Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Casino Royale

Although I will fail mightily at the 1% challenge, I am trying hard to cram in as many books at the end here as possible. Luckily, they tend to double count with other challenges.

Casino Royale Ian Fleming

The very first book to introduce Bond, James Bond, to the world. A communist agent has been doing bad things with Russia's money and needs to get it back. He's going to risk it all on high stakes baccarat. London is sending the coolest agent they have to Royale-les-Eaux to win all of Le Chiffre's money. Broke, Le Chiffre will be no use to the communists, who will send SMERSH, their assassin league, after him.

Eh. It started off exciting enough with a random bomb blast before the big card game, but Fleming loses a lot of plot momentum and tension with long explanations about how high-stakes games work, and how to play baccarat and the strategy involved.

If your big central plot is a card game, you need to be able to maintain tension (Eileen Chang's Lust, Caution is about a double agent waiting for her mark/lover at a coffee shop and is the tensest thing I've ever read) and Fleming just doesn't do it.

Also, the very, very end was sooooooo anti-climactic.

Given the time period, Bond's character, and the Britishness of it, I was expecting the subtle racist stereotyping and was expecting a Mad Men level of sexism (which is pretty high) but Bond makes Don Draper look like Gloria Steinem. Seriously.

I did enjoy reading it, but I was really disappointed by the ending. This is one case where I think the movie will probably be better, because the tension and action will probably be handled better (I haven't seen it yet, but now I want to!)

Book Provided by... my local library

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David said...

When the book was published, baccarat was the game for aristocratic gambling, but not many people may have heard of it at the time, thus the big explanation was probably needed.

I wasn't exactly shocked when they changed the game to poker for the movie- it looks better on film.

Jennie said...

That makes sense, and not being familiar with baccarat, I appreciated it, but I think there's a way it could have been done so it didn't completely disrupt the tension and building of the scene.

Also, ever since I wrote this review, I've been thinking of Jon Hamm has James Bond, which is an image I really like.

Tiny Little Librarian said...

Great review - I'm totally with you on all of it! It's such a product of its time - it just doesn't hold up. But the movie is really good! :)