(Book Review by Wes Topher) In celebrating the centennial of literary legend Ian Fleming’s birth, the trustees of the author’s estate appointed one of Britain’s most popular novelists to revisit the world’s most famous secret agent. Their choice is nonetheless exquisite.
Sebastian Faulks takes us back to the James Bond of 1967; there are no cell phones and illicit gadgetry beyond imagination. He delivers the clean cool persona and charm that reflect the hero as he was intended to be. The villains and henchmen are stoically in place; the seductive heroines with the Fleming-esque names are omnipresent. And of course Bond’s teammates- M (the original male version) and Moneypenny are along for the ride.
It begins with a brutal drug induced, back alley Paris murder and takes us to a sober Bond, struggling with the aspect of retiring from the realm of agent. He is on an appointed leave of absence that smoothly transitions him from his last Fleming adventure. James has been away from action and alcohol long enough to show an obvious craving. In walks the mysterious femme fatale Scarlett Papava to pique his interests, and conveniently draw him in as his services are ultimately required.
The villainous Dr. Julius Gorner harkens back to the demented and familiar Fleming Bond enemies. We are presented with an incredibly intelligent power monger, who’s only obvious flaw is an oversized and hairy “monkey hand” that is always discreetly gloved. Dr. Gorner is a renowned pharmaceutical magnate, both in society and the underworld. He is driven by greed, and relentlessly flexes his control, of which will ultimately lead to global catastrophe.
I was absorbed in the fast paced storytelling, which gave intricately limited but very visual accounts of every scenario. It was easy to imagine Bond’s timeless wardrobe, the stunning beauty of the ladies, and the elaborate settings. We are whisked away to an array of exotic and dangerous locales in true Fleming fashion.
Faulks certainly shows his respect and shares an obvious passion with Fleming and his creation. The book has no lack of action, passion and espionage. A certain moment still stands in my mind. The first confrontation between Bond and Dr. Gorner involves their tennis match at an elaborate French sporting club. It plays out as an incredibly exciting moment, as each player battles their emotions to take control of the match and reign superior. Some testosterone induced foreplay to the ultimate showdown!
I came away from this novel with the same content that I felt upon first viewing of the most recent Bond film Casino Royale. It is truly refreshing to go back to an original incarnation, and present it in an up to date translation with the original aspect s and foundations in place. In such as the creator originally envisioned. I believe that Mr. Fleming would be very proud of this exciting interpretation.
The New James Bond Novel: Devil May Care
by Sebastian Faulks (writing as Ian Fleming)
Doubleday (May 28, 2008)