From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming
Published by: Penguin
Published on: December 2002 (reprint)
Page Count: 272
My Reading Format: Audiobook purchased with a credit from Audible.com.
Audiobook Published by: Blackstone Audio
Narrator: Simon Vance
Audiobook Length: 7 hours 52 minutes
Available Formats: Paperback, eBook and audiobook
James Bond, who first encountered SMERSH in Casino Royale, is back on the Russian radar when members within the organization look for a way to discredit the British government. Killing Bond and ruining his reputation in the process was found to be the best way to do so. They plan on entrapping Bond outside of England using the beautiful Tatiana Romanova as bait. When she arrived in Istanbul, she contacted Darko Kerim, the head of the British Service Station in Turkey. Claiming to be in love with Bond from what she gathered in his files in Russia, she promised to hand over the Spektor, a Russian decoding device that would be a great coup for the British. When Kerim contacted M, Bond was sent to Istanbul with the assignment of wooing Tatiana in order to bring her and the Spektor back to England.
From Russia With Love got off to a slow start for me. The novel opens with members of SMERSH planning and plotting against England and against each other. While necessary to build up what was to come, I became bored with their bureaucratic procedures and non-stop politics. What took place during several chapters could have easily been boiled down to one or two without losing anything.
From the slow start, we are introduced to Darko Kerim, a man who quickly becomes Bond’s friend. Kerim is an interesting character given his childhood within a near harem. His attitude toward women brought back some of the less pleasant moments of Casino Royale. While his tale of keeping a woman chained up in his house naked may have been a cock and bull story meant to impress Bond, it left a sour taste in my mouth. Following that up with a trip to a gypsy camp in the midst of two half and then totally naked gypsy women fighting each other to the death over a man and I had had enough for the day. Luckily, the conclusion of that cat fight brought an end to the over-the-top sexism though I had a hard time stomaching the fact that Bond thought so highly of Kerim.
This novel had two interesting villains, Red Grant and Rosa Krebs. Red Grant is an asexual powerhouse of a man. Although he could feel pain, I was reminded a great deal of Niedermann from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series during his scenes and I wondered how much if at all Red Grant figured into that character when Larsson created him. Rosa Krebs is an equally terrifying figure. The stories of her torture sessions send shivers down the spine of almost everyone at SMERSH. Her scenes in this book are among my favorite.
Once Bond and Tatiana meet up in Istanbul and begin their journey to England, From Russia With Love picks up full speed ahead and doesn’t let up. Had I been reading this series at the time it was published, I would have been desperate to find out when the next book would be published. Thankfully, I only have to wait another month to read Dr. No along with the ever reliable Simon Vance as narrator. Listening to this series in audio makes the less pleasant aspects of Fleming’s writing much more palatable.
Shaken, Not Stirred: If you haven’t given Bond a chance, I’d highly recommend it. I’d love to have you participate in Shaken, Not Stirred. It’s never too late to get started. We’ll be discussing From Russia With Love on Twitter as well as watching the film on Saturday, October 22nd beginning at 9:30pm EST. Just use the hashtag #shakennotstirred to join the conversation.
I’m posting this review today to participate in Jen at Devourer of Books‘ weekly Sound Bytes meme. If you have an audiobook review to post, why not participate with us?