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SPOILERS: Member Reviews of Carte Blanche


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Poll: What did you think of Carte Blanche - having read it?

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On a rating of 10 to 0, 10 being deliciousness and 0 being a bit like having one's face levered off with a claw hammer, I rate CARTE BLANCHE

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Were Jeffery Deaver to write another one, I would say...

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#31 Captain Tightpants

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 12:19 AM

Yeah, Oakleys seem big, bulky and gaudy. My brother has a pair of Oakley Oil Rigs that look like this:

Posted Image

Not at all what I'd imagine Bond wearing. On the other hand, I've got a pair of Ray-Ban RB3364s:

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I think that's a lot closer to what Bond would wear.

#32 OmarB

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 12:32 AM

Some Oakleys are as you described, but they do offer quite the wide range. They work pretty well too.

#33 Jim

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 07:19 AM

Very solid entertainment. Is a bit anticlimactic and is better off when avoiding the splicing in of "Bond references". It's engaging and there are some fun ideas in there. Probably worth publishing but I'm not too sure where they go from here; not totally convinced that Mr Deaver has made his James Bond interesting enough to sustain too much more. I would agree with an earlier observation that it all seems a bit restrained which is doubtless symptomatic of the compromises reached (and to which Mr Deaver politely refers in his closing comment); amusing that Mr Deaver appears to accept he did not have carte blanche himself. It's effective product, though.

One thing did strike me - was the Fleming Bond ever this much of an oenophile? I'm sure there's a comment in one of the books to the effect that he wasn't that interested. Still, matters not; this is plainly a character semi-detached from the original.

Sound Bank Holiday fun.

#34 David Schofield

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 09:23 AM

Finally waded my way through it to its meandering conclusion. Far too many unnecssary anti-climatic shoot-outs, as if Deaver couldn't locate the single set-piece of which to end. Far too much. The best Bond's are the shorter, taughter books; this is none of that.

Similar feelings to those of Jim above. Passed a Bank Holiday weekend, but took me five days to wade through. The pages did not demand to be turned. There is no sweep here, but a long slog.

But Deaver gives us some nice ideas and overall I approve of what he has done with his Bond. Okay, far too many Fleming names checklisted, but I guess the only one that was totally superfluous was good 'ole Felix.

But to finally concur once more with Jim, and my own views on the concept of Deaver rebooting James Bond: genuinely, where does this leave the literary character? Deaver has rebooted, fine, but says its a one off. So who comes next? Who, with any literary standing wants to write about a 33 year old James Bond created by Jeffrey Deaver, Ian Fleming's louche 50s good liver a distant memory?

Way short of the standards of Wood's Spy, Amis, Pearson and LR and FSS. But better than most of the rest, for whatever that might be worth.

#35 chrisno1

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 10:54 AM

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CARTE BLANCHE

Carte Blanche isn’t going to surprise anyone who has read even a small selection of Jeffrey Deaver’s work. As if in answer to his straight laced hero’s constant concerns regarding “purpose and response” Deaver has supplied us with 400 or so pages of adventure which is certainly fit for purpose; whether it will elicit an appropriately satisfying response in its readership rather rests on how much you like Mr Deaver’s storytelling formula.

I think it’s worth reminding ourselves that Deaver isn’t a fly-by-night author. He’s published nearly thirty hugely successful novels. Like Fleming he was once a journalist. He’s an award winner. What he lacks in literary muscle, which Kingsley Amis via Robert Markham supplied for Colonel Sun, he makes up for with a spider’s web of intrigue and interest which puts the efforts of John Gardner and Raymond Benson to shame. The less said here about Sebastian Faulks the better, but suffice to say Deaver’s initial stab at the James Bond legacy comfortably surpasses that dismal homage.

The James Bond of Carte Blanche isn’t the Bond of Ian Fleming, in that while Deaver borrows hallmarks of his life before joining the secret service (military background, orphan, Chelsea pad, gambler, bon viveur) he doesn’t attempt to chart the course favoured by other writers and merely lump our hero with the same characteristic historical, psychological and personal baggage. For this I applaud him. Taking inspiration no doubt from the film franchises ‘reboot’ starring Daniel Craig, Deaver is cutting his own teeth into the Bond mythology.

