Devil May Care (James Bond) Paperback – 28 May 2009
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A variety of authors have written 007 novels since the death of Bond's creator, Ian Fleming -- and the results have been mixed, to say the least. As 'Robert Markham', Kingsley Amis penned the very first post-Fleming Bond, and this attempt by a novelist better known for his 'literary' work was judged a success. Now, after a decade of less successful entries by such writers as John Gardener, we have another serious writer, Sebastian Faulks (author of such acclaimed novels as Birdsong), taking up the challenge.
Devil May Care has already collected a jaw-dropping amount of publicity, with even the Royal Navy helping to put the book firmly at the top of the best-seller charts (Bond is, of course, a naval commander), and few books have had such wind under their sails (the relaunch of the movie franchise with the re-make of Casino Royale and Daniel Craig's second Bond film, Quantum of Solace, is all part of the ever-accelerating momentum). Of course, this also gives the book farther to fall if it misses the mark.
Faulks' author credit on the book ('Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming') is both revealing and encouraging the author has reportedly said that he undertook the task with total seriousness, and he has tried to work within the parameters of the Ian Fleming formula (Faulks re-read all the extant Bond novels and stories) rather than the more glossy film incarnation. Among several very canny moves by the author is his decision to keep his 007 in the 1960s rather than catapulting him into the 21st century (as other ersatz Fleming novels and, of course, the films -- have done. So how successful are the results?
Fleming aficionados can relax this is a sterling job of recreation, and a novel that functions with total authority in its own right. The evocation of time and place (or places, notably Paris and the Middle East) is impeccable, as are the plotting and detail (as colourful and violent as anything in Fleming); there is a satisfyingly unpleasant larger-than-life villain, Julius Gorner, with a grotesque deformity of the kind Fleming often gave such characters (the chapter 'The monkey's hand' gives this away) and grandiose, evil ambitions. Best of all, this is Ian Fleming's James Bond not a superman -- worried about his health and his physical powers (which he fears may be on the wane). Delicious stuff in fact. Now... can Faulks be persuaded to write another such novel? --Barry Forshaw. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'Vintage Bond' The Times 'Everything a thriller should be' Front Row, Radio 4 'Races along ... gets better and better' Economist 'Smart and enjoyable' Guardian 'The read of the summer' Sunday TimesSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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).Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Awful. I generally enjoy Sebastian Faulks' books but this is amateurish. I understand about 'suspension of disbelief' but this is pitiful. Read morePublished 19 days ago by Henry
First, let me admit I am quite young and haven't read any of Fleming's Bond books… In fact the only book I have read by him is chitty chitty bang bang. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Rachel
If you're missing James bond the way Fleming wrote him and are tiring of the modern bond read this book. Read morePublished 4 months ago by jward
An enjoyable Bond romp, very close to the feel and spirit of the originals. One star removed because of a couple of plot holes but they didn't spoil it.Published 4 months ago by J. Fawcett
I enjoyed this book, regardless of whether it was a James Bond or not, however, all of the Bond basics are there. Read morePublished 4 months ago by TerryB