Devil May Care

Devil May Care is the latest attempt at a James Bond novel. Ian Fleming died in 1964, and so far no one has been able to successfully resurrect either him or his writing style. Sadly, the latest attempt by Sebastian Faulks is no exception. It’s a good book, and a decent Bond, but Faulks is no Fleming no matter how hard he may try.

In fact, trying too hard seems to be why this effort falls a little short of the mark. One of the most common (and most aggravating) mistakes
I’ve seen made in the newer attempts has been a lack of subtlety. Yes, Fleming would mention Bond’s choice of specific brands from time to time, but didn’t club you over the head with them. Faulks seems at times to be name-dropping in an attempt to get the reader to more closely identify with the “old” Bond. Many references are made to earlier Bond novels, and character names are dredged up in ways that seem to be a little overkill.

Then there is the story itself. Because we’re in the present decade, naturally it has to be set in the Middle East, with short stints in 1960s London. Faulks works in numerous historical references to Vietnam, 60s drug culture and other foreshadowing elements, but it feels a little hollow at times. The whole Scarlet/Poppy thing is more than a little transparent as well, and I find it difficult to imagine M would have ever even considered a female Double-0 during that or the following decade to begin with.

All in all I enjoyed the read, but as a Bond novel it’s not all that close to Fleming’s quality of work. Having the whole “writing as Ian Fleming” thing, I think, does this book as well as Fleming’s memory a disservice.