[Reading] ➳ From Russia, with Love ➻ Ian Fleming – Blockdiagramwiring.co
From the Telegraph s Andrew Martin 06 Aug 2014Scientists at the University of London have concluded that the key to happiness is having low expectations They mined this conclusion from an experiment in which people gambled with small sums of money The subjects were happiest when they won, not having expected to win This quote pretty much captures my feelings about Ian Fleming Now five books deep into James Bond, I ve just figured out how to enjoy these books Yes, you guessed it Low expectations I can t pretend I m going to be reading Graham Greene or Joseph Conrad I m not going to explore the soul of man or the heart of darkness I m also not going to be reading John le Carr There isn t going to be any self reflection of post modern hand wringing This is James Bond dammit You are going to get James Bond He is a known quantity If you come to this expecting to be seduced by literature, oh boy, you are on the wrong damn train If, however, you are looking for 00 so tarnished with years of treachery and ruthlessness and fear, sent off to pimp for England Well, babe, this is THAT novel and James is your man.It all reminds me of a quote from Christopher Hitchens I recently readFleming once confessed that he hoped to take the story along so fast that nobody would notice the idiosyncrasies Fat chance His idiosyncrasies jut out like Tatiana Romanova s ass What he ought to have said was that he hoped to pile on the pace and thereby hustle the reader past the point where belief has to be suspended The smaller details, of products and appurtenances and accessories, fulfill the function of the conjuror s other hand They distract attention from the glaring lacunae in the plots, the amazing stupidity of the supposedly mastermind villains, and the reckless disregard for his own safety that this supposedly ice cold agent displays by falling for every lure Oh, James This is hands down the best James Bond book and it was turned into the best James Bond movie I have yet to read all the books, but I have read a fair amount so I think it is okay for me to have the opinion that this is the best I read this twice and loved it both times The second time I read it was on a train in Switzerland between Bern and Brig This just so happens to be part of the route of the train included in the climactic scene in the book This was not an intentional coincidence, but very cool If you have wanted to try James Bond, this is a good place to start You might say but Matthew, it says right here this is book 5 in the series I will say for the person who wants to do the hardcore Bond route, start at the beginning with Casino Royale But, if you are just feeling casual and not sure you want to commit to the whole series, you can start here I personally don t feel like there is enough carry over from book to book for you to miss out by starting in the middle. Name Bond, James Height Cm, Weight Kg Slim Build Eyes Blue Hair Black Scar Down Right Cheek On Left Shoulder All Round Athlete Expert Pistol Shot, Boxer, Knife Thrower Does Not Use Disguises Languages French And German Smokes Heavily NB Special Cigarettes With Three Gold Bands Vices Drink, But Not To Excess, And WomenEvery Major Foreign Government Organization Has A File On British Secret Agent James Bond Now, Russia S Lethal SMERSH Organization Has Targeted Him For Elimination SMERSH Has The Perfect Bait In The Irresistible Tatiana Romanova, Who Lures To Istanbul Promising The Top Secret Spektor Cipher Machine But When Bond Walks Willingly Into The Trap, A Game Of Cross And Double Cross Ensues, With Bond Both The Stakes And The Prize What I learned from this book in no particular order 1 The ideal Soviet master assassin is a man who is a the offspring of a German wrestler and a Southern Irish hooker b extremely muscular and hairy c possessed of a high threshold for pain d manic during the full moon ande asexual Sexual neutrality was the essence of coldness in an individual but love to parade around naked.2 Ugly women are mannish and have breasts that looked like badly packed sandbags, and when they pull back their hair into a bun, it would be obscene.3 Colonel Klebb of SMERSH was wearing a semi transparent nightgown in orange crepe de chine She looked like the oldest and ugliest whore in the world Ugly, dumpy, middle aged, Soviet lesbians are SCARY.4 A purist would have been disapproved of her behind Its muscles were so hardened with exercise that it had lost the smooth downward feminine sweep, and now, round at the back and flat and hard at the sides, it jutted like a man s Too much exercise could turn a perfect 10 of a woman into a muscular, ugly bitch Fortunately, the face and breasts would still be pretty, as it is impossible to exercise them too much She would still be good enough for the hero.5 To impersonate an English secret agent, you must learn to be a gentleman It is advisable to add a touch of eccentricity, for the English pride themselves on their eccentricity, and treat the eccentric proposition as a challenge 6 Just as, at