The Name’s Bond: Casino Royale audio/film review

21st June 2011

Can I gush?

For years now, I have thought about reading Ian Fleming, but all I knew of Bond were the oversexualized, often-ridiculous films of my (or more likely my parents’ and grandparents’) generation. However, after really, absolutely loving the newly-conceptualized, rugged Bond in the film Casino Royale (like, I’ve seen it half a dozen times), I revisited the idea of reading Ian Fleming. After Jennifer at Literate Housewife posted her Shaken Not Stirred challenge last week, I immediately downloaded the audiobook, narrated by Simon Vance. (And, may I say, his narration is seamless).

In this, the first of the James Bond novels, Fleming tells the tale of Le Chiffre, a pawn of SMERSH, a Soviet operation comparable to the KGB. Le Chiffre is bankrupt and arranges a Baccarat game at the Royale Les Eaux casino to win back the money he owes SMERSH. M, head of MI6, sends Bond in to stop Le Chiffre with another agent, Vesper Lynd, assistant to agent S (with Soviet relations). His cover is to be that of a Jamaican millionaire, thus, the beautiful woman on his arm. French agent Mathis orchestrates much of the game play, while Felix Leitner, a CIA agent, watches anxiously. No one is eager for Le Chiffre to win, and when Bond goes bankrupt in the first few hours of play, Leitner ups the ante, passing over his money for Bond to play. When Bond wins, Le Chiffre raises the stakes, and Bond falls victim to a ruse. His subsequent torture is only stopped when a SMERSH agent takes control of the situation.

The genius in the novel is not the plot, though it is tightly woven. Instead, Fleming relies on observation and his relation of that keen observation to satisfy and grip the reader. I listened at work, in a bubble bath, and in the car, and still I couldn’t leave the casinos of the French coast, which Fleming describes as “nauseating at three in the morning.” The game of Baccarat with its rules and odds kept me edgy, and Le Chiffre’s desperate move to recapture his losses was brutal.

What most surprised me was Bond’s humanity. He remarks early on that Lynd is a “silly bitch,” and he is displeased to have to work with a woman. However, by the end of the novel, he has decided to throw in the towel after a particularly horrific torture session and open himself to her. Whether or not he can trust her is another matter entirely.

Keep in mind, because I have seen the film several times, I was curious to see how closely the two would align. Surprisingly, even with the difference in decades (the novel was published in 1953), the film was very true to the book. The conflict is adapted from the KGB to arms dealers and Baccarat is traded in for Texas Hold ‘Em, but much of the story remains the same, including Vesper’s role.

One of my favorite lines, however, is missing. When Bond first meets Vesper Lynd (who provides the bank line for the gambling) on the train, she strides toward him in her masculine attire (which Fleming’s Bond girls were known for) and says:

Vesper Lynd: “I’m the money.”

James Bond (looking her up and down): “Every penny of it.”

Isn’t that an absolutely fantastic line? This is also the book introducing Bond’s famous martini:

James Bond: “Dry martini.”

Bartender: “Oui, monsieur.”

James Bond: “Wait. Three measures of Gordon’s; one of Vodka; half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it over ice; add a thin slice of lemon peel.”

I’ve actually attempted to replicate this martini, and let’s just say, I understand why Bond only had one…

All in all, I was highly impressed with the book and its adaptation and cannot wait for the Twitter viewing party June 30 at 9:30 p.m. EST (using hashtag #shakennotstirred).

Will you be joining us, either by reading the book or attending the viewing? If so, leave a link to your post, and I’ll add it here.

jenn aka the picky girl

  • Eva

    I LOOOOVE this movie (I never saw the old Bond movies, because they seemed icky, and the second Craig one disappointed me), so I guess I’ll have to give the book a try. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • pickygirl

      I was crazy disappointed in Quantum of Solace after such a promising beginning. I’m hoping the next one in November 2012 is back to what the first one was. I’m not sure if you’d like this (definite misogyny), but I really enjoyed it.

      • Eva

        Hmmm…maybe I’ll skip it then. I tend to get cranky easily at certain types of sexism. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Hmm, I did not know about this viewing party. I lurv Casino Royale. I actually like Quantum of Solace, too, but I saw it before I saw Casino Royale, so I didn’t have any expectations.

    I tried to read this book when I was in high school, but I got to part where Bond thinks something like, “Naturally, he wanted to sleep with her,” and then I just had to stop.

    • pickygirl

      Haha! You’re so funny. You definitely have to up your male-masculinity-bs level, but I still really enjoyed it. I think listening to it helped in that regard.

      You should definitely join the viewing party. See, I hated QoS, but I had seen CR as soon as it came out and flipped out over its brilliance. Yes, I think it’s a brilliant film – and not just because of Daniel Craig. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Yeah, QoS is more of your typical pointless Bond film, whereas CR has a love story and character development and great acting. You know, things you don’t normally expect in a Bond movie. ๐Ÿ™‚

        • pickygirl

          Exactly! Which is why I adore it so very much.

