Skip to content

What was the deal with…? From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming

March 22, 2022

The novel From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming caught me by surprise with its cliffhanger ending.


Bond pivoted slowly on his heel and crashed headlong to the wine-red floor.


That was it! That was the final sentence of the book.

Yeah, I’m sorry I spoiled the ending. The novel came out in 1957, and I haven’t had any coffee yet, so my empathy hasn’t kicked in. I might apologize for the spoiler later.

Anyway, I was kind of pissed off when I read that final sentence. I checked to see if my copy had missing pages. But the back of the final page had an advertisement, so I knew that was it. Either James Bond had died, or From Russia With Love had a cliffhanger.

I didn’t know that James Bond books had cliffhanger endings. The book ending is similar to the movie ending in that this old lady SMERSH director Rosa Klebb is kicking James Bond with her poison-laced steel-spiked boot. The scene in the movie version looks ridiculous, but she actually gets him in the book, and the last sentence shows James Bond collapsing.

I’ve always hated cliffhangers in books and movies. The worst was the cliffhanger in the Star Wars movie The Empire Strikes Back because I was in middle school when it was released and knew I had to wait three years for the next movie. Three years seemed like an eternity when I was in middle school. Now three years seems like tomorrow.

I don’t mind a cliffhanger in an old James Bond book because From Russia With Love came out in 1957 and I can easily get the next book if I want it. I might read another James Bond book if I see it, but only if it’s a copy that came out before the movies.

I bought this copy of From Russia With Love for $3.00 at a used book store because it doesn’t have Sean Connery on the cover. Even though Connery is considered to be THE James Bond, I like to visualize my own characters, and Sean Connery isn’t what my brain came up with while reading this book. I like too many low-brow books to be a book snob, but I still want to have copies of books that came out before the movie adaptations, even if the movies are good.

This cover (pictured above) is kind of nondescript, with a bland white cover and a tiny illustration with the female barely visible. The 007 on the top left corner is cool. I’m surprised the publishing company didn’t try to have a book cover that stood out more. Maybe James Bond books back then didn’t have to have appealing covers; maybe being a James Bond book was enough to guarantee sales.

The structure of the novel is backwards in some ways. James Bond doesn’t even make an appearance until after page 70. The beginning focuses on SMERSH’s plan to kill James Bond. It introduces the SMERSH agents involved and a also a bunch of minor characters that the reader never sees again in this book. The reader knows the SMERSH plans before James Bond does.

The SMERSH plot to kill James Bond is kind of ridiculous. The SMERSH organizers admit that the plan seems ridiculous. James Bond and his boss M don’t know what the plan is, but they think the situation that the Soviets have presented them with is ridiculous. They’re sure it’s a trap, but it’s so ridiculous that they can’t pass it up.

I’m not complaining that the plot of From Russia with Love is ridiculous. I’ve seen almost every James Bond movie, and the plots are always ridiculous. This book is just more low-key ridiculous than any of the movies (except for maybe the movie version of From Russia With Love).

Ian Fleming, the author of the original James Bond books, was supposedly a knowledgable world traveler and used his experiences to describe locations in his books. After reading From Russia With Love, I’m guessing that Ian Fleming did not like Istanbul. If I were to base my world traveling on portrayals in James Bond books, I’d say stay away from Istanbul. Do not go to Istanbul! Bad things happen in Istanbul! At least in the 1950s they did. Maybe Istanbul has improved since then.

I enjoyed reading From Russia With Love, but I’m glad I didn’t read it in 1957. That cliffhanger ending would have put me in a bad mood.

One Comment
  1. Viktor Cherney permalink

    These are some of the most entertaining articles I think I’ve ever read. I don’t think ill ever be happier to read an article that spoiled the book as one of the first sentences again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: