on 21 August 2012
I've been a fan of the old Bond films for years, and am just as enthusiastic about the Daniel Craig `reboot', which thematically is much more in keeping with Fleming's novels. This came out around the same time as `Casino Royale' and I've been waiting to read it ever since.
Despite the tacky cover, everything about this is pure Fleming Bond. It's clear that Faulks has had a lot of fun writing this, and it reads like a love letter to everything that makes the franchise what it is: interesting villains, irresistible girls and plenty of action.
Amazingly Faulks stops all this just short of cheesy or cheap. There are some brilliant scenes that feel right out of the early stories: a gentleman's challenge over a tennis game; a girl who Bond can't trust; a big plot to be uncovered and prevented.
The dialogue is great - M is absolutely spot on and you can hear his voice hammering from the page. Bond himself doesn't seem to say and awful lot though, but the narrative is from his point of view and fills in the gaps. He drinks a lot, is never without a cigarette and eats a lot of scrambled eggs. I got a big chunk of Connery in this Bond, with the best bits of Moore without the smarminess, and a dollop of the Craig realism. You can imagine Faulks' Bond as whichever actor you prefer and I think this would work.
There's plenty of attention to detail, with Fleming could really overdo at times, but the pacing is fine and the action isn't overblown. It feels very down to earth and gritty, rather than the slickness of the Moore films which lost some of that charm.
It's a shame that the ending fizzles out a little, but the only real flaw with this is the complimentary interview with Faulks at the end (I don't think all copies have this). Unfortunately it reveals old Sebastian as a pompous elitist who apparently had his arm twisted into writing this kind of trite and unliterary stuff, and boasts at how busy he is whilst putting down Fleming unashamedly - you would think he would have a little more grace.
I don't let this affect my rating however, and if I did the essay on writing thrillers written by Fleming himself would more than make up for the sour taste left in my mouth - a frank insight into the writer's mind.
Great fun and fine fiction, well worth reading if you're even a casual fan of James Bond.
8.5 / 10
Author of `Half Discovered Wings'
on 29 May 2008
I purchased this at 11 yesterday morning and went to bed at 3 this morning. Forget Raymond Benson and John Gardner, this is vintage James Bond, you can feel Fleming's ghost over your shoulder, it reads like the best of his books with a fast moving plot bags,of gourmet food and drink with a cracking villain. I always liked the early Bond books never liked the films, the Bond in the books was toally different darker and more vulnerable, and if you are expecting the Bond of the movies you will be disappointed. Sebastian Faulks has captured this brilliantly. I hope he writes another, I think Bond does for the fifties and sixties what Sherlock Holmes has done for the Victorian and Edwardian age the early books are becoming classics (my old english teacher will role over in his grave)
I've only recently read the Ian Fleming novels and was pleased to see this book released - a chance to read another James Bond adventure and see Sebastian Faulks' take on the James Bond legend. The book makes a good first impression with a great title (hopefully a film will use it in future) and cover.
Faulks is credited as 'writing as Ian Fleming' and has done a very good job of imitating Fleming's writing style. The book definitely feels like one of the originals in style and follows on from the last Fleming story ('The Man With The Golden Gun'). Unfortunately this is the book's main weakness - it feels too much like a tribute and lacks any originality. In order to achieve such a likeness to the original novels, Faulks has lifted so much from them that it feels like 'Bond by Numbers' - all the usual suspects are here: a train ride, fight on a plane, underwater scene and a mad villain's secret plan to bring down Britain together with the expected girls, alcoholic drinks and foreign locations. The characters, plot and locations all have certain deja-vu feel to them that makes the story feel formulaic. Goldfinger and Moonraker are the books that spring to mind most often when reading this.
There are also far too many nods and references to the previous books - it's almost as if Faulks is trying to prove that he's read them all. It was nice to see Rene Mathis and Felix Leiter appear again, but their presence didn't seem to add much to the plot and I was left feeling that they were just there for the sake of nostalgia.
