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on 27 July 2011
It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I approached Carte Blanche, for two obvious reasons:

1) It was an American author's take on the most British of iconic characters
2) It was advertised as being an 'update' rather than a 'continuation' of the series

Perhaps the first thing worth noting is that it is not a terrible book. It has a certain sense of urgency which motivates the reader to keep turning the page, and a storyline which, it has to be said, is more memorable than the recent Bond novel by Sebastian Faulks.

The flaw is really one of the character of Bond himself. It would appear that Deaver takes his cue from the more recent film adaptations of the character rather than from the source novels themselves. Fleming's Bond was very much a man on the edge - one who cared little about his own life and who often cared little for those around him. Often relying solely on his stubborn determination and courage rather than on gadgets and gizmos, this Bond made mistakes and suffered the consequences accordingly.

In 'updating' the original character, we are left with a fairly bland Bond who seems to use his smartphone every other page to solve a problem and makes very few mistakes in pursuit of his target. This is not the Bond that 'women want and men want to be', but a watered-down version of what should be a gritty character used to killing without regret.

Perhaps my Bond is one that should always exist in the 1950s/1960s, in the same way that my Sherlock Holmes will always exist under the murky, gaslight illumination of late 19th Century... Worth a read to find out what you think though.
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on 22 March 2012
(UPDATE: A couple of weeks after I submitted this review, it was announced that William Boyd would be writing the following Bond novel, (Solo: A James Bond Novel. I was very impressed by that and, only days after submitting a review of it, heard the news that Anthony Horowitz had been signed up for the next book! What is happening to this franchise or are my reviews jinxed?)

ORIGINAL REVIEW:
Like the Daniel Craig movie Casino Royale [2006] [DVD] [2007], this novel reboots the Bond legend for the modern day. Like Bond himself, familiar regular characters from the past, such as 'M', Mary Goodnight and Felix Leiter, are reimagined as people belonging in today's world, and not that of the Cold War era.

The book is researched and conceived fairly well. It starts very well indeed, but drags a bit in the middle. At times, I was tempted to give it up but, after persevering, found the pace picking up again in the last 100 pages or so. Bond is, perhaps, too much of a slave to modern technology in the book and clues, false leads, etc. sometimes appear as too simplistic and contrived. A good editor may have helped tighten things up. The book would benefit from losing around 100 pages or more.

The main villain - a sort of rag-and-bone man made good - is really no match for Bond. The premise of his literal rags-to-riches ascent is interesting and sound, giving pause for thought in our IT society, but his character is more macabre buffoon than arch enemy. His henchmen are undeniably deadly but he himself lacks the "kiss of death" presence of his Fleming-era predecessors.

Better than Devil May Care (James Bond), this novel probably widens the gulf between the Bond of literature and of cinema. A novel which resolved this issue may have been preferable. However, as Deaver has now completed the groundwork for a literary reboot, he can, perhaps, now get on with telling a rattling good tale in a follow up novel.

In conclusion, I would not write this novel off. If you are a Bond fan, it is worthy of your attention, and I would read a second novel should one be in the pipeline. However, I prefer the John Gardner novels (such as For Special Services) or Raymond Benson's Zero Minus Ten (James Bond 007).
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on 29 May 2016
The idea of an American author more celebrated for writing crime novels about serial killers taking on the reins as the writer of another installment of James Bond piqued my interest but I must admit that my expectations weren't particularly high. However, this book is an absolute cracker with the author confessing in the afterword to have been obsessed with Ian Fleming's character with the Bond books capturing his imagination as a child and being instrumental in his desire to become an author. In fact there is a strong sense that that the germ of this story must have been fermenting in his head for years as "Carte Blanche" is very much an extension of the oeuvre and certainly the kind of book Fleming would have written had be have been around now.

The book rattle along at a terrific pace. It is fair to say that is it "airport literature" but then, so was Fleming's original creation, All the ticks are in the right box. The recent Horowitz effort "Trigger Mortis" is almost a facsimile of Fleming's writing style and a first class imitation. Deaver is his own man yet never unfaithful to Fleming's creation. If anything, he has supplanted the likes of M, Bill Tanner and Felix Leiter is a more contemporary environment where the veneer of mystique has been removed in favour of a more quotidian characterisation. Bond remains the rather opaque and sketchily drawn character from the original books (where the Bond in the longer novels seems totally different from the colder, more ruthless figure in the shorter stories.) It is as if Fleming's character has been parachuted in to a more recent Bond film.

The plot concerns a secret terrorist plot being hatched by a macabre villain who has found a way of recycling refuge including old computers and mobile phones that will enable his global waste management company to act as a smokescreen for his evil plans. He is a typical Bond villain but not quite the pantomime figure that Fleming would have created. In fact this is not the only weakness in Fleming's writing that has been jettisoned and the dialogue is far superior and much more credible. The lean style of writing still exists as do the actions sequences, glamorous women and grizzly deaths. I think that the fact the story continues for 470 pages allows the book to mirror the more developed narrative of the films and there is not a moment in the book where the story flags. Somehow, even though this is a James Bond novel, the research that had gone in to the book does serve to make it more credible - the literary equivalent of the Daniel Craig novels if you wish.

Having read all of Fleming's efforts as well as the recent publications by Horowitz and Boyd, I think that the latter's effort probably remains not only the best written from a literary perspective but also the most creative insofar that his Bond is older and not quite so sharp and also somewhat reduced by wider, political circumstances. I am a massive fan of William Boyd's books and "Solo" lived up to my expectation. However, Jeffery Deaver has effectively resuscitated James Bond for the 2010's and having got the gig that he appears to have craved, really wish that he is allowed to write more in the series. It may seem heresy to say this but Deaver has, with "Carte Blanche," probably created the best Bond story of the lot.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 December 2011
After Ian Fleming, writers of James Bond books have adopted one of two approaches: Kingsley Amis and Sebastian Faulks followed the originals, setting theirs in the Cold War period; John Gardiner and Raymond Benson updated things, often with influence from the films. To my taste, those using the former approach were more successful, though the books using the latter tactic are entertaining.

It is the latter approach that Jeffrey Deaver adopts in Carte Blanche which contains some of the most radical revisions yet. Similar to a recent BBC adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, he gives us a 21st Century Bond who has seen action in Afghanistan and now serves in a department authorised to carry out extreme actions in defence of the realm.

These are not the only differences. Like the films, the action moves through several countries. Some of Bond's habits, attitudes and past are have been updated as well as his using lap-tops and i-phones. In his garage, he keeps an old E-Type Jaguar that his father owned. There is a sub-plot with him making secretive enquiries into the deaths of his parents, perhaps preparing us for sequels.

In comparison to the Fleming originals Carte Blanche perhaps inevitably suffers. Though enjoyable, the book takes time to gather pace. This may be, in part, because of the need to establish the new ground, but it is still a slight drawback. Also, without revealing the plot, some characters , not least the main villain and Bond's "love interest," come off the page less vividly than in Fleming's books which remain classics of their kind: nobody does him better.

That said, in Carte Blanche, Deaver has created an entertaining read. This is my first experience of his writing. I will explore more there, and certainly am not put off with the thought of him writing that sequel.
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on 24 July 2011
Sebastian Faulks's DEVIL MAY CARE in 2008 read, a tad ploddingly, like a "hommage" to Ian Fleming. Jeffrey Deaver's new contribution to the Bond canon reads, some of the time, more like a spoof. There are short but over-elaborate descriptions of organizations, brands, clothes. There are some ludicrous character names (Ophelia Maidenstone. Felicity Willing!) An air-hostess whom our hero doesn't get his leg over (why not?) has hair "as blue-black as crow feathers". Felicity (whom 007 does get his leg over) has eyes "like late summer leaves caught in the sun".

Rather boldly, Deaver has taken 'carte blanche' to reinvent a younger Bond, like the Daniel Craig onscreen Bond. He is desribed as being in his thirties (as is Moneypenny), although Bill Tanner at HQ is 50-something and M ('the Admiral') ancient and gruff as ever. Deaver relocates the skiing accident that killed James's parents to the 1990s.

CARTE BLANCHE has a distinctly 21st-century plot, with a villain whose cover is a global business in waste disposal and recycling. Felicity, in Capetown, is a major presence in famine relief. Severan Hydt, the bad guy, is a closet necrophile (not an area Ian Fleming would have ventured into), but the crime Bond has to thwart is on a less epic scale than we are used to from SPECTRE and the screenwriters. Echoes of Dr No: creepy but reined-in. This is a somewhat low-octane spy thriller, which gets off to a slow start and only picks up when the operation moves to South Africa. There are nasty glimpses of refuse-crunching machines which bring to mind Indiana Jones rather than 007.

Deaver does capture the elegance of Fleming's style (as did Faulks) and makes Bond a thoughtful, even sensitive human rather than a spruced-up super-hero. It's rumoured that Jeffery may be digging in for a longer haul as Bond-master, so we must hope that 007's next mission brings him up against a worthier, Blofeld-sized super-baddie.

[Reviewer is the author of SHAIKH-DOWN]
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on 3 September 2012
CARTE BLANCHE by JEFFREY DEAVER

Review by Glover Wright

If you're looking for vintage James Bond of the Ian Fleming era this is not for you. However, if you want your Bond thoroughly shaken-up and most definitely stirred then Carte Blanche by Jeffrey Deaver is very much your next, thrilling, read. The twist in the tail disappoints but only because Deaver's masterly build-up of the flesh-crawling villain Severan Hydt was so full of foreboding and so vital to the whole suspense-filled plot, that to lose him - peremptorily I thought - took away the edge of expectation for the ultimate, surely had-to-be, horrifying denouement. One expected Hydt's villainous demise to be far more original than it turns out to be (others in the book meet far worse, less-deserved ends) leaving you with the strangely let-down feeling of his not being as terrible as he was built-up to be. James Bond though, in Deaver's hands, is everything in this modern concept you expect him to be: cold, ruthless and without mercy when it comes to his duty. In other words, Ian Fleming's hero to a tee. There was though an unexpected sensitivity in Deaver's Bond's dealings with women - at one point it seems he might even be falling in love with the deliciously-described and provocatively-named Ophelia Maidenstone. Does Bond have his Carte Blanche way with her? Read Jeffrey Deaver's excellent novel and discover!
[...] [...] Glover Wright on Kindle
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on 8 March 2012
This was an improvement on the dire Devil May Cry. Rather than a lame update, Deaver takes the approach of BBC's "Sherlock" and puts the characters in the present day (avioding the Benson et al problem of keeping past books in cannon).
I have not read any other Deaver books but this one had both positives and minors:

