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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

Notes on From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming

From Russia with Love (James Bond) - Ian Fleming

* The fifth Bond book.

* Second appearance of Mathis (briefly).

* Though he doesn't realize it until very late in the book, Bond finally gets to go after SMERSH directly. I'm not giving anything away. The wonderful first third of the book takes us behind the scenes of SMERSH and lays out the plan to take care of Bond and deal a crippling blow to the British Secret Service.

* The remaining two-thirds doesn't quite live up to the opening. The middle portion takes place in Turkey, where Bond hooks up with the head of Station T, an ebullient, colorful man named Darko Kerim. Kerim and his gypsy friends are difficult to take at times, especially in their unconcealed pleasure at being at the top in their patriarchal society, which comes off these days as something out of the fifteenth century. (Bond's own views hark even farther back, to the days of knights in shining armor and beautiful damsels in distress. The culture clash leaves even Bond uncomfortable at times.)

* The second section also has little to do with the main story, and it slows down the whole show.

* Red Grant, SMERSH's chief executioner, is a sadistic werewolf of a man, but he's ill-used in the climax, during which he's indistinguishable from any other professional assassin.

* The second Bond movie (Sean Connery).

* Alters the plot to accommodate SPECTRE, which didn't exist in Fleming's literary world until Thunderball. This necessitates a scene in which Bond must steal the Russian coding machine that is the prize of the plot (both for the English and, now, SPECTRE, as well). In the novel, Tania needed assistance only to escape after stealing the machine herself. And that would not have worked here.

* This, in turn, cascades into other alterations, but by and large the plot survives.

* What is happening, though, is that the character of Bond himself is changing. We see it in his flippant remarks after scenes of mortal danger and, more importantly, in his attitude toward women. In the novels, Bond tends to fall in love with his damsels in distress; in the movies, they are merely objects of his desire. Also, in the novels, Bond is never happy to kill in cold blood, while in just the first two films, he's shown on at least two occasions that he has no problem with it at all. What is really happening, of course, is that Bond, as a character, is being stripped down to a generic action figure. This explains the most significant deviation from the book, the second (and third) climaxes, which are only necessary because we don't care enough about Bond himself to find hand-to-hand combat sufficiently exciting.