I’m not a very big Bond movies fan. The action scenes are always very, very long, and start getting bored. The next thing I know, the movie’s over and I’ve spaced out for the better part of 30 minutes.
That said, I actually quite enjoyed this! I didn’t know what to make of it as I started, it was a bit hard getting into it (it was also the first day of school so I was very, very sleepy), but once I got sucked in, it was nearly impossible to put down.
In this quite slim volume, we are introduced to James Bond, spy extraordinaire. This is Fleming’s first book about Bond, and it’s interesting how he introduces the man to us. Everything just falls from the sky, mid-action. Bond’s background isn’t explained, we don’t know how he became an agent, nothing. All that matters is his mission: to win a game of baccarat against Le Chiffre, a Soviet-backed union trader who needs the profit from the game to recover union money he lost on a failed chain of brothels. By defeating him, it is hoped that a Soviet espionage agency called SMERSH will kill him for it.
The descriptions are very straightforward and everything from scenery to characters is described minutely. It has to be, since Bond is an agent who needs to have a keen eye for this sort of thing, and it would be lacking if things were vague. But Fleming’s phrasing is really good, and he managed to explain and narrate a card game of which I had never heard of with much skill. I was actually turning pages to read about a card game! A card game!
However, we have Vesper Lynd, an agent assigned to help Bond in his task. She is useless. Bond says it himself, she is a hazard and annoyance. Also, this book is very sexist. Several times Bond mentions how damn womanly she is, always thinking she can play with the men instead of minding her pots and pans. Riiiight. But, still, she is useless. She has no depth, there is nothing particularly striking about her, she is simply a prop and made to be there looking pretty. She is present during most of the novel, but only gets herself into trouble. She has no intelligent input to offer at any time whatsoever. I believe this is how Fleming (or Bond, can’t be too sure) views all women: go to the kitchen dammit!
Blatant sexism aside, it’s really quite interesting getting into Bond’s mind in a way the books don’t allow us to. Most of the movies are all smoke and mirrors, and in here we see Bond doesn’t have any skills that vaguely resemble superpowers, just a keen eye, a few well-placed friends and a knack for gambling.
All-in-all, an interesting book, very detailed (and gory in parts too) and thought out. A fun, quick read, which left me with a yearning to learn more about the elusive Mr. Bond.