Many may not have heard of Ian Fleming’s 1953 spy novel, “Casino Royale,” but I guarantee that you have all seen a movie—or at least heard of a movie—that was spawned indirectly from it.

I, personally, am a huge fan of the more-than-twenty films based on the adventures of Agent 007—James Bond—and the other characters first introduced in this book.

There are hardly any crazy gadgets, and the evil villain has no grandiose plan for world domination. Therefore, “Casino Royale” comes across as very low-key to a longtime fan of the Bond films, though it also comes across as more realistic. The story is still reasonably compelling, and many of the other familiar 007 clichés—the martinis, the baccarat tables, and the women—are here in full force. But without that grandiose plan for world domination, the bad guys hardly seem worth the trouble.

The climax comes too early in this book, and the ending drags for several chapters worth of interpersonal drivel. The relationship between Bond and female agent Vesper Lynd is a relevant piece of the story, no doubt, but standing alone and almost entirely at the end it seems misplaced and strained.

All in all, Fleming’s writing is strong, detailed, and clear, and this book is a fair introduction for the endearing set of familiar characters in the James Bond 007 series. But the weak, awkward few chapters at the end and the seeming irrelevance of the villain makes it somewhat shaky. “Casino Royale” is by no means a bad book, but it’s not all that great either.

3 out of 5 stars.