but what girl?

I was lucky enough to read [b: The Billion Dollar Spy|23463183|The Billion Dollar Spy A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal|David E. Hoffman|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1428686782s/23463183.jpg|42913846] shortly after reading this, and was surprised by just how much detail there was - and accurate detail - about the way the KGB operated and how complex their intelligence network was. While I don't recommend anyone frame their view of the world through the lens of James Bond when it comes to anything but fashion advice and drink recommendations, there is still a good deal of well researched intel to be found within it.

Other reviewers have complained, and with good reason, about the dated aspects of the book. It's racist, it's misogynistic, it's full of a macho bravado and a narrow-minded worldview, etc... but honestly, a great many books from this era and others suffer similarly due to when they were written. For me, it's pretty easy to take it in the spirit of the time it was written. None of that compromises the story, the realities and attendant dangers of spycraft, and the sheer charm factor of murder on the Orient Express.

I can't rightly imagine a more pleasant outing into the world of James Bond, but I dearly hope to find one once SPECTRE is on the scene. ( )
  Lepophagus | Jun 14, 2018 |
This review contains spoilers.

Memorable set pieces include the tunnel underneath Istanbul with the submarine periscope. The Gypsy encampment and cat-fight. The character of Rosa Klebb is the best of the novel but she disappears half-way (the film brings her back at the end). Fleming spent nearly a third of the book developing Red Grant but he never stands out - a cut of the knife and dead no return. The novel was published in newspaper serial format and it shows, the glue holding the sections together is episodic. The 63' movie went overboard on the soft-porn and chase scenes, of course. ( )
  Stbalbach | Jan 28, 2018 |
This reads like the ultimate James Bond novel. Not in the sense that Fleming has outdone himself, or perfected the formula-- I still reckon that Casino Royale is the best of these, and I don't see any sign of formula yet, neither the one from the films nor one of the books' own-- but in the sense that it feels final. Charlie Higson's introduction indicates Fleming toyed with killing Bond off in this novel, but even if I didn't know that, you can see how this book looks back at the trends and tropes of the earlier Bond novels and exploits them. Basically, the Russians note Bond's predilection for vulnerable women (seen in four of the five novels so far) and exploit it, staging a defection of an attractive young female cipher clerk in order to implicate Bond in a scandal. I'm curious to see where the novels go from here: is this trope done with, or will Fleming just keep using it anyway?

The format is a bit different than what we've seen previously. Bond doesn't show up for the first third of the novel, which instead details the inner workings of SMERSH, the Soviet counterintelligence organization. (Does SMERSH ever make it on screen? All of the film adaptations I've seen so far have excised the Russians for various reasons, and "SMERSH" is a dumb-sounding word, even if it was kind of a real thing. But if SMERSH makes it on screen ever, it must be in the film of this book, so I guess I'll see soon.) Here, Fleming's obsession with minute details serves him well: instead of carefully delineating meals or weaponry, we get the operations of Soviet intelligence and counterintelligence. I don't know if real Soviet intelligence organizations operated like this, but I would believe they would. It's a cold, clinical world where everyone does what they're told out of either total fear and paranoia or psychopathic glee.

Fleming times his switchover perfectly: exactly at the point where I was like, "Okay, where's James Bond?" the action switches to England. Honestly, the middle third of the novel is probably the weakest. Well, sort of. Bond goes to Istanbul, and we get to meet Kerim, the Head of T (MI6 operations in Istanbul), and he is a very entertaining character: he runs the Cold War as a sort of game, business, and family operation all in one. On the other hand, there's actually not a whole lot of relevance that happens in this section-- when Bond and Kerim go to see some gypsies, it has the sort of page-filling feel of the horse races in Diamonds are Forever. Lots of local flavor and color, but it's not really put to much use. Honestly, most of these Bond novels so far have been kind of weirdly plotted, except for Live and Let Die; I wonder if Fleming will get better at this as the series goes on.