So now in the year 2011, Bond doesn’t work for the S.I.S. any longer. Instead there’s an outfit called the Overseas Development Group or ODG, a covert operational arm of the Foreign Office. Although they share information with both MI5 and MI6, the ODG isn’t afraid to “play by a different set of rules... [they] protect the realm by any means necessary.” This fictional organisation is a solid creation, hidden in a side street off Regents Park “a narrow six storey Edwardian building separated from bustling Marylebone Road by lacklustre solicitor’s quarters” and, like most of Deaver's London, quite believable.

The head of the ODG is nominally referred to as M and he bears more than a passing resemblance to Fleming’s creation, “he wore a grey suit that perfectly matched his eyes… [and] looked steadily at Bond without challenge or disdain.” He’s even an Admiral and called Miles and his office is cryptically called “M’s lair.” This is the first of a series of minor disappointments which jar across the fresh landscape of Deaver’s 007. While the new offices and the new operational procedures are hi-tech and modern, best exemplified by the apps on the amazing “iQphone,” much of the personnel and the banter are startlingly familiar, if more attuned to the movies than the books.

Miss Moneypenny, Mary Goodnight, Bill Tanner and even May the housekeeper are on hand, as if to tell the reader all is well and things haven’t changed that much. Later Bond utilises Rene Mathis’ surveillance team and meets his chum Felix Leiter. Both episodes feel contrived, the latter particularly is an inconsequential few chapters in Dubai, which serve nothing to the novel except to emphasise the villain’s sexual kink. The whole sequence could have been evolved in Cape Town, where the book reaches its climax.

There is a fetching dalliance for Bond in London, Ophelia Maidenstone, a mouthful of a name for the sophisticated extreme sports loving Intel-Officer who provides Bond with much of his covert information. She’s recently separated and he declines the invitation to bed her because “she was a woman he might let into his life.” Unlike previous incarnations the restraint is noteworthy, especially as Bond’s concern is for her well fare, ill-matched with his “serious face and hunter’s demeanour.” In fact, this version of 007 feels very real and modern, while retaining the edge of the original:

“There’s no shortage of chaps about who know their way around a sniper rifle. But they don’t necessarily fit into other subtler situations. And there are plenty of talented Five and Six fellows who know the difference between a Cote de Beaune and a Cote de Nuits and can speak French as fluently as they can Arabic, but who’d faint at the sight of blood… You seem to be a rather rare combination of the best of both.”

This Bond is astute. His eyes are “hard and set like a predator’s.” He has an insight and understanding of his foes, realising “evil can be tirelessly patient” that “your enemies purpose will dictate your response.” He’s a tough man with a tough uncompromising job. Threatened with detention in South Africa, Bond exudes menace, “his eyes defied them to try and stop him,” while in Serbia he abandons a wounded agent rather than lose his target. He’s not to be messed with and remains unruffled under pressure, “for a man who has killed in battle and nearly died himself is not cowed.” For all that, Bond also displays compassion, and isn’t adverse to a little humour.

While I miss the sexy antics of Fleming’s writing, the fact Deaver studiously avoids the obvious couplings makes this Bond more human and, oddly, more mature than before. His “romantic life was more complicated than most… You can keep secrets from those you’re close to for only so long… Plausible deniability might work at Whitehall but it didn’t last between lovers.” Deaver isn’t very good at sex scenes anyway; he compares the moment of seduction to skiing, “a beautiful but perilous downhill run,” which seems rather macho, though not unpleasant to the recipient of Bond’s attention, Felicity Willing, “a lioness preparing to descend on a herd of gazelles.” She’s much more direct than our circumspect James Bond: “You look reasonably fit” she purrs.

So what’s the adventure all about? Well, Bond is tracking Severan Hydt, a multimillionaire whose money has been made in recycling. Hydt is linked to ‘Incident Twenty,’ a terrorist threat as yet uncertain and M allows 007 “carte blanche” to follow the trail. Here another of Deaver’s annoying traits takes route: he uses italics to emphasise particular words or phrases (e.g. “transparency… most… plausible deniability… carte blanche…”). It’s as if he doesn’t believe we can interpret what we read. The addition of several pause breaks “…” also annoys. This is lazy, almost condescending, writing and I expected better from this author. His prose is good enough for us to grasp any intended meaning and he doesn’t need to remind us. Worse, when Bond lands in South Africa a whole sentence is written in this fashion. It’s supposed to emphasise Bond’s cynicism about both air travel and fate, but there’s no elaboration, nothing as intricate as what Fleming offered us in Diamonds are Forever and the sentence sits abandoned on the page, unloved words among a host of dressy, though ordinary travelogue style paragraphs.