least in one religion, accidie is the first of the cardinal sins, so boredom, and particularly the incredible circumstance of waking up bored, was the only vice Bond utterly condemned Bond is a man of many vices, but sloth is the only vice that could actually destroy him.7 Having crushes on men who they know only from photographs is a grisly female habit.8 If you are staying at a dingy hotel and are suddenly upgraded to a luxury honeymoon suite with ceiling mirrors ahead of a romantic assignation with a pretty woman, beware.9 If you are manly Turkish man, you have to tame your girlfriend by chaining her naked to your dining table, and then father a dozen children with various members of your harem When they are grown up, you could have them help out in your spice espionage business.10 If you are a virile Gypsy man, you could have girls fight to the death naked for you, and then get to keep the winner until her breasts fall off.11 If you are a comparatively enlightened Western man, all you could do is spank your girl when she gets too fat for making love.The book is sexist and probably racist imperialist , but it is also a damn good spy thriller The action and espionage set pieces a nighttime jaunt through a rodent infested tunnel under the ancient Hall of the Pillars in Istanbul, a sniper fight in the dark alleys by the Bosphorus, a mano a mano on the Orient Express are expertly staged and spine tinglingly exciting The writing is vivid and crisp, peppered with piquant observations Bond recognized them as the eyes of furious dissipation and insights Only Track No 3, and its platform, throbbed with the tragic poetry of departure The exotic locales are atmospherically evocative, with just enough authentic details to lend an illusion of plausibility to the fantastic plot Bond is a master spy, but also a man who gets scared during a turbulent flight, has doubts about the moral fallout of his mission What would he think of the dazzling secret agent who was off across the world in a new and most romantic role to pimp for England , and has genuine tendre for the woman whom he is supposed to seduce If this is pulp fiction, it is pulp fiction of the highest order I m not too bothered with the un PC ness Fleming was a product of his age, and he was writing about hard men who lie and kill for their country who are surely no boy scouts The misogyny and brutality that he assigned to them ring true for these characters Bond himself is not above enjoying the spectacle of a naked Gypsy catfight and has a rather patronizing attitude towards women, but despite all his talk about spanking, never laid a hand on any woman The rest are so over the top that they re actually funny.Other Random Observations Number of extremely ugly villains 1 Number of henchmen with congenital analgesia 1 Number of scenes involving naked people, gratuitous or otherwise 4 Number of Martini units consumed by the protagonist 2 Number of times the word violet is used as an adjective in the last 8 chapters 12 what s up with that Number of product placement at least 19 Sea Island cotton shirt, Dunhill lighter, Girrard Perregaux watch, Beretta gun, De Bry coffee, Chemex coffee brewer, Tiptree Little Scarlet Strawberry Jam, Cooper s Vintage Oxford Marmalade, Fortnum s Norwegian Heather Honey, Minton china, Bentley, Rolls Royce, B.E.A., Swaine and Adeney attach case, Wilkinsons throwing knife, Palmolive shaving cream, Lambretta scooter, Diplomates cigarettes, Ritz Hotel Google translate tells me this is That s a great book in Russian If I m getting catfished by Google, somebody please let me know.Anyway, this is a great book First of all, oddly, we don t even see Bond until about 60 pages in Fleming slowly, but entertainingly, builds the Soviet era backstory with a focus on some senior Soviets cooking up a trap for our hero They ll use a pretty young operative to lure Bond into a killing bottle for their hired assassin.Bond is described as 6 foot tall and 160 pounds, straight and tall as a butcher knife and Fleming s prose is equally angular and lean Writers today, who don t feel like they ve started until they reach 400 pages, would do well to emulate this minimalist style This is a fun page turner.Of course even though this is a review of Ian Fleming s 1957 novel, I would be remiss if I did not also mention Terence Young s ultra cool 1963 Bond film starring Sean Connery and Robert Shaw Shaw is one of my favorite character actors and while he was fun to watch here, I cannot think of him without recalling his 1975 portrayal of Quint in Steven Spielberg s film Jaws Also noteworthy was the delightful Daniela Bianchi who played Tatiana Romanova Connery has said that this was his favoriet Bond film Side note Who was the coolest Sean Connery, Steve McQueen or Paul Newman My vote is for McQueen, but they are all stratospheric cool in their own way.I m going to read all of these. If this is love then I d hate to see the Russian idea of hate.The Soviets have suffered several espionage losses so they decide to run an elaborate operation in which they ll kill British agent James Bond