Thursday, October 8, 2009

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (audio)

Book Description:
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 in 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.

Yes, this is Bond... James Bond.

That infamous womanizer secret agent with the sexy British accent that is convinced every woman who plays coy at first, secretly loves the thrill of giving in, head pulled back, lips ravished - a quasi rape that titillates the senses. Not one for any long term relationships, he's in it for the release, the rest and relaxation, the sex, a few pleasant weeks of having fun, bed, fine dining, bed and then time to get out before the clinging gets oppressive, the tears, and eventual good-bye at the door in the rain. He appreciates a beautiful woman, yet, James Bond does not fall in love, he does not get hung up, he does not let his emotions get in the way. Constant smoker, ruthless killer, drink inventor (yes, the famous martini), he handles himself and his job as any expert in their field would.

At one point in the book, Fleming lets Bond get a big philosophical about his line of work. He finds it a big unsettling at times knowing that he's been rewarded with a double 0 designation by killing two men. What does that mean? Good and bad start to become a bit murky for him and he vents a bit to his good friend, a French agent, Mathis. He tells Mathis of his intention of retiring. Mathis pooh poohs the idea, his friend Bond is a prodigy, he'll never retire.

Until... until... until he meets Vesper Lynd. A tall, cool, elegant brunette sent to Royale in the South of France, to be his partner and help him in the capture of Le Chiffre, a SMERSH spy who must win a ton of money at the casino in Royale or else he will be obliterated by his comrades from the Soviet Union. Bond's mission: beat Le Chiffre at baccarat, win all his money, leaving him ruined and then let the Russians do the rest.

Now, this book was almost nothing like the recent movie of Casino Royale, but there are similarities. The names are the same, and the plot is a bit similar. Bond eventually fancies himself in love with Vesper after she is kidnapped and he tries to rescue her and gets himself tortured in the process. But, his mission is accomplished regarding Le Chiffre, and during Bond's recovery after the torture, Vesper stays by his side, and his feelings deepen for her. They spend some time at a seaside resort near Royale. Here Bond gets his much deserved r&r, dining well, drinking champagne, lying nude on the beach (in the book he is nude, in the movie, he's not.)

And... he finally gets Vesper. They begin an affair, but things... change. What happened to cool, calm and collected Vesper? Was she really that overcome from the kidnapping, in which she was unmolested (amazingly enough) and unharmed? Over the course of a week, Vesper becomes more and more distraught and sad between frantic bouts of lovemaking that end with her in tears and Bond going back to his own room for the rest of the night. Puzzled, he's sure she's not telling him something, he is at a loss, but it's not upsetting enough to keep him up at night. He falls asleep, women don't worry him overmuch, despite the fact he considered asking her to marry him and retire from this line of work.

But as we know with the numerous books and movies in the Bond franchise, it seems as if his French friend Mathis is right - he doesn't retire. Though, Bond does not seem to have much luck with love, he's better off with quickie relationships with women, and best to leave the real nuts and bolts aka sex until after the job is finished.

My overall impression of Bond is he is ruthless when it comes to women and has a cold exterior and an even colder impression of how to treat women. To him, women are bitches. Granted, this book was written in 1953 and has a great deal of outdated impressions of women as sex objects, but I was still curious to read the first book that started the whole Bond thing. Nothing very graphic in the way of romance, a little, but tame compared to nowadays. As far as any lovemaking, completely glossed over to the morning after at breakfast! The movies are much more explicit! It wasn't bad, it wasn't great, but it did introduce me to James Bond and how his mind works. If anything, I think it's a good example of what the male psyche was like back in the day, makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Btw, this was narrated on audio by Simon Vance - I highly recommend him - great voice - perfect Bond.


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