  • I love, love, love, love Bond books and miss with a fiery passion the days when I taught a Bond class for credit…read books, watched movies, delved into the action hero…good times! *tear* Fleming’s books are soo much better than the movies although I enjoy their overt campiness and kitschy cheese as well (Daniel Craig not withstanding)…enjoy the audio challenge!

    • pickygirl

      You taught a Bond class? Ok, I totally need to get that approved. How fantastic. I agree about books/movies. But since you love Bond, what did you think of Casino Royale, the film?

  • I thought this movie was pretty good and Craig wonderful as Bond. I still like Brosnan in the role though. But I haven’t read any of the Bond books – I need to look them up!

    • pickygirl

      Craig is my favorite, but it’s also partially because the timbre of the film was so different. I really enjoyed the first one. We’ll see how they progress from here.

  • I loved CASINO ROYAL. LOVED Daniel Craig. Well, the truth is, I’ve loved Daniel Craig since forever. He is such a fearless actor. But when I saw CR, I realized immediately that here was a James Bond that blew all the others out of the water.

    QUANTUM OF SOLACE was a big disappointment. It was – dare I say it? – boring.

    As to the books, I’ve never read or listened to them Jenn. But you’ve made me think that maybe I ought to. I like Simon Vance’s voice. That doesn’t hurt. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • pickygirl

      Oooh you should. I’m so glad to find another fan of Daniel Craig – I’m even considering watching Cowboys & Aliens, though I hate alien movies. I do love a good western, and DC is in it….

      And yes, as you say – he blew them out of the water, but I also have to give credit to the screenwriter and director, as they allowed him to be the kind of Bond Ian Fleming wrote in Casino Royale. Read it. I think you’ll be impressed at what a great job of adapting the film they did.

      HATED QoS, especially because I was expecting such good things. Hope the next film is better.

  • I am so glad that you decided to participate in Shaken, Not Stirred! Your enthusiasm is infectious. I was already excited about it and you have me even more excited. I’m looking forward to the viewing party because it will be my very first Bond movie as well.

    • pickygirl

      You are going to LOVE it. Seriously. In fact, Eva and I were talking about it on Twitter last night, and I almost watched it. Had Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones not stolen my attention, I would have. And we’re watching it in 9 days. Craziness. Have you read the audio yet?

  • Ooh, this sounds like a great audiobook! I’ve recently fallen in love with them and would love to revisit the days of Bond by sampling this story! Good choice! ๐Ÿ™‚ And I love the 1st picture at the top – that vintage flair will hook me every single time!

    • pickygirl

      I’m the same way about vintage covers, and the whole line-up has them. It’s a great listen. Hope you enjoy it if you pick it up.

  • I would like to point out the reason why your favorite quotation from the movie was nowhere to be found in the book. That is because Casino Royale is a reboot of the Bond franchise, meaning that it completely erases all of the previous Bond history and begins anew. As such, certain characters, like Q and Moneypenny, have been left out of the new films (most likely because the newer films aim to be dramatic, and a lot less hokey and silly than the previous Bond movies).

    The line from the movie, as you probably noticed, is a bit of a tip-of-the-hat to the beloved character of Miss Moneypenny, M’s secretary and occasional love interest for James.

    Also, thanks for bringing this book up, because I’d meant to look into the 007 novels a long time ago, and it had completely slipped my mind until now! Good luck on all your literary adventures!

    • pickygirl

      That’s part of why I love that line so much, that it pays homage to Moneypenny without, as you say, being hokey. It’s a great line. A really great line.

      Also, if you want to join in, there’s a Bond audiobook challenge. The link is in the post, and if you’re a Bond fan, I think you’d enjoy it. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  • When I read this, I was expecting very low-level pulp fiction (something like James Hadkey Chase) but I was very pleasantly surprised. I loved the movie too and I think Daniel Craig rocks as Bond.

    My mom swears by Sean Connery, but I really didn’t enjoy those movies. Maybe, it’s a generational thing ๐Ÿ™‚

    • pickygirl

      I think you’re right that it’s partially generational. Connery was definitely my favorite until Craig. But honestly, I feel like you can’t compare Casino Royale to the others. The book was really fantastic, and I can’t wait to read on.

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  • Dan Blackaby

    Just now reading this…

    And I’m wondering about what you said was missing. Are you saying they’re missing from the book or the movie? Because the “I’m the money” line is definitely in the movie.

    • Dan – yes, the “I’m the money line” is missing from the book. It’s one of my favorite parts of the film.

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  • jackobs brandon

    daniel craig jacket

    Daniel Craig has played a really great role as james bond in casino royal