Indeed Deaver’s descriptive abilities are not generally laudable. He’s best keeping it simple. There’s a well realised train wreck in Serbia which starts in an atmospheric evening haze and later Bond is crawling about in an abandoned military hospital, its ceiling “scored like a cracked eggshell… as if a hand clap would bring the whole thing down.” When visiting the Green Way recycle centre, Bond is reminded of Auschwitz: “an imposing security fence… a stark crescent of metal letters.” The bleak South African townships are “endless paths… all the shacks constructed of mismatched panels of plywood and corrugated metal." At times he’s almost over simplistic (“Dunne shot him twice in the head”).

The mainstay of a thriller however should be the action, but Deaver also fails us here. Most of it, a couple of hand-to-hand fights excluded, is confusing and ill described, especially a gun battle outside a huge recycling plant, which drags on endlessly without seeming to go anywhere. Some of the violence seems to be inserted for spurious reasons; for instance, I never understood why Deaver introduces a minor subplot involving the firebombing of a cleaner’s house or why he has a Serb intelligence agent trailing Bond across the globe and eventually trying to kill him. Undeniable implausibility, perhaps? The eventual climax is dull indeed, a cowboys-in-a-cabin shootout which takes place near the Twelve Apostle Mountains.

This is all humdrum stuff. These should be moments of tension and terror, but they pass by in a rather unexciting fashion, complicated by too much dialogue and too many shifting points-of-view – another trait of Mr Deaver’s work. Too often he cuts away from Bond’s POV and tells us how his adversary is experiencing the incident. Rather than increasing the suspense, this deflates the reader’s interest, as the story’s focus rests mainly on James Bond and his antics. Used once or twice, for surprise value, the form has merit, but Deaver overplays his hand and the device, which is a literary version of a cinematic edit, occurs at the very start and reoccurs throughout the narrative. By the time it’s employed at the end, I hardly cared anymore and simply raised my eyebrows in mock astonishment.

To make up for this deficiency, Deaver has concentrated instead on old fashioned espionage and modern technological detail. This is rather heart-warming. M’s lair might be the office of old, but there’s plenty of new blood in the ODG. Bond’s accomplices are remarkably, almost impossibly, swift in providing him with the gizmos and gimmicks he needs to complete his mission, including a pen-come-mobile phone which saves impending disaster – so swiftly applied again that if you blink you’ll not read it. Bond may drive a Bentley Continental at home, but abroad he tries to blend in using a police Jetta and a battered Alfa Romeo. He also uses his wits to unravel the pieces of the villain’s jigsaw when technology is failing him. Bond is well aware of the vagaries’ of spy craft. “The war I’m fighting, the enemy, might even be on your side,” he intones, and is justified after realising MI5 are actually spying on the ODG. As befits a rounded character, he occasionally makes mistakes, contacting the promotion chasing Osbourne-Smith instead of Bill Tanner and failing to spot the flaws in Felicity Willing’s make-up until it’s almost too late.

Once again this is more to do with Deaver’s writing style, which relies on red herrings to keep the reader on their toes. The Dubai episode is one; the vengeful Serbian agent another; mortifyingly he provides a final twist at the novel’s end and the effect is to almost negate everything that has gone before. Other than extending the piece by another forty pages, Deaver’s method completely destroys the centre point of villainy in the novel, Severan Hydt.