The interest of all the local color is of course undermined by Bond's disgust at foreigners. Right from landing in Istanbul, it's all matter-of-fact racism from him: "So these dark, ugly, neat little [customs] officials were the modern Turks. He listened to their voices, full of broad vowels and quiet sibilants and modified u-sounds, and he watched the dark eyes that belied the soft, polite voices. [...] They were eyes that kept the knife-hand in sight without seeming to, that counted the grains of meal and the small fractions of coin and noted the flicker of the merchant's fingers. They were hard, untrusting, jealous eyes. Bond didn't take to them." Like, holy cow, Bond, even their "modified u-sounds" are evil? Bond likes Kerim, but of course Kerim's mother was English. It's this stuff that prevents one from fully engaging in the otherwise lavish descriptions of "exotic" Istanbul. Will I have to put up with this casual racism the whole rest of the series?

The last third of the novel is better, though. Like in Live and Let Die and Diamonds are Forever, we have Bond protecting a woman while on a slow-moving form of transport; the Russians really have figured out what it takes to make him fall in love with someone. It's tense and Fleming keeps the tension escalating throughout. If this part is done on screen as is, I can see it being really intense and captivating. I'm still impressed by how much Fleming makes you feel the pain Bond is in, and how hard it is for Bond to do things that look simple on screen-- like grab a gun while wrestling an opponent-- in a way that's completely captivating.

I'd place this in the middle of the Bond novels thus far: not as good as Casino Royale or Moonraker, but better than Live and Let Die or Diamonds are Forever. I'm interested enough to keep reading, at least.
1 vote Stevil2001 | Oct 6, 2017 |
My only previous Fleming book was Casino Royale, and I almost quit reading it and the series by an otherwise 'throwaway' line that highlighted in screaming form Fleming's causal misogyny. That of course was on display again here, but it is the James Bond series. One knows what they are in for - and Fleming mostly delivers. I'll be reading deeper into the series. ( )
1 vote kcshankd | Jun 19, 2017 |
The one where Fleming finally got it right. Well written, pacey and with a satisfying climax, this is one of the best Bond novels. Even though Fleming had decided to kill off his hero with this book, the public reaction forced him to bring Bond back and he went on to write Dr. No, Goldfinger and the rest.

The first four novels are good, but here Bond becomes great.

Recommended. ( )
1 vote David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
10 of the Greatest Cold War Spy Novels
“Though Ian Fleming himself had worked in intelligence during the Second World War, James Bond was a fantasy figure in the tradition of Bulldog Drummond, the Saint, and Mike Hammer, and Fu Manchu provided the pattern for Bond’s uber-foes (specifically, in the case of Dr. No, 1962). But in this, his fifth Bond novel, Fleming plays a straight espionage game, with Russia’s counter-intelligence agency SMERSH out to kill Bond in the context of a contrived sexual scandal. The first section of the novel depicts the planning of the mission and the training of Soviet assassin Red Grant. The 1963 film version with Sean Connery is the most faithful of Bond adaptations, rivaled only by On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) and Casino Royale (2006).”

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ian Flemingprimary authorall editionscalculated
Higson, CharlieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The naked man who lay splayed out on his face beside the swimming pool might have been dead.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The author is Ian Fleming (1).
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Haiku summary
Double Oh Seven
meets a Russian defector,
but it is a trap.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142002070, Paperback)

Name: Bond, James. Height: 183 cm, weight: 76 kg; slim build; eyes: blue; hair: black; scar down right cheek & on left shoulder; all-round athlete; expert pistol shot, boxer, knife-thrower; does not use disguises. Languages: French and German. Smokes heavily (NB: special cigarettes with three gold bands); vices: drink, but not to excess, and women.

Every major foreign government organization has a file on British secret agent James Bond. Now, Russia's lethal SMERSH organization has targeted him for elimination. SMERSH has the perfect bait in the irresistible Tatiana Romanova, who lures 007 to Istanbul promising the top-secret Spektor cipher machine. But when Bond walks willingly into the trap, a game of cross and double-cross ensues, with Bond both the stakes and the prize.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:50 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

British secret agent James Bond is lured into a trap using the beautiful Russian spy Tatiana Romanova as bait. She's asked for passage to Paris with Bond as her chaperone in exchange for a top secret decoding machine. To survive the train ride from Istanbul, 007 will need to keep his wits about him and his Beretta close at hand, dealing with SMERSH's deadliest assassin and their operations chief, Rosa Klebb.… (more)

» see all 16 descriptions

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