Casino Royale is the first of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. And if you’ve seen the Daniel Craig film, then you’ll be familiar with the story’s premise. Bond must play a high-stakes card game to bankrupt the corrupt Le Chiffre. The novel also sets up the character of Bond for Fleming’s future stories. The fundamentals behind his classic traits and belief systems are grounded in the events that happen in Royale.
But don’t expect it to play quite like a Bond film. There are no extensive action sequences or steamy sex scenes (although Bond’s passionate feelings for Vesper Lynd do come close). Instead, Fleming explores the mind of Bond and his skills as a double-oh agent. It’s fascinating to follow his thought processes as he tries to escape various dangerous scenarios and how he gets to the bottom of certain mysteries. This is the main aspect that really sets the book apart from the films. Going into his personal motives and thinking behind actions makes him a far more fascinating character.
That being said, the film did a fantastic job of adapting it from this classic novel while still staying true to the film franchise. Of course, the novel’s tone more closely resembles the original Bond films—with SMERSH instead of SPECTRE and general anti-communism spread throughout. Yet on its own, Casino Royale is a tightly written spy thriller that literary Bond fans would adore.
It’s inclusion on The List is not surprising giving its influence on pop culture. Although there are many literary spy thrillers on the list, this one definitely has earned its own spot among fellow greats like John le Carre.