in such a way that will embarrass all of English intelligence The two big pieces of cheese in this mousetrap are a code machine used by the Russians and a beautiful code clerk named Tatiana Romanova who doesn t realize what kind of pawn she actually is Will Bond take the bait Well, he is James Bond, and did I mention that that Tatiana is a beautiful woman Yeah, take a guess how this goes.I m a big fan of Bond on film and generally like those a lot than the Fleming novels I ve tried With this one being the basis for one of the best Bond movies I didn t find anything to change my mind about that Bond is usually a bastard in both forms, but there s something even worse and apt to make me roll my eyes in the way that he s even of a privileged sexist bigot on the page then any time on screen.Plus, the structure of this novel is just weird It s only 191 pages, but Bond doesn t show up until halfway through it Instead we spend a lot of time getting all the details about how the Soviets came up with this plan Even when Bond finally appears we get a long segment about how he s been bored at the office and what his domestic life is like when he s not killing people or having sex Another problem is that since we ve been told in detail exactly what trap awaits Bond there s not a lot of mystery for the reader even when 007 is trying to figure it out Although to be fair, the movie also lays out the plan, but there it s done much quickly so that Bond gets involved much sooner In fact, the basic plot beats from the book are used in the film, but the film did a better job of pacing and adding action to the mix Since I do like the movie a lot I guess that means the basic plot works as long as it moves briskly.Still, it is one of the classic Bond stories, and there is some charm to this including some spy vs spy games in Turkey It also has a top notch thug in the form of Red Grant, a psychopath from the United Kingdom who defected to Russia and became their chief executioner If there was of him in here I think I would have liked it. NO SPOILERS SMERSH wants to damage England What better way than to destroy their secret agent hero, James Bond SMERSH hatches a plan They pick out their prettiest worker and send her to Bond To sweeten the already honeyed deal, she s carrying a Russian encryption machine Bond is initially suspicious of this beautiful Russian spy who s defecting to England, but his suspicions are gone once he beds her moron But SMERSH has big plans for Bond, and surprisingly they are not plans to give him endless orgasmsMy stomach clenched painfully at the thought of reading this book again I couldn t remember exactly why, but I knew it was going to be bad In fact, I put off reading this for a day or two, trying to mentally prepare myself for what was coming It didn t work.Fleming starts off strong, with what is perhaps the best opening chapter I have ever read He paints a very ideal, normal scene but laces it with dark and sinister undertones, and he does so beautifully There s no doubt that Fleming is a great writer.Bond doesn t even appear in this book until the halfway point Instead, Fleming uses his first 10 chapters to introduce us to the inner workings of SMERSH Death to Spies the Russian counter espionage organization.We meet Donovan Grant, a psychopath who was born in Ireland A serial killer, young Grant starts by killing animals but quickly finds that s not enough for him After he starts killing humans always on the night of the full moon he runs into a bit of trouble He becomes very interested in working for the Russians, which I guess he sees as an all you can eat buffet of killing and torturing I thought Fleming did a good job showing how someone like Grant, a killer who enjoys killing and has absolutely no morals works hard to please his Russian masters and actually has to undergo things he doesn t like school and learning in order to get where he wants to be SMERSH s 1 killer.We meet Rosa Klebb, evil lady torturer Described as disgusting and sexually neutral, Klebb is a short, toady, ugly woman who is always described in the most disgusting terms possible so that the reader develops revulsion for her not only based on her actions, but her physical self Fleming also uses bisexuality to induce fear and disgust in the reader, showing that Klebb is a pervert who will satisfy her sexual urges with either men or women.Lastly, we have Tatiana Romanov, 24, brown hair, blue eyes, Bond will be her 4th lover a stunningly beautiful and innocent and goodhearted member of SMERSH WTF She is just so innocent and fresh and sweet Even though she works for one of the most evil organizations ever, she s just a good girl who could never hurt anyone.Tatiana is called up by Klebb and given the good news she will sleep with James Bond No matter that she has no idea who Bond is, or the small issue of deciding for herself when and with whom to have sex she is toldYou will seduce him In this matter you will have no silly compunctions Your body belongs to the State Since your birth, the State has nourished it Now your body must work for the