Having said all that, the story is enjoyable and it is nice to be able to read one more James Bond adventure. It could have been a lot worse, but it felt like an opportunity was lost. It's like going to watch a tribute band such as the Bootleg Beatles - they do a great job of impersonating a band that you can't see any more ... it just doesn't feel quite the same.
"Bond has lost his licence to thrill" proclaimed The Scotsman newspaper in a review in the edition the day after this book was published. A play on words dreamt up months if not years ago, I should think, and having now read the book, one week on, written on the basis of a less than complete reading of it.
I read "Devil May Care" while considering the question "if I did not know that was not written by Ian Fleming (say about1967, when it is set), would I have known?". In short, I think not. Faulks captures Flemings' style brilliantly.
Faulks does allow himself a few nods to the Bond films as well as to the earlier books (Flemings' ones only - even Kingsley Amis/Robert Markham's Colonel Sun appears to have been discounted, not to mention the 23 other Bond novels. (Fleming published 12 novels, plus two collections of short stories.)) The villain, one Dr Julius Gorner, has more than a passing resemblance to Drax ("Moonraker") and appears in one scene "in a tropical suit with a carnation" just as I remember Charles Gray playing Blofeld in one of the films. There are some topical references too: opium poppies are coming from Helmand province in Afghanisatan - which just happens to be where British troops are battling the drugs trade and international terrorism today. Bond is equipped with a gadget by "Q Section" (there was never a man called "Q" in the books, just the films); Bond, however, fails to use it or even mention it again.
The plot's formula follows Fleming's established pattern with only the requisite number of variations. Bond is on a sabbatical, because he is losing his touch and has not quite recovered after the snake bite poisoning from Scaramanga's bullet two years before. He is on the wagon on doctor's orders. We know that all is not well when a woman offers herself to him - but he turns her down. There is an early "social" encounter with the villain, after which Bond follows him to his lair, falls into his evil clutches, is set a test to challenge the very best, fails but subsequently escapes, kills the baddie, saves the world. Did I mention that Felix Leiter appears to help out (and boost sales in the US?). As ever Bond has a female accomplice, and here I think Faulks does achieve something new. I was kept guessing throughout the book as to whether she was really what she said she was, and, if she was not, whether that was good or bad. I guessed the wrong way.
Lest you think that I am seeking to belittle the Bond novels, far from it. They are brilliant - entertaining, informative in their way, racy - but the plots were always (if you thought them through) a bit ludicrous. That was the point - and not the point - a willing suspension of disbelief was all that was needed, but was essential. If you want (to pretend you are reading) something more credible try Le Carre or even, god knows, Gerald Seymour or Andy McNab.
If I have any bones to pick, then I point out one "continuity" mistake that made it through (even though Faulks re-read all of the Bond books before writing this one. Bond could not have "found himself at last in Russia" because he had travelled across Russia between the end of You Only Live Twice" and the beginning of "The Man with the Golden Gun". I am inclined to accept that Faulks did this intentionally, however, as Bond had, perhaps, not been entirely in his own mind on that journey - he was being brainwashed by the KGB. Perhaps more irritatingly, some "new" characters were really quite derivative - quite apart from Gorner, Bond's SIS contact in the Middle East is almost identical to Kerim Darko from "From Russia with Love" - it is one thing to tip the wink to the original book, quite another to copy characters!
A well-reconstructed blast from the past, I loved it. Whether I think Faulks or anyone else should write any more Bond novels I don't know - but, on the basis of this work, I'd be prepared to give it a shot.
on 20 November 2012
Why is it that when writers (Charlie Higson excepted) get commissioned to continue the megabucks 007 franchise they invariably screw it up? Faulks' homage to Ian Fleming is no exception to this rule. In fact it ranks as one of the worst post-Fleming novels. To begin with, it is less respectful of its source material than it is plain derivative. The villain cheats at sport (Goldfinger), there's something wrong with one of his hands (Dr No), he has an emotionless Asian henchman with a penchant for anachronistic headwear (Goldfinger), Bond kills said henchman after a fight in a train compartment (From Russia With Love), Bond dispatches a guard by dropping on him from above his cell door (Goldfinger anyone?) and on it goes.
