Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Devil May Care by, Sebastian Faulks

"What an enormous pleasure to meet you, Mr. Bond. Now, shall we play?"

Bullets, babes, and booze make the James Bond formula one of the most successful, and most copied, franchises in the whole world.  Ian Fleming's 14 novels have been followed by another 14 from John Gardner, 6 from Raymond Benson, and 23 official movies featuring the adventures of the British Secret Agent.  Ian Fleming's estate commissioned author Sebastian Faulks to write a new Bond adventure to be released on the author's centennial on May 28, 2008.  Faulks approached his novel as if it was a 15th Fleming book - placing it 1967, shortly after the events of Fleming's last novel, and doing his best approximation of Fleming's style.

The target of Bond's assignment is Dr. Julius Gorner, a power-crazed pharmaceutical magnate who has taken up an interest in opiate derivatives, both legal and illegal.  As befitting the best Bond villains, he has a physical deformity - his right hand is that of a monkey's paw.  Oh, and his top henchman has undergone a surgical procedure that makes him impervious to pain.  Gorner has a fiendish plan to topple the British Empire and turn the Cold War into a hot war by antagonizing the Soviets.

While I liked the Benson and Gardner novels I read, most of the recent Bond books read like the Bond of the movies.  For Benson's in particular, I could almost see Pierce Brosnan performing the stunts and spitting out the quips.  The words on Devil May Care's book jacket ("Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming") is more than just marketing hype; Faulks's Bond feels like Bond as he was created in the books.

Since the novel was written for Fleming's centennial, Faulks put in a lot of nods Bond's past.  There are appearances by Rene Mathis (Casino Royale) and Felix Leiter, as well as references to old Bond villains.  I think the book that got the most references was From Russia With Love.  Bond uses the alias David Somerset, thinks about Kerim Bey, and there's even an homage to the train fight with Red Grant.  Many more may be found be eagle-eyed Bond fans, so I won't spoil any more.

There are certain instances where Faulks might stick too closely to the Bond formula, but it works.  Devil May Care is a fun, exciting read that keeps you turning the pages.  I could have used a few more Bondian quips, but it was good to see 007 back in action one more time.

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