Ian Fleming – Live And Let Die

In my review of Casino Royale I mentioned that the novel only felt like half a story. Now with its sequel (it can be seen as such), Live And Let Die (1954), Ian Fleming provides us with a full length novel, although 200 pages may seem short, but things were different in those days, especially where it concerned the more entertaining than literary novels.

The beginning of the novel is the only part which resembles the plot of the movie adaptation. Some names and plot elements are similar, but after that beginning the story diverges, resembling plot elements of other movies (I won’t spoil which or what), which makes me wonder what will be in those adapted books. Either way this was certainly not a problem as it at least provided me with new story to discover.

What struck me immediately, compared with the movie, is that the namesake characters in the book are depicted much stronger. The villain and the bond girl are weaker and less impressive. Events are also nastier en bloodier. I know the Bond movies are made to be somewhat family friendly but it is still a contrast that sticks when reading the books.

While the characterization is stronger, including Bond himself, the plot itself varies in strength. The beginning and ending are a bit slowish while the middle part of the novel is very much engaging and action-packed. Fleming also wastes a bit too many words on what seems as info-dumping, even providing more information that necessary for the story.

It seemed to me Fleming was still busy trying to figure out to find the right balance for a full novel-length story. In some parts he got it right, in others he didn’t. Still it showed a lot of dynamic and promise.

In the other review I wrote about Fleming’s distinctive style. In this novel I felt it had smoothed somewhat or maybe I have gotten used to it, but I don’t think so. It is not unusual for a beginning author to change his writing style. The same counts for the plots. Live And Let Die certainly seems to me to be an early Ian Fleming who is shaping James Bond into the famous character he has become. Next up Moonraker.

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