From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming (Amazon Link)
Notable Characters: James Bond
This wasn't my favorite of the Bond books so far. The primary issue that Bond wasn't actually in the book for at least the first third. Instead it was mostly Russian agents talking about Bond or figuring out a way to get revenge on Bond. I'm not a big fan of the super villain who can do no wrong or the super hero who makes no mistakes and this had a little bit of both at the beginning. Once Bond actually appeared in the book things got a bit better but it still took awhile for it to feel like anything was happening. While I had been impressed with Ian Fleming's female characters in the previous books - they were tough, smart, and frequently saved Bond's life when his plan went off the rails - I was underwhelmed with Tatiana Romanova
. She's not an idiot but she's very much the damsel in distress and is mostly helpless or afraid. Gayla Brandt (from Moonraker) or Tiffany Case (Diamonds are Forever)would have made short work of her. The end felt a bit rushed for all the build up at the beginning. This wasn't awful but it was by far my least favorite Bond book so far. When I was doing a little research I found that Fleming really struggled with this one and ended up doing more reworking than he had done of any novel previously and actually set this one up so that it could be the last Bond novel. I think his struggle really comes through in the book. I did find it interesting that several of the characters were based on real people who Fleming had come in contact with or written about in his newspaper career. Rosa Klebb is based on a Colonel Rybkin who was a member of the Lenin Military-Political Academy and Tatiana Romanova was inspired by Krystyna Skarbek a Polish spy.
Cast: James Bond - Sean Connery
Tatiana Romanova - Daniela Bianchi
Ali Kerim Bey - Pedro Armendariz
Rosa Kleb - Lotte Lenya
So far this movie follows the book the closest. They cut down the large portion of the book that was dedicated to plotting and talking about how great Bond was to about 5 minutes worth of screen time. There was some change up on the villains and the last 20 minutes definitely took a detour but actually made for a more exciting and better flowing end. I like Sean Connery as Bond far more than Roger Moore. I think he captures Bond's silent intensity and coldness far more than Moore's humorous gadget heavy portrayal. We do lose some of the development of Tatiana's motivations and character. She seems kind of like a cut out character and I found it hard to tell exactly what she was thinking or why she was doing what she was doing. This was a fun movie and my favorite so far of the pre-Daniel Craig Bond movies. While Connery is a little more charming than Bond it has much more of a book feel than anything I've seen with Roger Moore. And it's one of the few movies I can say that I liked better than the book. This was also the first film that Q was played by Desmond Llewelyn - a role that would be his for 36 years.
Next up is Doctor No. I'm hoping that Fleming's Bond muse will have returned and that this book will be back to the usual standard.