I had fallen off pace for my goal this year (I’m still 2 books behind, better than the 8 I was a month ago), and an Audible coupon delivered a few, short, James Bond books to my queue. Surely I could knock out an under 7-hour book in under a week of commuting? Well, that plan only works if the book is enjoyable and you can make yourself listen to it.
A quick note: my problems with this book were not the narration stylings of Rory Kinnear. That has been a problem with other audios I’ve listened to this year, but it was not the trouble with this book. The series I’m listening to is recorded by actors (Dan Stevens read Casino Royale), and Kinnear’s experience with the Bond movie franchise seems to have influenced his delivery. It was occasionally paced a bit slowly, but I think that had more to do with the text itself than his interpretation of it.
My biggest issue with reading this book, and what placed it all the way down at two stars, is the pacing. Casino Royale had a nice three act structure that kept it moving right along, and kept the experience easy. These are spy novels with derring-do, but they aren’t behemoth texts. As I settled in initially with Live and Let Die, I was anticipating the same basic structure, which honestly befits its 1954 publication date. Initially, things were on track. What I would coin Act 1, the info dump, opened with us picking up with Bond several months after the events of Casino Royale, and learning along with him the intricacies of the Harlem underworld, Haiti, and voodoo.
But then Acts 2 & 3 never properly materialized. Based on my expectations of the previous book, and the movies which were then based on them, there should have been a meet cute, spy shenanigans, and then escalation and romance. These things happened, but in an extremely disjointed and overly languorous manner.
There were other things which troubled as well, one being the racial language used (which I know full well is of a time and place but I can’t make my brain not be 62 years later) and the other being the instalove between Bond and Solitaire. I just… I think I’m still loyal to Vesper and annoyed that Fleming used “love” for both these. Vesper and Bond felt earned, Solitaire feels like arm candy. There, I said it.
Also, I missed some of the stuff from the movie which was invented just for it. Basically anything with Sheriff Pepper. He might be a problematic character, but he brings some sorely needed levity.
The bayou around New Orleans in the movie stepped in for Florida in the book. Oh! Which reminds me of my favorite “pull you out of the narrative” moment… Rory Kinnear totally mispronouncing Ocala, where I used to live. OH-cala, guys. Or Slow-cala from those of us who resided there.
We’ll see if things pick up with Moonraker read by Bill Nighy later this autumn.