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Ian Fleming's from Russia, With Love [Mass Market Paperback]

Ian Fleming

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Berkley Pub Group (Mm); Reissue edition (December 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425086208
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425086209
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 10.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 113 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,532,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  164 reviews
63 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the 50s with Love June 23 2002
By John B. Maggiore - Published on Amazon.com
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is generally considered to be the very best James Bond book. In this case, conventional wisdom is right. I recently re-read the book, originally published in 1957, and it was even better than I remember it being.
First, the flaws: Like most Flemming novels, much of the plot is implausible. The story revolves around a scheme by the Soviets to embarrass the British Secret Service by killing James Bond in a compromising position. Perhaps it is because we live in a post-Monica Lewinski world, but this doesn't seem to be that much of a big deal. The movie version of FRWL seems to acknowledge the weakness of the reasoning behind the sequence of events that make up the story. The movie makes Bond's planned embarrassing death a secondary consequence of the villains' (this time SPECTER, not the Soviets) plot to steal the Russian decoder, which in the book is merely used as bait.
Another common problem with Flemming's Bond, which is again on display, is that he is rather gullible and pretty much goes along for the ride without using his wits to solve mysteries or get out of jams. In FRWL he misses obvious clues, believes a thinly disguised enemy agent enough to hand over his gun without much of a thought, and fails to ever put "two and two together."

Despite all the flaws, FRWL is a great book. If the plot has holes, the collection of words are beautiful in themselves, from Flemming's detailed description of food and drink, to the combat scenes that really come to life in this book. The character of Bond is more interesting here than in previous books - he demonstrates a sense of humor and playfulness, shows emotion and even has moments of reflection.
The series of villains, while cartoonish, are fun. The lurking presence of Red Grant is menacing. Bond's interactions with the villains forms the basis for the series of events that make the story flow. Once the silly premise is accepted, the rest of the sequence of events makes a certain amount of sense. This internal coherence (which was missing to some degree in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER) added with a fast pace makes the book hold together and never seem slow or dull.
What separates FRWL from the other books, however, is that it contains some genuine surprises, including its truly unexpected ending. The ending is even more unexpected because it is explained away in DR. NO. But the ending should be read for what it is in the context of the book itself, not in the larger context of the series.
Finally, one of the things I enjoy about Flemming's Bond books is that because they were written in the 1950's, they have a feel for a different world, with different values, assumptions, and cultural icons. This differentness is on full display in FRWL. While I have no illusions of the world depicted in Bond books having any resemblance to actual history, the transportation into another world is achieved more purely than could be by a contemporary author writing a period piece. I love it!
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Probably the Best Bond Book April 29 2004
By A. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
The fifth Bond book is far and away the best I've read of the series. Much of its strength comes from an excellent beginningóalmost a quarter of the book passes before Bond appears. The story starts in Moscow, where the Soviet intelligence community has decided it needs to pull off a major coup in order to maintain its prestige. The SMERSH division (for those who are new to the series, or for whom it's motto of "Death To Spies" isn't clear enough, SMERSH is in charge of eliminating internal and external spies) is tasked with killing that perpetual thorn in the side of international communism, James Bond. All the major villains are introduced in this early section, from the psychotic ace hit man (alas, his full-moon madness is an unnecessary and silly element), to the deviant older woman who runs the operation, to the chess mastermind who plans it, and finally, the beautiful and more or less innocent honey pot who will be set in front of Bond as bait. Two of these scenes are mini-masterpieces, the very first, where the naked hit man lies by his pool and gets his massage, and then later, when the planner is met in the middle of the Moscow city championship match.
Only after all the pieces are in place, does Fleming finally pull away the curtain to reveal the object of all this attention, 007. This is a brilliant technique for heightening interest in a character and building suspense (Hitchcock was the master of it), and it sets the stage beautifully. We find Bond more or less indolent, having recently broken up with Tiffany Case (his girl from Diamonds Are Forever), and growing surly with inaction. The Soviet plot lures him to Istanbul, where he is met by another vivid character, Darko Karim, who is head of British intelligence in Turkey. After minor adventures thereónotable is a lurid gypsy catfightóthey make contact with the female lure, and the trio steal away on the Orient Express. The rest of the story takes place on the train, as it makes the four day trip through Europe, across Greece, and through places like Llubljana, Belgrade, Trieste, Venice, and on to Paris. It's an extended cat and mouse game, as the reader waits for the Russians to spring their trap.
The one complaint I would have with this otherwise gripping book is that, as in many of the Bond series, the super spy is a bumbling idiot who manages to escape death only through the most unlikely actions of his foes. As in earlier and later books, he manages to miss rather obvious clues and lets others do the heavy lifting for him, only to walk into a rather simple trap. In this instance, Fleming makes an attempt to account for this by continually noting that Bond's senses are dulled from inactivity and that he's not sharp, and so forth. This grumble aside, its a very entertaining work,and definitely the best Bond I've read. Oh yes, Fleming does commit one gaffe with Bond's history that seems a little strange. At one point, it is mentioned that Bond has never killed in cold blood; which makes no sense, because it is explicitly stated in the very first book (Casino Royale) that he did! His shooting of a Japanese spy in New York, and knifing of a Dutch double-agent are what earned him his 00 ("Licensed to Kill") designation, so it's strange that here Fleming would suggest otherwise. In any event, if you only read one Bond book, make it this one.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic 007. July 6 2006
By Robert S. Clay Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
The Russian counter-espionage organization known as SMERSH concocts an elaborate plot to discredit the British Secret Service. Their immediate target for blackmail and murder: James Bond.