State Is that understood Well, Tatiana who I feel is not very bright can t argue with that logic Now comes a very hard part for me to read Tatiana being examined naked Tatiana being forced to give SMERSH her lovers names so that they can be interviewed about her sexual talents or lack thereof and her subsequent training on how to please a man in bed I m shuddering in revulsion even writing this down It s sick I hate it It s degrading and humiliating and disgusting Especially since Fleming keeps stressing Tatiana s innocent and sweet nature and how she is now looked on as a whore and men just leer at her and joke about her all the time Vomit inducing Okay Now Bond La, la la, Bond s going soft Where s the war Where s the mission He hasn t been on assignment in a year He s so bored Tiffany Case left him and moved back to America extra points to Fleming for mentioning a past Bond girl and not just disappearing her Then Bond gets a call from Mthe bell of the red telephone had been the signal that fired him, like a loaded projectile, across the world towards some distant target of M s choosing M gestured to the chair opposite him across the red leather desk Bond sat down and looked across into the tranquil, lined sailor s face that he loved, honored and obeyed Bond is told that a young, beautiful spy from Russia who works in the filing office has developed a huge crush on him From reading his file The British Secret Service actually buys this load of hogwash, because they can t pass up the opportunity to get their hands on the encryption machine Bond is told on no uncertain terms that he is to seduce Tatiana Please her in bed Make her fall in love with him Do whatever he has to do to get that encryption machine Now, let s examine this a bit ANALYSIS It s very interesting what Fleming has done here Both Bond and Tatiana are told to whore themselves for the governments benefit.But Fleming shows the differences in the organizations approaches SMERSH doesn t give Tatiana a choice She s told your body belongs to us She s cruelly interrogated about her sex life in detail Her lovers are hunted down and also forced to go into excruciating details about her skills in bed Then she is physically assessed and given hands on training in how to give men pleasure.Bond, on the other hand, is first asked by M if he s still with Tiffany M doesn t want to involve Bond in this if he s involved with a woman Once it s established that Bond is single, he s given a choice Would he like this mission Bond agrees, after having a discussion in depth with M about the dangers, what the mission will involve, etc etc Contrasting with Tatiana who is completely in the dark and also being lied to While James Bond is told verbally to make Tatiana happy, seduce her, and make her fall in love with him, he is certainly not stripped naked and forced to have sex with multiple women in order to assess his orgasm giving skills None of his ex lovers are questioned.In this way, while Bond and Tatiana are kind of in the same situation, Fleming is showing us that England good and Russia evil And women should be treated like objects, and men have agency and can be trusted to make their own choices.VOMIT INDUCING 2 When Bond first meets Tatiana, he s buck naked and she s in bed wearing only a ribbon around her neck and some stockings They have some cute banter and then have sex.My problem Two male SMERSH operatives are taping the whole thing through the huge mirror wall It s also implied that they are really aroused and possibly masturbating while doing this.James Bond makes a good friend in Turkey A friend named Kerim This charming individual is a rapist and a racist I despise him.Here are some exceptsBy good luck, I had taken a few minutes off to relax on the couch over there with a young Rumanian girl who still believes that a man will tell secrets in exchange for love The bomb went off at a vital moment I refused to be disturbed, but I fear the experience was too much for the girl When I released her, she had hysterics Here s a dose of his views on TurksThat is the only way to treat these damned people They love to be cursed and kicked It is all they understand It is in the blood All this pretence of democracy is killing them They want some sultans and wars and rape and fun Poor brutes Wow Are you ready for this oneAll women want to be swept off their feet In their dreams they long to be slung over a man s shoulder and taken into a cave and raped Or the time he kidnaps that woman, strips her naked, chains her to his table, feeding her scraps and making sure that she knows who is master When released Kerim is slightly embarrassed his mother finds out he s got a naked slave woman chained in his kitchen she won t leave him and has fallen in love with him I m not joking, this whole scenario really happens in the book.He also has the wonderful idea of taking Bond to visit his Gypsy friends There, two women are fighting each other to the death over the chief s son.Of course, there s lots of rending of clothes and bared breasts and biting and stuff All the men look on hungrily