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3.2 out of 5 stars
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3.2 out of 5 stars
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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)
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VINE VOICEon 6 April 2009
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.
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"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.
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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

David Brookes
Author of `Half Discovered Wings'
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"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.
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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.
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Faulks does really capture the essence of Fleming's Bond and the cold war era. I read this in one sitting and it was like going back in time to when I first discovered the written Bond. Having recently re-read the old Fleming novels, this was an exact fit it both style and atmosphere. A gritty but world weary Bond mixed with entertaining bad guys and stunning women. Also nice to see it in the low tech era of the 60's where Bond needs a coin for a phone call!
A nostalgic romp that captures Fleming's work very well. I hope this is not a one off!
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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'.
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on 15 November 2014
I love the bond books and I have no problem with the people writing in the style, but this is not a good one.
It feels like it has been knocked out in a weekend and is to me a bit lazy. I thought the book was okish and frankly slow, but not worth reading again, something I have done in multiple times to all of the others.
An poor attempt, but then hearing an interview where Faulks said it was so easy just proved that he had not bothered and his heart was not in it. Hence the one star.
Save your money and read one of the others, or better still, revisit the originals.
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on 15 September 2008
As someone who has recently read all of the Fleming Bond novels I feel I have a fairly good grasp of their style and tone. It seems Faulks does too but unfortunately although he may technically be a better writer than Fleming (something which is apparent in the early sections of the book particularly) that doesn't mean he's entirely comfortable with this genre or the type of stories Fleming wrote for Bond. This is all too obvious throughout much of 'Devil May Care'. Fleming's Bond stories were often preposterous and towards the end the author started to copy his older material even to the point of parody. Here Faulks does much the same thing, often painfully aping older Fleming characters or story elements, or intentionally imitating Fleming's decidedly un-PC stance to women and homosexuals. But often what Faulks seems to regard as playful homage feels more like clumsy parody.

The plot is patchy but again that's nothing new for a Bond novel, but this does feel like one of Fleming's later (or less successful) plots. All the classic characters are there and feel about right but it's almost like Faulks is ticking them off a checklist rather than doing them justice.

At least one of the plot twists (about two thirds of the way through) is completely pointless and feels like padding (it covers a couple of chapters). It's inconsistent, makes little sense and serves little purpose to the story. Surely someone as smart as Faulks realised this so is he being purposefully ironic or has he been reduced to writing the equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster - adding pointless set pieces to the plot just because that's what is required.

And the final key twist that is 'revealed' right near the end of the book is extremely predictable. Faulks hammers it home nearly every time a particular character appears so I'm fairly sure it would be obvious to anyone over the age of twelve. This particular twist is also odd given M's knowledge of Bond's character and private life. Overall, a pointless attempt to do something different in a novel that is otherwise rather too safe.

I'll admit that at times I was very impressed and overall I did enjoy reading 'Devil May Care'. It was easy to read, it has some fine moments, and genuinely makes for a welcome addition to the list of Bond novels, but it's inferior to many of the Fleming originals (which it tries and often clumsily fails to be so loyal to) and hardly feels like the landmark event in publishing that it's been heralded as.

I'm currently reading the late John Gardner's 'Licence Renewed' from 1981, the first major attempt to relaunch the Bond book franchise and although it's not standard Fleming fare I have to admit that I'm enjoying it more than 'Devil May Care' which sadly runs close at times to being more parody than pastiche.
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