This is a classic spy novel by Ian Fleming. It is not a half-baked if well intentioned imitation. It presents Bond in his pristine form before filmmakers evolved him into a cartoon character. Ian Fleming blends the sophistication of the best English mystery writers such as Dorothy Sayers with the hard-boiled edginess of the best American detective fiction. The prose is clean, lean, and literate. Bond is an iron fist in a velvet glove. His taste in food and wine is flawless. He kills with grim determination, as needed. Snobbery is evident in his character. Bond does not tolerate fools gladly. He is fiercely loyal to his friends, of which he has very few. Darko Kerim is a brilliant exception to Bond's rule of keeping people at a distance. Darko lives a life of furious indulgence, even dissipation. Darko dreads only the Iron Crab, Ian Fleming's personal vision of the Grim Reaper. On a lighter note, delectable women are also admitted into Bond's affections. Tatiana Romanova joins the ranks of Bond "girls," although her loyalties are questionable. Rosa Klebb is a change from Fleming's megalomaniac super-villains. She ruthlessly works behind the scenes, and does not aspire to hold the world for ransom. Klebb is also one of Fleming's most repulsive characters. She is of indeterminate sexual inclinations and disgusting personal habits. Grant, a true madman, is as cold-blooded a killer as ever presented in mystery-adventure fiction. The novel ends ambiguously. Much as Conan Doyle, Fleming considered the idea of killing his main character.

Ian Fleming's James Bond novels are a mesmerizing read filled with action and suspense. I have read these books multiple times since the 1960s, and still thrill to the experience. The locales are exotic, and the major characters are more finely developed than in most mystery-adventure fiction. The Penguin editions also feature great cover art. Recommended for serious genre fans. ;-)
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bond Ruins a Good Thing Feb. 11 2009
By R. H. Rich - Published on Amazon.com
I'm surprised that so many people mark this novel down for how long it takes for Bond to appear (90 pages or so). I actually thought it went downhill fast the moment Bond showed up. Until then, it was an interesting reversal, reading like a typical Bond novel, but focused on his foes including mission briefings and so forth.

Once introduced to the plot, Bond basically blunders through, oblivious to anything resembling tradecraft or even common sense, and comes across as an arrogant amateur. And his admiration of Darko Kerim seems ill-placed given that the man laughingly admits to kidnapping and rape in his misspent youth. Haha, what a rake...

The writing is generally lazy. Every character who encounters Tatiana has to compare her to a young Greta Garbo (including herself admiring her reflection in a mirror!). Nash constantly calls Bond "old man" until it's as tiresome to the reader as it is for 007 himself.

All said, don't get me wrong. It's not a bad book, not even a bad Bond novel, but it's hardly the best in the series. The Orient Express and Turkey sequences are suitably exotic and the ending is not to be missed, so it's worth a look at least.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love "From Russia With Love"! Sept. 11 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
The best Fleming ever. 007 is assigned to retrieve a decoding machine, the Spektor, from a girl who will defect only if 007 fetches her. It is actually all a SMERSH plot. Kronstein, General G, Rosa Klebb, and Red Grant are all the best Bond villains ever, in the films or the novels. Darko Kerim is a fantastic character as Head of Station T(for Turkey). The locales, from Istanbul to the Orient Express, are all vividly described. Tatiana Romanova is convincing as the naive MGB clerk. The climax is chilling and worthy of Hitchcock's fine treatment. This novel is excellent.

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