Tuesday, September 28, 2021

[Review] - From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming

What is your favorite James Bond novel? Hand down my favorite 007 tale is From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming. Publisher Jonathan Cape published the book in 1957 and received high praise from critics. The late crime author Julian Symons said in The Times Literary Supplement that Fleming "brings the thriller in line with modern emotional needs."

In the novel, the Soviet counterintelligence agency SMERSH has issued a death warrant for James Bond. They want revenge because Bond defeated Le Chiffre, Mr. Big, and Hugo Drax - a.k.a. the villains from the previous books. Bond has an eye for beautiful women. SMERSH sends Corporal Tatiana Romanova to seduce him and instructs her to give MI6 a Russian decoding device called Spektor. (Sounds a bit too much like Spector.) They also hire Donovan "Red" Grant, a psychopath and British Army deserter, to kill 007.

James Bond is the hero, and there are more 007 novels, so we can all guess that he makes it out alive. Right? Well, not exactly. The ending leaves an emotional cliffhanger, and readers in 1957 had to wait nearly a year for Dr. No to learn if their favorite secret service agent lived or died.

Final Thoughts

A good portion of From Russia With Love is on the oriental express, and I cannot put my finger on it exactly, but the setting works wonders in these scenes. The plot is more grounded this time around and focuses on expanding James Bond from a two-dimensional to a three-dimensional character. Up to this point, Bond has been a by-the-book character with an all work and no play attitude, except for when he's bedding women. He feels more human in this story, something that continues in the next few novels.

Overall, From Russia With Love is the granddaddy of 007 novels. It's not quite as outdated as the previous entries, the characters are well-written, and the ending WTF moment is pure genius.

1 comment:

  1. This is one of my favorite Bond films. I love the train scenes and sounds like they're outstanding in the book.

    That is so weird that Dr No came out AFTER this one! I'm so used to the movie order... :):)


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