After being sent through the ringer physically during Doctor No, a book which sees Bond abused by everything from hot plates to giant squid, he gets to take things relatively easy this time around, as the bulk of the story involves Bond doing little more than embarrassing eccentric millionaire and suspected SMERSH operative Auric Goldfinger in a series of sporting encounters.
From Russia with Love ends on a cliffhanger. James Bond is down! Poisoned by a crafty Russian agent! What will happen? Proceed to the next book to find out! Unfortunately, the cliffhanger is always better than the resolution, and Dr. No picks up the thread by going, “Boy, that sure was close, but now James is all better,” and away we go to Jamaica without much bother.
Diamonds are Forever was a vacation for 007, an enjoyable breather Ian Fleming took in between more substantial books. From Russia with Love finds Bond and the Bond books back in top form for one of the best-loved stories in the entire franchise. From Russia with Love deserves its lofty ranking, though to be honest, at the end of the adventure, we have another sightseeing excursion for Bond.
If Diamonds are Forever is any indication of the man's mindset, then Fleming was either tired of the formula established in his previous books or simply didn't know what to do. Diamonds are Forever is different from its predecessors though still enjoyable even if it's not what people might have expected after Moonraker and Live and Let Die.
Moonraker opens with Bond dealing with the mundane daily tasks of his job. We find out that he’s really only on book-worthy assignments a few times a year, and the bulk of his time is occupied with reading through dossiers and doing paperwork. Naturally, these quaint moments of "just another day at the offices of MI6" don’t last long. Bond is soon called in to M’s office for, he discovers, a purely personal matter...or so it seems at first.
Ian Fleming's second Bond book, Live and Let Die, finds the franchise on ground more familiar to Bond movie fans, who may have found Casino Royale confronted them with a sort of proto-Bond, an emotional and sometimes petulant agent who was far less ruthless and efficient than one might expect — at least until the final sentence, when we witness the birth of James Bond as popular culture would come to know him. It is this James Bond that appears in Live and Let Die, and the story is all the better for it.
Common knowledge holds that the character of James Bond is vastly different in the books than he is in the movies, that the literary Bond is far more ruthless, cunning, and mean — a real bastard, if you will — while Bond even as played by Sean Connery is a bit more playful and whimsical. To investigate this, there seemed no better place to begin than with the first one, Casino Royale.