Unfortunately, this delightful spectacle is cut short by an attack After it s all over and the smoke is cleared, the Gypsy chief is like, Bond You could be useful to us Why don t you come live here to kill for me and tame my women Bond graciously declines and makes a request that both women who fought be allowed to live He d hate to see one die The gypsy king is like, That s an annoying request, but okay He also makes it clear that the women belong to Bond and that if he ever gets the urge to just pop on by, they will be always sexually available to him for as long as they live Actually, the exact terms were until their breasts sag Charming.The women aren t consulted at all on their thoughts on this matter Actually, I don t think they even speak in this bookYou won t let me get too fat, James You won t let me get so fat that I am no use for making love You will have to be careful, or I shall eat all day long and sleep You will beat me if I eat too much Certainly I will beat youCharming Last point This is the 4th FOURTH time in the series that a Bond girl tells Bond, This man situation is dangerous You should be careful suspicious And this is the 4th FOURTH time that Bond just pats the girl on the head and says, Oh you silly woman Don t think so much Ha, ha, ha So cute And then promptly gets attacked You d think, being a spy and all, he d FINALLY learn after the 4th FOURTH time this has happened that maybe just maybe it s worth at least CONSIDERING a woman s opinion when she says, You gonna die Grow a brain, Bond Tl dr An EXTREMELY TO THE MAX chauvinistic piece of trash with tons of rape, sexual humiliation, women as animals, women as sexual objects, racism, and women as stupid.UPDATE THE 1963 FILM WITH SEAN CONNERY.Wow, this is actually a good movie When did these James Bond films stop being good spy movies and start becoming campy jokes like Moonraker and Live and Let Die Some notes 1 What was with Connery smacking Tania around Unnecessary, unattractive, and not in the book.2 In the movies, Bond always has sex with three or four different women In the books, it s one book one woman He s much promiscuous in the films In this film he has sex with Sylvia at the beginning, BOTH the gypsy women in the book he turned them down when their chief offered them to Bond , and Tania.3 I think the movie was pretty faithful to the plot and spirit of the book, minus the whole SPECTRE Blofeld thing What the heck was all that about This really needs to be remade To help move things along, I ve mocked up a poster and a few seconds of dialogue for the teaser trailer I am glad to be a man in 2011, because it sounds so exhausting to hear about what life was like in the 1950s I mean, imagine you are Ian Fleming s James Bond, sexy 1950s super spy Every time a woman mouthed off to you, you had to take her over your knee and spank her That sounds awkward My lap isn t that big And if you were in a relationship and she started to get fat, you d have to beat her until she lost weight I don t want to get home from a long day of international espionage only to go to work again, physically abusing my significant other I need some rest too I ve seen all of the Bond films, but this is the first of the books I ve read I picked From Russia with Love because it forms the basis for my favorite of the films it was also famously one of JFK s favorite books, if you take famously to mean constantly touted in documentaries about the Bond series and mentioned about six times on Wikipedia Reading it both increases my appreciation for the early cinematic adaptations the first four or five films , which were fairly low key in terms of Bond s methods and abilities and very much in keeping with, at least, this book s tone, and makes me roll my eyes even at the gadget porn and lame quip farce the series became once Roger Moore took over On film and in print, however, just about every iteration of the character already seems about as sociologically and politically outdated as a minstrel show Certainly the books are just as casually misogynist as the movies both on the page and on the screen, Bond is constantly falling into bed with pliant, idiotic women, at least when he s not patting their bottoms and telling them to run along and let the men talk FRWL has one of the dumber Bond girls Tatiana Romanova, a Soviet spy who sounds like little than an office drone, easily manipulated by her superiors into participating in a mission that will require her to literally whore herself out for her country in an attempt to seduce 007 It s part of a larger plot to discredit Her Majesty s Secret Service, but Tatiana is daft enough to assume Bond will come to no harm, even though she is manipulated into participating by Rosa Klebb, the KGB s own sadistic SM bisexual sex torturing grandma for a classic example of deviant sexuality as an indication of evil, look no further than the ugly old lady who puts on a sexy negligee and tries to fondle an unsuspecting and helpless young girl.So yeah, you pretty much have to take this entire book, and the mythos of the Bond character, with a whole