Hydt is a mass of contradictions. His business is phenomenally hi-tech and he’s been dabbling in E-warfare, developing the Gehenna machine, a process which scans and reconstructs classified waste material to be sold to the highest bidder. This is an intelligent, modern ruse which sits well in Deaver’s world of computer and satellite communication, intelligence and counter intelligence. Yet Hydt’s true obsession is with waste material, “I love decay, decline, the things others shun,” he remarks, and he’s named himself after Septimus Severus, the last great Roman who sowed the seeds of the empire’s destitution. The neurosis has even spread to his sexual needs and he catalogues photographs of dead bodies, worshipping them, “he was no more repulsed by it than an abattoir worker the odour of blood and viscera.” Deaver’s protagonists often have peculiar urgent eccentricities and I guess necrophilia was next on his list. Bond’s observation that “the man’s got a whole new idea about pørn” is a line which strays a bit too far into nauseous humour for Hydt isn’t a pørnographer. I was reminded more of Norman Bates, although Hydt, being a multimillionaire, employs others to find his cadavers or do his killings.

That heavy role is supplied by Niall Dunne, a curiously asexual master planner variously described as an “an architect… a draughtsman… a man who leaves nothing to chance.” Despite the moniker, he’s as fallible as Bond, and it’s Dunne’s lack of one hundred per cent security at Green Way which leaves the door open for Bond’s infiltrations. He’s blinded by unrequited love, as obsessed with his amour as Hydt is with corpses. The revelation he and not his boss is the major player in the grand scheme is somewhat unsatisfactory, for at no point does he display the haunting, fearful, abject, corrosive qualities of Severan Hydt, a slice of villainy worth an entrance into the grand canon of Bond Bad Guys. I’d give him a seat just for the audacity of using a gaol door for a desk.

By the end of the novel, all the loose ends tied up, Bond is contemplating a moment of “truth and reconciliation” with Bekka Jordaan, the fractious police officer who eventually aids him in Cape Town. Bekka is another of Deaver’s contradictory characters and she isn’t entirely successful: too argumentative to be attractive, whatever her beauty; too officious to be interesting to Bond or the reader; too docile to be sexually intriguing.

In some respects her messed up home life is a mirror of Bond’s own of lies and death, “espionage, that great landscape of subtext.” Deaver introduces a sub-element to Bond’s world as he learns (like Higson’s Young Bond before him) that one of his parents may have been a spy. This minor sub plot hardly helps the novel. It’s another of Deaver’s red herrings, and he seems to enjoy teasing and toying the reader. No purpose, no response.

Overall, there is much to like in Carte Blanche. What it lacks in action it makes up for in intrigue and character, especially with a more resolute, authentic Bond and a bone fide nemesis in Severan Hydt. There are plenty of minor plot holes and an assortment of red herrings, but these don’t detract from the novel’s overall impact. The eventual climax is a bit of a disappointment and no amount of crackle and spark in the dialogue can hide that, but much of what leads up to it is excellent. Modern thrillers tend to read quite a bit like this and Jeffrey Deaver has provided exactly that, ignoring the previous conventions and treading his own pathway through the field of 007 folklore. Carte Blanche indeed.

Edited by chrisno1, 01 June 2011 - 10:01 PM.


#36 dlb007

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 06:03 PM

I've yet to finish the novel (I knew Deaver would have this around 400+ pages) but I have to say the reviews have been spot on. One thing that is beginning to annoy me with the continuation novels is the desire/need to include Leiter and Mathis. It's fine to have supporting characters who pop up once in a great while, but it's getting to where Bond can't do anything without them. The next writer needs to leave both of them out.

As for the changes, I'm happy with a younger Bond and the update to the present. The ODG is also fine. I'm surprised no one has mentioned the new Q-Branch. I like the change. I wouldn't mind seeing something similar in the movies.

The plot itself is a bit dull. It's start off well. Possible chemical warfare, lose of life, etc. And then . . . nothing. The trek to Dubai seemed pointless. It was nice to see Bond in Africa once more.

Overall, it is a lot better than Devil May Care, and it's a fine introduction to the new Bond. Hopefully, it sells well enough to keep this project rolling. A better writer is needed, but for the life of me I cannot think of one.

#37 Roebuck

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 10:45 PM

I should say first off that I far preferred the period setting of DMC and Sebastian Faulks’ prose style. I also feel he understood the character of Bond far more keenly than Deaver does (his Bond is much too New Man for my liking). DMC just wasn’t a particularly good thriller, and that’s where Carte Blanche has the edge.

