James Bond is an icon. Like many icons, they originally stem from literature of some sort. However, Bond is arguably most known for his film adaptations starring Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, George Lazenby, or, more recently, Daniel Craig. Fleming’s first of the Bond novels, Casino Royale, first hit the streets in 1953 and the first real Bond movie (I’m not counting the Casino Royale spoof, my apologies) arrived in 1962. In the nine years in between, Bond became enormous. There is a reason for that. Gilt-Edged Bonds contains three of Fleming’s novels; Casino Royale, From Russia with Love, and finally, Dr. No. It was new and exciting, a mixture of fast-paced writing, romance, danger, and adrenaline-filled thrills written with biting detail and intelligence. Even decades later, they still hold up pretty well.
All three of the novels are amazingly solid and it was a very smart move to put them in one convenient package. While they’d each definitely work as a standalone adventure, they’re best read in succession since there are references to previous entries. The first, Casino Royale, is among one of my personal favorites of the film adaptations and the book ranks no differently. Le Chiffre is quite different from his movie counterpart, and Bond’s character is clarified to an extent where the thoughts behind those steel blue eyes are revealed. Bond is a much colder character than what I expected which both fascinates and intrigues. From Russia with Love wasn’t as compelling an installment as others in the series. I attributed it to the fact that Bond isn’t focused on as much, rather, the antagonist and the love interest are expanded upon more so. This creates more of a variety, but when I’m most interested in James, and all I’m getting is back story about others (albeit, it was quite well-written), I can’t help but sigh and try to get through those parts as quickly as possible so I can find out what my favorite secret agent is up to. The last, Dr. No is my top pick of the three. It was absolutely diabolical! I loved every moment and I became hopelessly addicted, and so, unfortunately, it ended much too soon. I must admit that I didn’t expect much because of my previous viewings of the movie. The movie was “good”, but there was better. There was so much that couldn’t be put in the movie due to either budget constraints, the need for a shorter runtime, or simply technological limitations at the time. I look forward to reading this one again sometime in the near future.
A word of warning, there are some outdated ideals present in the novel—mostly a more paternalistic view of women. It didn’t bother me much since times were different back then, although it was mostly in Dr. No I noticed it. Casino Royale differed with a more intelligent and interesting love interest. Another thought I’d mention, Bond gets abused…a lot. I mean, really, poisoned, shot at, tortured, and run through a gauntlet of traps each more deadly than the last. It only increases my respect for 007 and gives the chance to show off some qualities in a long-standing character, his endurance, resourcefulness, and insurmountable tolerance for pain. Strangely enough, I could only imagine Daniel Craig in the place of Bond while reading through these. After finishing them, it seemed to me that Craig is one of the more accurate depictions of Fleming’s Bond. Of course, that doesn’t discredit any of the actors. Connery still has the womanizing, suave Bond that I’ve come to know and love, Brosnan’s the badass (pardon my French), and Moore is…err *cough*…something else. For myself, Craig is the cold, calculating, and gritty version that fits best with the novels. Anyway, movies aside, the essential character of Bond is versatile enough to have the potential to appeal to a variety of readers and movie-goers for generations (which it has, by the way). It's one of the finer points of the character, versatility. Overall, Casino Royale receives 4 ½ stars, From Russia with Love 4 stars, and Dr. No 5 stars.
Review by Alisa Heskin