shaker of salt I like to pretend I m watching Mad Men, and this is all sly commentary on gender roles in an unenlightened era, even though I know that s not the case then and, probably, now, James Bond represented a paragon of masculinity to a lot of men and maybe some women The notion that the KGB is able to trick HMSS into getting involved in the plot sounds asinine Tatiana is supposed to have fallen in love with Bond from reading his file and looking at a picture no one from M on down questions this story because women are just that brainless Bond gets lots of advice on how to complete the seduction don t be too nice, women want to be put in their place And of course, despite knowing she s just on the job, Tatiana instantly falls for James, practically bursting into genuine tears when he starts questioning the motives of her defection and within a few days is, yes, asking him to beat her if she gets too fat because she is happy in their relationship BondCertainly, I will beat youWriting women not Ian Fleming s strong suit.All the series tropes are on display, including the villain who prefers to monologue about his evil plan before pulling the trigger though at least there s a somewhat plausible reason for it Tense action, including a brutal fight to the death in the close confines of a train berth Mild gadgetry a nifty trick suitcase and gratuitous sex Gypsy catfight Clothes ripped off Bosoms bared If you can laugh at the sexism instead of fuming about it, this is still a fun little potboiler with an interesting structure the first third is entirely from the Russian point of view, setting up the motivations for the villainous plot and developing interesting antagonists like Red Grant, a sociopathic brute who for some reason only kills during a full moon hey, at least he doesn t, say, only shoot people with gold bullets or bite them to death with his metal teeth Bond doesn t even appear until nearly 100 pages in, sulking in a hotel, depressed and bored after the fallout from his prior Case oh, hidden series pun Interestingly, Bond is allowed to be much human in the books even in the Connery films, he s a bit of a cartoon, and only the new ones with Daniel Craig have given him an interior life beyond what is happening in his pants which, of course, prompted a bunch of criticism that the character was being feminized, which means maybe that the sexism isn t as outdated as I d like to pretend. From Russia With Love is the fifth book in Ian Fleming s James Bond series Written in the height of the Cold War, it pits Russia versus the west in a race to achieve the best in stealth technology When the novel first came out, President Kennedy dubbed it his favorite book, increasing it in popularity and spurring Fleming to write James Bond cases Yet, this tale of espionage is often dubbed the best in the series SMERSH, the Russian intelligence agency, would like to make a big splash to show the west who the leader in the world is Their head, the evil Rosa Klebb, decides on murdering a secret agent from Britain or America and lands on none other than James Bond With the help of British ex patriot Red Granitsky and young, naive Tatiana Romanova, Klebb sets the stage to bring Bond to justice Rather than the non stop action Bond fans are used to on screen, Fleming uses the entire first half of the book detailing the Russian plot and creating a psychological buildup for the ensuing action Thus I read through quickly even though I am familiar with the movie version because the plot easily held my attention We meet Bond a third through the book The Russians have arrived at the scene of the crime and relayed their message to the west Bond is to go to Istanbul to meet Romanova and bring her and a decoding machine back to Britain With the help of local agent Darko Kerim, Bond successfully gets Romanova out of SMERSH hands and onto the famed Orient Express, but not before falling for her first What ensues is a plot of high jinx mixed with romance as Bond journeys toward London in an attempt to foil whatever plot the Russians have in store for him Once the action moves from Istanbul to the Orient Express, the plot is non stop action Fleming creates premise after premise with a large cast of characters so there never is a loss for plot development or new adventures for Bond to get embroiled in Gleaning from his own experience as a spy during World War II, Fleming s stories are accurate and detailed, not just a plot of action upon action Of course there is the action and the scrapes that James Bond walks away unscathed from, but there are also scenes in which Fleming pays close attention to detail, making the buildup all the thrilling As in all James Bond cases, he comes out on top Because this case was against the Russians during the Cold War period, at the time of release it was probably all the thrilling to read and view on screen Being the world s top spy, James Bond always gets his man and woman in the end, and it is fun reading about his adventures A page turner for an otherwise lazy afternoon, From Russia With Love is a solid 4 stars.