Devil May Care

Unlike the John Gardner books of the 80's and 90's, Sebastian Faulks does not lift James Bond intact from his 60's roots and transplant him agelessly into the present. The story of Devil May Care is set to follow directly after events in The Man with the Golden Gun, the last Fleming novel, in 1968. Additionally, this Faulks "writing as Ian Fleming", so I infer the author is hoping to pick up right where the old author left off, with gritty stories, a real, tangible hero, and perhaps an exclamation mark or two. I found the concept and approach intriguing enough to give the new material a shot. It works well, for the most part, except for the nagging feeling I got occasionally when something was either particularly well-done or poorly done. With the concept of writing as someone else, this presents an immediate escape route if things don't go as planned. If you write that Bond appears to have an almost adolescent feel for love, you can say, well that's how Fleming wrote him in OHMSS (as I lamented), but if you happen to write an interesting and dramatic villainous-first-meet scenario reminiscent of a Goldfinger golf outing, you can say that was all you. Ultimately, it's a no-win scenario (or all-win, in Faulks case) to try and continue the series precisely as Fleming did, because let's just admit it, his books weren't the greatest things ever.

So, putting it in that perspective, how does Devil do? Well, it's got a sinister villain, a henchman, a girl in distress, Felix Leiter, M, and several red-shirts (Star Trek term for ally who is clearly dispensable); textbook Fleming, so it gets style points. What it also reminds us of is the difference between the movies and the books; James Bond of the book rarely uses gadgets to accomplish his mission -- he relies on instinct, skill, mental toughness, and the occasional bit of luck. Overall, it's an admirable attempt to add to the original Bond storyline.

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