From Russia With Love, Ian Fleming
A Thriller Without The Thrills…
3 / 5
Bond is once again called into action when M is brought a very peculiar case pertaining to a Russian operative who has apparently fallen in love with James Bond, and also has an important machine in her possession which would unlock the KGB’s secrets for the British. However, unbeknownst to Bond and M, is the fact that this is all a rouse concocted by SMERSH in order to kill Bond in a manner which would destroy the image of MI5 and be a hugely successful mission for them.
From Russia With Love contains the usual sexist, racist, chavaunistic, misogynist and narrow-minded worldviews of that time. But with this being the fifth Bond book I have read, it has become pretty easy to take it in the spirit of the time that it was written. The outdated beliefs and values do not compromises the story, the realities and dangers of spycraft, or the sheer charm factor of murder on the Orient Express.
The first half of the book doesn’t feature Bond once. This is a drastic change from the other installments thus far. Instead, we are given an in-depth tour by Fleming of the SMERSH organisation, from the mentally unstable and ferocious executioner, all the way to the top officials, including a champion chess player. Fleming’s style, though more methodical and using terminology of the time, is reminiscent of Ian McEwan’s, in that he accurately describes everything crucial to the scenario or to set the scene. He has a great way with words especially concerning the inner monologue of Bond and Tatiana, with them both trying to figure each others’ motives out. A feature which is prevalent in each of the Bond novels so far, is Fleming’s descriptions of the aspects which are part and parcel of being an international spy: the weaponry, the planning and the food.
I felt that this book did not set my pulse racing, even the inevitable stand-off with the executioner lacked thrills in comparison to the stand-off in Moonraker. The ‘build-up’ in the first half of the book was interesting and it did create a vivid picture of the enemies of Bond and MI5 in more detail than ever before, but the lack of action was uncharacteristically missing and detracted from could have been a great Bond book. However, I will say this for From Russia With Love, it was a welcome change to not have to deal with a megalomaniac figure hell-bent on world domination, this time it is an organisation which is no longer faceless, but one which bears it’s teeth for the reader to see.
Next in the Bond collection: Dr. No