From Russia with Love

From Russia with Love
© 1957 Ian Fleming
253 pages

I’ve tried three times to read any of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels, because he was an actual intelligence officer writing spy novels. Bond in the abstract is an interesting character, a posh international superspy with cool tech and a drinking habit. However, in practice I’ve fallen asleep during the one Bond movie I’ve watched (Skyfall, apologies) and don’t fare much better with the novels. This particular novel opens in Russia, however, with no Bond in sight, and the plot is introduced quickly. The Russians believe that killing Bond will gravely weaken British intelligence, and recruit a femme fatale to lure him into position so that 007 can be deep-sixed in a scandalous way. Said fatale’s cover story is that she’s a Russian intelligence officer who fell in love with Bond by looking at his photograph, and now she wants to defect so she can be with him in person.

I really should have stopped reading there, but I persisted. (Seriously, who disguises an intel officer by pretending she’s AN INTEL OFFICER?) I should note that I have an active dislike for novels with sex scenes in them — I’ll read science books about sexuality, no problems, but inflict fictional bedroom scenes on me and I’m sloooowly putting the book down — and so I probably shouldn’t have even TRIED a novel with this premise. There’s just endless description of people’s buttocks and breasts and yadayadayada. When Bond meets the fatale she’s literally naked in his bed, and it’s just….preposterous. I’d say “silly”, a la Monty Python, but silly can be charming, whereas this is more like the 2016 US election. This is a rare DNF for me, as I stopped 75% through. There is a train at the end, though, and it’s even the Orient Express

Anyway, I don’t think Fleming is for me. Fortunately there’s plenty of spy novels with more explosives and less anatomical exposition.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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9 Responses to From Russia with Love

  1. R. T. Davis says:

    I’m in agreement about Bond and yadayadayada….. enough already! As a former cryptographic technology guy in the Navy, where I never encountered any yadayadayada, I prefer true spy stories.

  2. CyberKitten says:

    I read all of the original Bond books in my 20's and, apart from the disconnect between the books and the movies, generally enjoyed them. They are of a particular age though and so far more about the culture they arose in than anything actually spy related. I much prefer the contemporary spy novels. All intrigue & occasional violence. Not much sex though – thankfully. It's something I skim or skip over in novels. Normally its either boring or pointless.

  3. Stephen says:

    Are there any authors whose true spy stories you especially recommend? I seem to only find stuff like Brad Thor and Scott Harvath. They're fun, but that's action-movie stuff, not serious at all.

  4. Mudpuddle says:

    ditto on the Bond experience, with the exception that i've found modern spy novels also breaking the uninteresting barrier… i guess too much burned me out on them…

  5. Stephen says:

    Maybe because sexual mores were more constrained in the fifties, having lots of eroticism in fiction helped sell? Whereas these days anything goes, it seems.

  6. I agree on the yadayadayada stuff. I don't read much fiction (as I hardly need to state, you know this already) and when I do come across it in books, I skim/skip altogether. So often it is gratuitous and does nothing to further the plot.

  7. Stephen says:

    Thank you! I will look in to those.

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