Tag Archives: ian fleming

Casino Royale

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Casino Royale by Ian Fleming.

I had decided to read this first of the James Bond novels many years ago, and it took me a good long while to get around to it. In the interim, I ended up reading some other Cold War espionage classics that I consider to be much better books, such as Deighton’s Ipcress File and Greene’s Our Man in Havana. Still, Casino Royale has its charms, tending toward the violence and sex that characterize the enormously popular Bond franchise. It largely lacks the epistemological anxiety that I find to be one of the chief attractions of the spy genre.

The book reads very quickly, but has an unusual pacing, with two major climaxes and plot resolutions accomplished fairly early, and settles into what appears at first to be a long denouement for the final third of the book, focusing on Bond’s physical recovery from his earlier ordeals and the consummation of his love interest. Fleming is supposed to have drafted the novel just prior to his wedding, which seems a bit alarming in light of the grim eventuation of the romantic plot elements. Also, considering his reported ambivalence about the book prior to publication, it seems odd that its finish clearly intends to provide a point of departure for more stories about Bond.

One of my motives for reading the book was to assess the common claim that its villain Le Chiffre was based by Fleming on his acquaintance Aleister Crowley. Crowley may have contributed a few minor details and physical mannerisms, along with an aura of the sinister, but the resemblance is less vivid than those afforded by other Crowley-based characters in fiction, such as the Oscar Clinton and Apuleius Charlton of H.R. Wakefield.

Bond is no superman in this story, but he is harsh, calculating, particular, and not altogether sympathetic. The French agent Mathis with whom he is teamed comes off as both more fallible and more likable. Fleming’s prose throughout is efficient, and shows the fascination with hardware (especially cars and weapons), the predatory attitude regarding sex, and the attention to glamorous settings that would become hallmarks of the Bond works as a whole. [via]

The House of Rumor

The House of Rumour: A Novel by Jake Arnott is an alternate history novel which features characterizations of Ian Fleming, Aleister Crowley, Jack Parsons, and more.

Jake Arnott's The House of Rumor

“Mixing the invented and the real, The House of Rumour explores WWII spy intrigue (featuring Ian Fleming), occultism (Aleister Crowley), the West Coast science-fiction set (Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and Philip K. Dick all appear), and the new wave music scene of the ’80s. The decades-spanning, labyrinthine plot even weaves in The Jonestown Massacre and Rudolf Hess, UFO sightings and B-movies. Told through multiple narrators, what at first appears to be a constellation of random events begins to cohere as the work of a shadow organization—or is it just coincidence?

Tying the strands together is Larry Zagorski, an early pulp fiction writer turned U.S. fighter pilot turned “American gnostic,” who looks back on his long and eventful life, searching for connections between the seemingly disparate parts. The teeming network of interlaced secrets he uncovers has personal relevance—as it mirrors a book of 22 interconnected stories he once wrote, inspired by the major arcana cards in the tarot.” [via]

There’s also a review with spoilers by Charlie Jane Anders over at “In House of Rumour, Ian Fleming and Aleister Crowley win World War II” if you want to check that out.

The Fuller Memorandum

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Fuller Memorandum (A Laundry Files Novel) by Charles Stross, from Ace:

Charles Stross' The Fuller Memorandum from Ace

 

In his third Laundry novel, Charles Stross performs an interesting piece of magic. He provides enough clues to allow the reader to accurately guess coming surprises about five-to-ten pages in advance, repeatedly throughout a 300-page book. When the actual details are revealed, it is done gracefully enough that a lazy reader won’t feel too stupid for not figuring it out. But it’s impressive how well the author caters to an attentive reader’s enjoyment of “figuring it out” before the protagonist did, even if the protagonist is also the narrator with informed hindsight (thus justifying the presence and noticeability of the clues). I’m not a routine reader of mystery novels, but it seems to me that this book should be satisfying for those who are—if they can stomach the elements of other genres, that is.

The other genres are Lovecraftian weird fiction, cyberpunk sf, “rational fantasy,” and espionage thriller. The hero “Bob Howard” (not his real name, of course) is a sort of glamorized “everygeek” working in Her Majesty’s Occult Service. In the course of this book, we get his usual droll assessments of civil service and managerial culture. We also get to seem him buy a new iPhone and tangle with cannibalistic death-cultists.

The two earlier Laundry books were each homages to a luminary of the espionage fiction genre: The Atrocity Archives to Len Deighton, and The Jennifer Morgue to Ian Fleming. They also included essays by Stross in which he discussed some literary underpinnings of “Bob’s” latest adventures. I was a little disappointed that this book has no such essay. It’s also just a single novel, without an additional novella or short story, as was the case for the earlier volumes. (The Wikipedia entry suggests that The Fuller Memorandum is a riff on Anthony Price’s Dr David Audley/Colonel Jack Butler series, while another reviewer indicates Adam Hall’s Quiller books. Having read neither of these, I don’t have an opinion on the matter.)

MINOR BUT IRRESISTABLE PLOT SPOILER: For the well-read Thelemites and historians of twentieth-century occultism out there, the “Fuller” of the title is that Fuller, as revealed in pages 87-90. And since he’s in the title, you know he’s significant to the story. I read this book pretty hot on the heels of Spence’s Secret Agent 666, and Stross’s imaginative fiction meshes just fine with Spence’s speculative fact. [via]

 

 

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