Tuesday, February 19, 2013

“From Russia with Love” by Ian Fleming – Bond’s Take on the Cold War

From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming - book cover
If there is one James Bond novel that I would have to qualify as being the most well-known, at least based on the title, I would say that it’s From Russia with Love. Not only does the title sound very catchy and refers to what was at the time a superpower in the world, but the book itself is actually one of Ian Fleming’s best works, and even JFK himself said it to be one of his favorite books. For most people, me included, the subject of the cold war is a very fascinating one, and in this book, that’s what it’s all about.

James Bond becomes the target of SMERSH, the Soviet counterintelligence agency, who seeks to disgrace and/or kill Bond. The operation is commandeered by a small, post-menopausal lady by the name of Rosa Klebb, and her trump card is SMERSH’s deadliest assassin, Red Grant. In order to lure Bond into their web of deceit, they use a ravishing Russian spy by the name of Tatiana Romanova, whose mission is to seduce Bond.

This novel has pretty much everything you would expect from a cold war novel, especially one involving James Bond. There is the traditionally beautiful femme fatale, two very distinct and eye-cathing villains for Bond to pit his brains and brawn against, and a politically-charged plot with plenty of twists, turns, and of course, betrayal.

As you can guess, this is one of my favorite, if not my favorite James Bond book, and that is in big part because of James Bond’s propensity to make mistakes. Even though it may appear as a surprise to some, James Bond misses numerous vital clues in this book and is pretty much taken for a ride by the SMERSH. Despite that, he still manages to emerge victorious and foils everyone’s plans. For once, this shows how Bond would handle another spy agency launching a full-scale operation against him, and the result is what you would expect: a very hard-fought victory coming from some big sacrifices.

Also, I feel like I should add that contrary to the previous novels, this one moves at a much faster pace and has fewer moments that people would consider dull. In addition, all of that action leads up to an ending which even by today’s standards should be considered original and full of impact.

All in all, if you are a fan of Bond or want to get into his stories, I definitely recommend that you have a look at From Russia with Love. I suggest you read this book on its own, without comparing it to the other works in the series or looking for some kind of continuity… 007’s stories are best enjoyed this way.

Ian Fleming (May 28, 1908 – August 12, 1964)

Ian Fleming (May 28, 1908 – August 12, 1964)

Personal site

Ian Fleming is best known for gifting the world with the great agent 007, known as James Bond. His more popular novels include Casino Royale and From Russia with Love, and what’s more, the inspiration from the character came from none other than the author himself who has had a life just as, if not more exciting, than his most revered creation.

More of Ian Fleming's book reviews:
On her Majesty’s Secret Service
Casino Royale

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