It’s a bit mechanical. More than occasionally cheesy. Even takes a tumble into fan-fic territory that made me wince. Having said that, Deaver certainly knows his Fleming. I’m betting he could deflect any criticisms of his ‘reimagining’ with direct reference to the original novels. The action sequences feel like the kind Fleming would have done. They’re also some of the better writing in the book. Deaver doesn’t let himself get sucked into big Eon style operatic set pieces. New Q Branch feels authentic and the toys are fun.

Could have done with the book being tighter (or maybe just shorter), as there’s some bluff and double bluff in the later stages that was over predictable and not as clever as it seemed to think. Otherwise it’s a competent and entertaining summer read. But I’m pretty sure that if it hadn’t been a Bond book I’d have passed on it.

#38 Captain Tightpants

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 11:27 PM

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I strted reading your review. Then I stopped when I saw just how often you used coloured font. It was too distracting, and offered no incentive to keep reading.

#39 chrisno1

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Posted 01 June 2011 - 09:36 AM


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I strted reading your review. Then I stopped when I saw just how often you used coloured font. It was too distracting, and offered no incentive to keep reading.


I could always switch it from green to gold... ;)

Edited by chrisno1, 01 June 2011 - 09:48 PM.


#40 zencat

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Posted 03 June 2011 - 01:26 PM

I've managed to just read the first section (Sunday) and I'm loving it! Really looking forward to this weekend where I have nothing planned but to stay in bed and read. So exciting to have a new Bond in hand. :)

#41 Simon

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Posted 03 June 2011 - 01:44 PM

Zen 'loves the new Bond product.'

It's not really news.

Glad you're enjoying it fella.

#42 quantumofsolace

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Posted 03 June 2011 - 03:05 PM

Liked it. 7/10

#43 zencat

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Posted 04 June 2011 - 07:05 PM

Zen 'loves the new Bond product.'

It's not really news.

Glad you're enjoying it fella.

About 150 pages in and I'm LOVING it, but, yeah, you knew I would.

I'll find somewhere else to celebrate. Or just stay in my own bubble.

#44 Jump James

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Posted 04 June 2011 - 07:16 PM

Edited due to bad moody-ness getting in the way of being able to correctly review a decent novel. Hope to post full review up shortly.

I disagree with my post about Oakley's earlier. If your in the field I guess you want a pair of shades that are robust. Perhaps Oakley's fit the bill better than other shades. Statement retracted.

Edited by Jump James, 06 June 2011 - 06:20 PM.


#45 Matt_13

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Posted 06 June 2011 - 05:05 PM

Finished. Adored it. My favorite post Fleming Bond adventure without doubt. Will post a full review in the days to come but I am very, very satisfied with what I just read. Bravo, Jeff, I'm really happy you were the one picked to do this.

#46 Skudor

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Posted 06 June 2011 - 07:43 PM

I'm only half way through - so consider this a semi-review.

Things I like:
- The pacing is pretty good.
- It feels like a Bond novel (i.e. it doesn't feel wrong... whatever that means)
- I enjoy the story and plot so far and the characters are by and large interesting (I kinda fancy Ophelia); good names.

Things I that bug me:
- It seems every 'ally' ever to find him/herself in a Bond novel is back (from Moneypenny to Mathis and Leiter).
- Deaver seems to want to introduce Bond as a new character: it seems every crumb of information that Fleming favoured us with in [insert number of books....ooops] has been shoe-horned in.
- The travelogue sometimes feels a bit like cut-and-paste from a brochure/wikipedia rather than real insight or flavour.
====> Perhaps Deaver is trying too hard, where Faulkner didn't try at all.

But those are niggles. I'm enjoying the read - it's quite a page turner. And I particularly like Bond in it - like I said, it feels right.

#47 Jack Spang

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Posted 06 June 2011 - 11:42 PM