Arguably, this could be presented as part and parcel of the homage, but coupled with multiple plot absurdities and some astonishing oversights, that idea has no weight. We are told, for example, that Bond's mouth is badly slashed after crashing a jeep, yet in the next chapter he manages to hide broken glass sharp enough to cut a rope under his tongue. When Bond is captured and returned to his cell, his excuse is that he had gone to find Gorner to tell him someone had escaped. There is no reference to the dead guard he must have left in the cell. Then of course there's the description of Chagrin's agony at Bond's hands on the train, when we have been explicitly told earlier that Chagrin was incapable of feeling pain.
But does Faulks come anywhere near to capturing the essence of Bond as a character? Far from it. His tactic seems to be to try and understand the man through what he eats, which is eggs, eggs and more eggs, as well as what he drinks, copious amounts of liquor wherever he can get his (surely?) shaking hands on it. The reappearance of old friends Mathis and Leiter is another tactic, but they end up being largely superfluous to the plot, Mathis more interested in his affair, and Leiter finding it difficult to negotiate the Persian sands with his prosthetic leg.
It is surprising that Faulks claims to have written the book in six weeks. Most writers would have taken half the time.
"Devil May Care" is a lightweight, enjoyable pot boiler that is highly reminiscent of the Ian Fleming novels and also the Sean Connery 007 movies. I definitely felt that Sebastian Faulks nailed Fleming's writing style. Unfortunately he has been less successful in constructing a compelling plot and characters.
I very much enjoyed the first half the book which vividly recreates the late 60s. Bond's initial confrontation with the villain is over a game of tennis that reads more like a duel and has all the tension of Casino Royale. The love interest, Scarlett, also makes a dramatic entry. However the second half of the book rapidly loses momentum and pace and the overly-complicated plot gets bogged down with lengthy explanations and the introduction of characters (like Felix Leiter) who add little to the story. The villain's motivations are clichés and the book concludes with a final twist that comes as less of a surprise than it seems it was intended to be.
Three stars, because it's still a quick and fun read that captures the essence of Fleming's writing. But it's not what it could have been.
It is interesting that the literary heirs to Ian Fleming are now choosing writers from all genres to write sequels to his legacy. Of course the first even one, back in the nineteen sixties Colonel Sun: A James Bond Adventure was written by Kinglsey Amis (writing as Robert Markham) who also wrote what is still one of the best ever studies of the Bond novels The James Bond Dossier.
Now we come to this novel, Sebastian Faulks has impeccable literary credentials. He has made an impressive study of Ian Fleming and his literary style. Furthermore, unlike some of the other writers of sequels so far, Amis excepted, he has set his novel in the fifties/sixties when the novels were originally set. All of this is good, the novel certainly has some of the pace and freshness of the originals. And though I've enjoyed some of the updates by John Gardner, Raymond Benson and Jeffrey Deaver, this is certainly the most successful sequel since the Amis/Markham outing.
The characterization of Bond and M also rings true to the Fleming originals. He is slightly less successful with Felix Leiter who makes an appearance, but who doesn't really add to the humour and the plot or even quite the warmth he had in the Fleming books. In fact he is more like the many of the rather insipid versions seen in many of the films. The villain, Dr. Julius Gorner, however is up to standard and he puts Bond through a number of torturous trials and has a memorable real tennis match even if that is reminiscent of Goldfinger (Penguin Modern Classics). The Bond girl/woman is perhaps slightly more modern than the usual women in the Fleming novels, but still convincing. The plot itself is as preposterous as expected, an attempt to discredit Britain. This is carried forward with pace and there are other memorable scenes, though to my my mind the climax and final scenes are a somewhat a let-down.
