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So anyway,
Because what the Net really needs is another person sharing his uninformed views
Book review: Devil May Care 
10th-Feb-2010 09:34 pm
There've been a couple of writers in the past licensed not to kill, but to continue the James Bond series of novels; I remember when I was a kid I enjoyed John Gardner's sequels, and often wish the movies had used his more authentic-sounding titles when they ran out of Ian Fleming ones instead of making up their own (things like Tomorrow Never Dies and Die Another Day sound like they've come up in an internet "make your own Bond title" generator.) Sebastian Faulks isn't quite following in their footsteps though as Devil May Care (I'm happy with that title btw, although it's got sod all to do with the story) is a one-off commissioned to mark the centenary of Fleming's birth. The unusual choice of such a Serious Literary WriterTM for the job is apparently because Faulks has a bit of a sideline in parodying other writers, including Fleming, which was why the estate approached him. So this is Faulks writing as Ian Fleming, and rather than updating to present-day it's set in 1964, the year of Fleming's death, so the conceit is that this is the next book in the original sequence, the one Fleming would have written next if he hadn't died.

It's a while since I read any of the original Bond novels (I got free copies of five of them from the Times ages ago so I should give them a re-read some time) but it seems as if Faulks has got the style down pat. There's Bond, mainly eating scrambled eggs but occasionally taking a break for some spying and shagging; there's a supervillain, Julius Gorner, who has a physical deformity (no spare nipple¹ this time, instead a monkey-like left hand) to match his inner nastiness; plus a racially-insensitive portrayal of a scary henchman. So, basically, as you were. The story is a mix of a drugs plot and apocalyptic peril, and I got through it quickly enough although there must have been times when my attention wandered 'cause I kept finding that Bond was trappped underwater yet again, and I had no idea how he got there. I guessed the twist at the end an'all. It's OK, basically.

¹I was going to say this is no sign of villainy, one of my exes had three nipples and he wasn't evil. But then again, he dumped me so clearly he was evil and Scaramanga was a fair and accurate representation.
(Deleted comment)
11th-Feb-2010 04:19 pm (UTC)
But there's an All!New!Bond girl - she doesn't drop her knickers within five seconds. It takes her at least six, she's a feminist innit.
11th-Feb-2010 05:34 pm (UTC)
I absolutely HATED this book. And I speak as a Bond nut par excellence. It was just awful, contrived, tedious nonsense, with 007 as this passive, unheroic buffoon who just wanders around being pushed from place to place by the villain or the girl. Faulks boasted about how he only wrote it in eight weeks or something, and it shows - it feels like he was making it up as he went along. (Mind you, I'm not a fan of his anyway).

The Gardner novels were quite fun until the end when he was clearly just turning up for the paycheque every year (Never Send Flowers: Bond stops a magician with a secret twin brother from killing Princess Diana, Wills and Harry. At EuroDisney.)
11th-Feb-2010 05:49 pm (UTC)
I did try really hard not to be affected by the article by Faulks at the end where he basically spends the whole thing going "well as an UNBELIEVABLY TALENTED writer of SERIOUS LITERATURE I was offended that the Fleming estate would even DARE to approach me with this request, but then I heard Fleming wrote each book in 6 weeks so I figured I could shit something out in no time and get a lovely cheque."

I don't think I ever got as far as Never Send Flowers, I'm sure I'd have remembered that. However I now demand that this be the next Daniel Craig movie, with an extra scene added: At the end when everything seems to be fine, we zoom into a paparazzo in a Paris tunnel, twirling his moustaches and going "Mwahahahaha!"
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