Casino Royale: A Review

So I love the Bond films. There’s been some great ones in the years I’ve been alive, including the latest, Skyfall, so I jumped at the idea to read the first of the books when it was presented to me in my bookclub. What better way to appreciate Bond than read the books.

It started a little dull, as older books tend to do. While it’s not acceptable to write a book with lots of description and back story up front these days it was just fine back then. People liked to have the scene set for them and didn’t need to be hooked on the first page because their attention spans were longer. I also thought the dossier chapter was interesting if a little dry.

Bond wasn’t entirely what I was expecting. He appeared very sexist, and the author may well have been. As the book was written in the 50’s this could be a sign of the times again but I’m not entirely sure. M was male, something I found interesting given that I always imagine M as Judi Dench and probably always will. Given Bond’s sexist nature this was probably necessary.

I’m still not 100% sure if I liked the book, however. It was shorter than I expected, barely even long enough to call itself a novel, and very few of the side characters were fleshed out. Bond had some backstory and info about him but it was sparse and the rest of the characters had even less, giving the whole thing a rather 2d feel to it. I imagine it would build over several books, but I’d really have liked less description about the setting and more of the characters.

All in all it’s left me very unsure whether to continue. The ebooks aren’t cheap given how short they are (this one was £4) and not as good as a lot of cheaper indie books are these days but I am sort of curious. I suppose I might consider trying a second if I’m feeling flush sometime, but given how many other ebooks I want to buy I don’t expect it will be any time soon.

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2 Responses
  1. Q the Pirate says:

    I always find it interesting when people discover Bond in the books after the films. Bond is supposed to be a horrible, sexist bastard. That’s how he can do the things he does. He’s never supposed to be a ‘nice guy’. The original movies with Sean Connery capture it best, but in his essence he’s mysogynistic and unpleasant. There may be some truth to the suggestion that this is in part down to the period in which the books were written (and yes, M is male because in 1950s England women weren’t running anything except errands), but it’s mostly a necessity for his character. He does exactly what he needs to do to achieve his ends – it’s not pretty (Hollywood has definitely toned him down over the years) but it’s who he has to be. Try looking at him again as a character study (I know you like those!) and see what your analysis tells you. Remember – he’s a spy – we’re not supposed to know him. It’s not an action series. You should try ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ for comparison.

    • Jess says:

      I found I liked him most out of the rest of my bookclub, mostly because I took into account the fact he’d been made nicer by the film writers over time. I just hadn’t expected quite such a dramatic change. In the time since I wrote the review I actually thought about it a bit more and I think you’re right. He was what he needed to be. It didn’t come across too well but he’s of course been a spy for a long time before a 00 agent so there’s a lot of shaping of his character already done off screen before this book. I still think I’d have prefered a bit more character detail though. I imagine it’s something that builds as the series goes on, however. I intend to add the series to my price watch list and see if any of them ever have slightly reduced prices as ebooks. If so I’m sure I’ll grab more of them.

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