Well, my Ian Flemming virginity has now been taken as I have now officially read my first James Bond novel and it was everything I hoped it would be. The movie actually follows this plot line pretty well and the areas in which they didn’t I say it’s because they improved upon it and made it relevant for modern viewers.
James Bond is selfish, intelligent, sophisticated, calculating and suave. He is given the task of gambling and winning against an odd Russian operative named Le Chiffre at Casino Royale. The premise being, if Le Chiffre loses all of this money then his Soviet contacts will have no need of him and will kill him. In the book the two of them are playing baccarat, which I don’t think they replicated in the movie. Bond has assessed the situation and is ready for the job, that is until Vesper is sent to work with him. Bond isn’t pleased by this at first. He prefers to work alone and doesn’t want any ‘distractions’. As the two work together, Bond finds her company tolerable. After some intense games of baccarat, Bond succeeds in his mission. Bond thinks that the threat from Le Chiffre is gone, but things go array when Vesper gets kidnapped and in pursuing her Bond is also caught and subjected to nightmare-causing scene of intense torture. This is the book in which you get to see, a bit, and I do mean a bit, of Bond’s more vulnerable side. After everything that Bond goes through the twist at the end of the book is quite sad.
Bond describes Vesper like she is something he can eat and his views on women are misogynist, as he believes that they should not be doing the work of men and that they belong in the kitchen. Literally. He actually said that in the book. Now I was expecting misogyny in this book, I mean it’s Bond and it was written in the 1950s. However, Bond is way more of a dick than I was expecting. I couldn’t believe the names he called Vespa! For example, he calls her a silly bitch more than once and definitely undermines and diminishes her frequently. This is not the sexy James Bond I have pictured in my head or even the ones portrayed on the big screen. The James Bond in this book is cold, only cares about himself, has superficial charm and has NO respect for women. The Bond that I know loves women and may sleep with a lot of them but he doesn’t belittle them. To counter that though, Vespa is really smart and working in man’s world. She assesses Bond perfectly and knows what kind of man he is and knows how to handle herself around him. She is still too submissive and apologetic for my liking, but hey, it is the 1950s.
Even with the misogyny, I did enjoy the book. I was just a little taken back at Bond’s abrupt character. I’m really glad that the James Bond that’s in the movies is a more likable. I would hazard a guess now that the one actor that probably played James Bond the truest to the books is Timothy Dalton, as his movies have not been favourites among the fans due to how harsh, cold and borderline cruel he portrayed Bond.
As for the writing itself, it’s good and quite concise in that nothing is fluffy or needless is said, which is just like Bond, really. The torture scene is so well done, I was cringing while reading it and I’m not even a man! Now that I’ve got the first one down, I hope to work my way, in order through the rest of the novels. I’m curious to know if Bond’s character is dynamic and will grow throughout the next few books. Until then, I think I’ll go and drink a martini.