Positives:
*An interesting, jet setting plot
*Conflicts with MI5 which I can't recall being in other bond novels to this extent so it was something new
* Severan Hydt and his girlfriend Jessica were interesting characters

Minors:
*There is no main villian. In fact the one with the best claim to it is Niall Dunne (a sort of Red Grant type figure) which is like having OddJob as the focus of GoldFinger
*There is no main love interest either with Bheka Jordaan, Philly and Filicity willing all having claim to it. This means the story lacks focus.
*As this is an American writing a british set novel, there are signs Deaver is overcompensating with references to Top Gear etc.

Overall, I think this is a good try,and would read a Deaver sequel as I think his direction is a better way to go than previously (Bar Colonel SUN)and the problems discribed above may be ironed out.
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on 8 February 2012
The general consensus of reviews seems to be to compare it with Sebastian Faulks's much more sensual (but not sexual) attempt at writing 'as Ian Fleming'. This, though, is a mistake; other than the main character the parallels quickly end. This Bond is an ultra-technical, uber-clinical high-tech spy. Given that this is written by an American, this is unsurprising; nearly all state-sie interpretations of secret agents are technical - very unlike the very human British slant. And, as this is a Bond book, this is a flaw. He is just too efficient; he's always on his smartphone and can flawlessly predict the enemy's next move; if it's too good to be true it is. Bond now has feelings clearly aimed at the new PC Bond audience (is there a place for a PC Bond? Unlikely given that he's meant to take risks on our behalf).

The book is very efficient and lacks the sophistication of Fleming; and it's too easy to put down - the predictable nature of Bond's spy is just too formulaic (given the criticism levelled at the Bond series this is ironic).

The writing is occasionally jarring; staccato sentences have to be read again to understand their meaning (a little too clipped, they feel like text speak). In essence, this is actually a film script. On that point, the reference to contemporary films is also jarring.

One worry is the villain (who's ambitions are grotesque but very limited - no longer wanting world-domination he drewls over dead bodies in the sleepy village of March) who takes this into the world of detective horror; in which Deaver normally plies his trade.

Bond has become like a SIM card: efficient, modern, expendable and of no particular interest to anyone. This is detective horror with a figure called 'Bond' as the main protagonist but this is not James Bond.

As Fleming's full talents now emerge - in fairness to Deaver, Faulks and all others who've fallen under the Bond-train wheels, having others (although they've had their moments) write Bond novels has proved to be like having others write Dickens. Maybe one day someone'll come finish the job. Better still, pick up a Fleming Bond.
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on 7 July 2011
The writing style was atrocious, horribly self-evident and gratuitously indulgent despite his attempt to make up for that by way too many plot twists. The characters were also very stereotyped. In fact i am very surprised that this came out of the pen of an established author, since the writing style seems closer to bad fanfiction on the internet.

It was also really really irritating that he kept shoving advertising (e.g. for the iPhone 4) in the reader's face and instead of developing the plot and bringing out its nuances, he would inflict on the reader his opinions about cars etc. (which also all seemed suspiciously like he was being paid for advertising). If i had wanted to read about that, i would have picked out a magazine about it or watched fifth gear. Yes, there is space for this kind of stuff in a James Bond novel, but it should be done with at least a modicum of subtlety.

This book struck me as a disappointment both to the James Bond series and to the (previously) esteemed author. It really felt as if he'd spent 6 weeks cobbling it together in his bathtub and that his agents had told him to produce any old crap because the brand would sell it all, and the badly integrated advertising would make the rest of the profit.

It is a shame that this man sank so low.
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VINE VOICEon 20 September 2011
I am all for updating classic characters from literature; after all Hollywood has being doing so for some years now, with Bond and Bounre amongst them. However, Bond has history; Fleming developed the character through his books, and there is even a Biogrpahy written about him (James Bond: The Authorised Biography). I was therefore somewhat surprised to start this book, and learn of the Bond within is a mid-30's male, who cannot contemplate been married to someone outside the service (um, excuse me, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (Penguin Modern Classics)!). Leaving that aside, what of the book?

As a stand alone novel, it is OK, although Deaver does seem to have created an "all action" hero, and the plot is a bit thin until you get towards the end, when the twists and turns develop. A way of introducing Bond to the download and App Generation? Maybe. Anyone new to Bond, would find the original Fleming series far more enjoyable; lets face it - any book where the villian is essentially a Dust Man made good means stretching the imagination a little bit too far.

A lost opportunity.
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