I'm only up to the 117th page but I am enjoying it. I have been so damn busy lately. I shouldn't make many comments about Bond himself so far seeing I am only a small way through the book but the story is interesting and the book is certainly a page turner. The criticisms I have so far are that I am not happy about Bond wearing Oakleys but I have tried to justify this decision by telling myself he only wears them in combat. I have been to their website and even the street wear Oakleys are nothing to write home about. I would have Bond wearing tortoise shell Persols like I wear. ;) Craig wears them in CR. I have the same pair but the smaller version. Also, what Fleming did was let us in on Bond's thought process - why he chose to kill or not kill someone etc, his justifications. I hope there is more of this later on in the book because then I will feel like I know the character better. This is something Gardner or Benson didn't do enough of either. Fleming's Bond was flawed too. He had a slight dependancy on alcohol, he was too much of a chauvinist. I wish we could see subtle hints of this. I realise one has to adjust his personality a bit for today's times but it stands to reason that Bond would still be slightly on the chauvinistic side, even now, seeing he was guilty of this more than the average man I think, back in the 50's. I would like to see Bond perhaps drink one more glass of alcohol than he probably should to ease his nerves. Showcase Bond's slight vulnerability. I don't know what kind of restrictions IFP put on the authors. John Gardner's son said that there were quite a few during his father's time writing the books. I hope such restrictions are only for the good. Bond doesn't necessarily have to be a well liked character. Not everyone should be able to easily warm to him. Currently Bond seems perhaps a little too perfect and maybe too much of a SNAG (sensitive new age guy). I hope Deaver will capitalise on his loner and brooding personality later on too. Aside for this, I am really enjoying the book. At first I was a bit disappointed about Major Boothroyd no longer being there but at the same time he never had a big role in the books anyway. I'm glad Deaver kept May as a Scot. Liking the bad guy with his sick love of dead bodies. Great stuff!

Edited by Jack Spang, 07 June 2011 - 01:50 AM.


#48 ACE

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 02:10 PM

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CARTE BLANCHE

Carte Blanche isn’t going to surprise anyone who has read even a small selection of Jeffrey Deaver’s work. As if in answer to his straight laced hero’s constant concerns regarding “purpose and response” Deaver has supplied us with 400 or so pages of adventure which is certainly fit for purpose; whether it will elicit an appropriately satisfying response in its readership rather rests on how much you like Mr Deaver’s storytelling formula.

I think it’s worth reminding ourselves that Deaver isn’t a fly-by-night author. He’s published nearly thirty hugely successful novels. Like Fleming he was once a journalist. He’s an award winner. What he lacks in literary muscle, which Kingsley Amis via Robert Markham supplied for Colonel Sun, he makes up for with a spider’s web of intrigue and interest which puts the efforts of John Gardner and Raymond Benson to shame. The less said here about Sebastian Faulks the better, but suffice to say Deaver’s initial stab at the James Bond legacy comfortably surpasses that dismal homage.

The James Bond of Carte Blanche isn’t the Bond of Ian Fleming, in that while Deaver borrows hallmarks of his life before joining the secret service (military background, orphan, Chelsea pad, gambler, bon viveur) he doesn’t attempt to chart the course favoured by other writers and merely lump our hero with the same characteristic historical, psychological and personal baggage. For this I applaud him. Taking inspiration no doubt from the film franchises ‘reboot’ starring Daniel Craig, Deaver is cutting his own teeth into the Bond mythology.

So now in the year 2011, Bond doesn’t work for the S.I.S. any longer. Instead there’s an outfit called the Overseas Development Group or ODG, a covert operational arm of the Foreign Office. Although they share information with both MI5 and MI6, the ODG isn’t afraid to “play by a different set of rules... [they] protect the realm by any means necessary.” This fictional organisation is a solid creation, hidden in a side street off Regents Park “a narrow six storey Edwardian building separated from bustling Marylebone Road by lacklustre solicitor’s quarters” and, like most of Deaver's London, quite believable.

The head of the ODG is nominally referred to as M and he bears more than a passing resemblance to Fleming’s creation, “he wore a grey suit that perfectly matched his eyes… [and] looked steadily at Bond without challenge or disdain.” He’s even an Admiral and called Miles and his office is cryptically called “M’s lair.” This is the first of a series of minor disappointments which jar across the fresh landscape of Deaver’s 007. While the new offices and the new operational procedures are hi-tech and modern, best exemplified by the apps on the amazing “iQphone,” much of the personnel and the banter are startlingly familiar, if more attuned to the movies than the books.

Miss Moneypenny, Mary Goodnight, Bill Tanner and even May the housekeeper are on hand, as if to tell the reader all is well and things haven’t changed that much. Later Bond utilises Rene Mathis’ surveillance team and meets his chum Felix Leiter. Both episodes feel contrived, the latter particularly is an inconsequential few chapters in Dubai, which serve nothing to the novel except to emphasise the villain’s sexual kink. The whole sequence could have been evolved in Cape Town, where the book reaches its climax.

