Thursday, September 20, 2012

James Bond - From Russia with Love

The fifth Bond novel was published in 1957 and this is much more like it.

The first interesting thing is that Bond doesn't turn up in this book until nearly half-way through. Almost  80 pages deal with the construction of the SMERSH plot to lure Britain's most effective intelligence agent to Turkey and then kill him in a manner designed to cause maximum embarrassment to her majesty's secret service. All the stuff about the recruitment and training of the assassin Red Grant is neatly summed up in the first two scenes of the movie but here goes on for quite a bit longer.

007 is summoned to M's office and then sent to Turkey to meet the mystery girl who is promising them a Spektor decoding machine that will allow them to crack all the Russian codes. From there on things move very quickly and it isn't long before Bond and the lovely Tatiana Romanova are trying to escape on board the Orient Express.

This is probably the novel which had the most faithful adaptation for the big screen. Just about everything happens exactly the same apart from the final encounter with Red Grant and the subsequent escape and boat chase that was added in to the film.

From Russia with Love is a much more satisfying read than the last book. Bond and M clearly know that the whole thing is a trap but are curious as to what the trap is and why. Bond is much more active here and there is plenty of violence, although he is rather inconsistent in his views about killing in cold blood. It upsets him when Darko Kerim uses his shoulder as a rifle rest to assassinate the Russian agent who tried to kill him, Bond seems to have forgotten that he earned his 00 status by carrying out similar acts.

It is a gripping read and the idea of the Spektor machine is fascinating. In 1957 not many of the public would have heard about the German Enigma, Bletchley park and project Ultra, yet Fleming's work during the war in naval intelligence brought him directly into contact with them and the attempts to seize one of the vital machines. The Bond girl is more memorable as is the sex scene. Red Grant makes a memorable villain and all in all this is a much more satisfying Bond book..

One villain with a sort of medical condition, one Bond girl who juts in front and behind, no sporting encounter, no torture and several bizarre deaths.

James Bond will return in ... Dr No.

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