This is the first book I've managed to tick off the list of twelve I picked for my TBR Challenge this year - so I'm already one up on my disastrous 'participation' in 2012, yay! I've read maybe three of the James Bond novels before - Thunderball, Moonraker and I THINK Live and Let Die - and sadly with this fourth added to the list, there's still only one or two I've really liked so far. That said, these original covers are BEAUTIFUL, so I probably would have picked some of them up eventually anyway...
So, Casino Royale. Most people, like me, will have seen the more modern movie version with Daniel Craig (CALM DOWN CHARLOTTE), and so know the rough plot and who's who already. The bad guy in this particular outing is Le Chiffre, a Soviet dude (?) who's being hunted down by even scarier Soviet dudes (??) and is apparently quite good at gambling. But not as good as James Bond, obviously. The Bond Girl is Vesper Lynd, James's 'little helper' in Royale-les-Eaux, who is, naturally, stunningly beautiful, slightly imperious and looks fantastic in a LBD. The plot involves all the escapades you'd associate with 007 - a bomb going off, perilous near-misses, some tux-wearing and martini-drinking, a bit of sex - plus that famous gambling scene (fortunately rendered mostly comprehensible to a non-cards-playing girl like me by a pre-game explanation of the rules) and the even-more-famous torture scene (which is just as eye-watering in the book as it was in the movie).
When you talk about all this shizzle going on, it sounds like the book should be fantastic... and admittedly, it did keep me reading... but there's just something so shallow about these novels. There's always some incomprehensible espionage-jargon thrown in there that's easy to skip over in the movies but less so on the page, there's a sprinkling of unexplained French that I'm hoping wasn't too important, and there's something off about the characters. They're not quite flat, exactly, but their moods seem to jump around, their motives are erratic and anything but clear... One minute James hates Vesper, then he's in love with her, then he hates her again... I mean, good grief, give us chance to catch up here! It makes every emotional response seem fake, because it can apparently change so quickly and completely at a moment's notice.
I also really noticed the chauvinist tirades this time. I know it's all part of the macho thing, and a product of its time, and all that, but Bond called Vesper a 'bitch' (not to her face, admittedly) AT LEAST twice, possibly three times, and it jarred so horribly in the flow of the prose that I sort of wanted to throw it across the room. Hard. Possibly at Bond's crotch, just for good measure. Great paragraphs about how women can't do things because of EMOTIONAL WEAKNESS, and how he wished Vesper had just stayed at home to gossip and play with dresses and rearrange her crockery LIKE A PROPER WOMAN. There is also a rather disturbing moment where he theorises that sleeping with such an enigmatic and private person would 'each time have the sweet tang of rape'. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK? It's not at all subtle, basically implying that violating women is AWESOME, and it did make me kind of wish I could borrow Le Chiffre's carpet beater for five minutes and have at that seatless chair, if you get my drift. WHAT a dick.
Sooooo, yeah. I'm sure I'll carry on reading some of these - I have a few more on my shelves, and sooner or later I'm bound to hit a good 'un again (hopefully) - but in Casino Royale's case, I'll definitely be sticking with the movie from now on. And not just because I have the biggest crush on Eva Green... :)
- "This was just what he had been afraid of. These blithering women who thought they could do a man's work. Why the hell couldn't they just stay at home and mind their pots and pans and stick to their frocks and gossip and leave men's work to the men. For Vesper to fall for an old trick like that [so did he, by the way!] and get herself snatched and probably held to ransom like some bloody heroine in a strip cartoon. The silly bitch." - Says the arrogant asshole.
- "Bond closed his eyes and waited for the pain. He knew that the beginning of torture is the worst. There is a parabola of agony. A crescendo leading up to a peak and then the nerves are blunted and react progressively less until unconsciousness and death... towards the end there came a wonderful period of warmth and languor leading into a sort of sexual twilight where pain turned to pleasure."
- "You are about to awake when you dream that you are dreaming."
- "Englishmen are so odd. They are like a nest of Chinese boxes. It takes a very long time to get to the centre of them. When one gets there the result is unrewarding, but the process is instructive and entertaining."
- "Surround yourself with human beings, my dear James. They are easier to fight for than principles."
- "People are islands... They don't really touch. However close they are, they're really quite separate. Even if they've been married for fifty years."
Source: I think I got this book from our bookshop. I loved the cover and it's the first in the series!