All in all this an entertaining read even if it is a little formulaic. The best attempt outside the Ian Fleming cannon to write a Bond novel since "Colonel Sun." But perhaps that is what we wanted most- something to remind us of the greatness of the originals. It certainly achieves that, and deserves credit as an achievement it's own right.
on 9 July 2016
Awful. I generally enjoy Sebastian Faulks' books but this is amateurish. I understand about 'suspension of disbelief' but this is pitiful. For example, a phone call from a coinbox in the desert... then M calls back on a secure line that's supposed to be encrypted. Suddenly there's an encryption/decryption system in the call box? No, sorry, doesn't wash. Flying an airliner, simply push on the yoke and the airliner goes into a dive? Again, no, sorry, you have to reduce power, and adjust the trim otherwise the plane just picks up speed and noses up again... These may sound like small technicalities but it makes a huge difference to the authenticity of the research - get them right and it gives the reader an 'inside track' feeling, instead of a cheap plastic imitation that's only skin deep. The denouement is not clever, not exciting. There are no twists to speak of. Very disappointing, especially given his other books which are so much better.
on 9 February 2015
I have read all of Ian Flemings 007 books, so I thought i would try Sebastian Faulks try as the 007 writer, as I had read "Birdsong" by him and thought it excellently written.
The style of the writing in this book I feel is the same as Flemings, very matter of fact, describing the type of clothing he wears, the cigarettes he smokes ( very frequently which sets the style for the sixties in which this story is based.)
However I found the storyline rather weak, with a few of the scenes that could have been cribbed out of some of the bond movies.
I felt there was an overlong bit of travel after the main scene which added nothing to the story, until we had the final James Bond movie style unexpected arrival of the arch enemy resurfacing hell bent on finishing Bond.
All the style of Bond but not the content.
on 24 June 2008
Apparently, the remit for Faulks was to take Bond back to the late 1960s, rather than continually updating him, as other authors have done with varying degrees of success. This promised much, but Faulks, in my humble opinion, didn't deliver.
The story begins in Paris with a murder and René Mathis of the French secret service is called in. Faulks has captured the flavour of France, which isn't surprising since he has written several literary novels set there. But as the beginning of a new Bond adventure, it was tame; there's no real threat to Bond or the world in general, though we obliquely meet one of the villains.
Returning from a sabbatical on the Continent, Bond is briefed by M concerning Dr Julius Gorner, who appears to be a genius involved in pharmaceuticals, liable to flood Britain with drugs. Bond's task is to `talk to him. See what makes him tick.' And here we thought Bond was licensed to kill, not to talk someone to death. Maybe he has an eye on psychiatry when he leaves the Service?
There's a lot here that is familiar to Bond aficionados - descriptions of thrilling cities, such as Paris and Tehran, details of food and clothing - but, that apart, the flavour of the book isn't what we expect when Faulks states he's `writing as Ian Fleming'. Indeed, the writing and plotting are sloppy in places, but it would be unfair to go into details and thus spoil the storyline.
Having said that, it's a tolerably good read (hence the 3 stars), with flashes of the old Bond, but it's also derivative - sub-standard pastiches of Goldfinger and Moonraker with several nods to the film franchise in particular. The villains initially seem to be intriguing and nasty but don't really live up to their promise. Faulks mentions SMERSH as if it still existed at that time, yet it merged into the MGB, the forerunner of the KGB in 1946. At least Gardner and Benson got their spycraft right.
The ending - with its fairly obvious `twist' - is contrived. Faulks cannot write good action scenes, either; his 'Charlotte Gray' is a fine example; good on character, poor on action. As a thriller, DMC hots up towards the end, granted, but there was nothing really new here; it has all been done before.
The title is not explained, either - which is typical of the later films perhaps but not of the original books. It might as well have been called `Money for Old Rope'.