There is a fetching dalliance for Bond in London, Ophelia Maidenstone, a mouthful of a name for the sophisticated extreme sports loving Intel-Officer who provides Bond with much of his covert information. She’s recently separated and he declines the invitation to bed her because “she was a woman he might let into his life.” Unlike previous incarnations the restraint is noteworthy, especially as Bond’s concern is for her well fare, ill-matched with his “serious face and hunter’s demeanour.” In fact, this version of 007 feels very real and modern, while retaining the edge of the original:

“There’s no shortage of chaps about who know their way around a sniper rifle. But they don’t necessarily fit into other subtler situations. And there are plenty of talented Five and Six fellows who know the difference between a Cote de Beaune and a Cote de Nuits and can speak French as fluently as they can Arabic, but who’d faint at the sight of blood… You seem to be a rather rare combination of the best of both.”

This Bond is astute. His eyes are “hard and set like a predator’s.” He has an insight and understanding of his foes, realising “evil can be tirelessly patient” that “your enemies purpose will dictate your response.” He’s a tough man with a tough uncompromising job. Threatened with detention in South Africa, Bond exudes menace, “his eyes defied them to try and stop him,” while in Serbia he abandons a wounded agent rather than lose his target. He’s not to be messed with and remains unruffled under pressure, “for a man who has killed in battle and nearly died himself is not cowed.” For all that, Bond also displays compassion, and isn’t adverse to a little humour.

While I miss the sexy antics of Fleming’s writing, the fact Deaver studiously avoids the obvious couplings makes this Bond more human and, oddly, more mature than before. His “romantic life was more complicated than most… You can keep secrets from those you’re close to for only so long… Plausible deniability might work at Whitehall but it didn’t last between lovers.” Deaver isn’t very good at sex scenes anyway; he compares the moment of seduction to skiing, “a beautiful but perilous downhill run,” which seems rather macho, though not unpleasant to the recipient of Bond’s attention, Felicity Willing, “a lioness preparing to descend on a herd of gazelles.” She’s much more direct than our circumspect James Bond: “You look reasonably fit” she purrs.

So what’s the adventure all about? Well, Bond is tracking Severan Hydt, a multimillionaire whose money has been made in recycling. Hydt is linked to ‘Incident Twenty,’ a terrorist threat as yet uncertain and M allows 007 “carte blanche” to follow the trail. Here another of Deaver’s annoying traits takes route: he uses italics to emphasise particular words or phrases (e.g. “transparency… most… plausible deniability… carte blanche…”). It’s as if he doesn’t believe we can interpret what we read. The addition of several pause breaks “…” also annoys. This is lazy, almost condescending, writing and I expected better from this author. His prose is good enough for us to grasp any intended meaning and he doesn’t need to remind us. Worse, when Bond lands in South Africa a whole sentence is written in this fashion. It’s supposed to emphasise Bond’s cynicism about both air travel and fate, but there’s no elaboration, nothing as intricate as what Fleming offered us in Diamonds are Forever and the sentence sits abandoned on the page, unloved words among a host of dressy, though ordinary travelogue style paragraphs.

Indeed Deaver’s descriptive abilities are not generally laudable. He’s best keeping it simple. There’s a well realised train wreck in Serbia which starts in an atmospheric evening haze and later Bond is crawling about in an abandoned military hospital, its ceiling “scored like a cracked eggshell… as if a hand clap would bring the whole thing down.” When visiting the Green Way recycle centre, Bond is reminded of Auschwitz: “an imposing security fence… a stark crescent of metal letters.” The bleak South African townships are “endless paths… all the shacks constructed of mismatched panels of plywood and corrugated metal." At times he’s almost over simplistic (“Dunne shot him twice in the head”).

The mainstay of a thriller however should be the action, but Deaver also fails us here. Most of it, a couple of hand-to-hand fights excluded, is confusing and ill described, especially a gun battle outside a huge recycling plant, which drags on endlessly without seeming to go anywhere. Some of the violence seems to be inserted for spurious reasons; for instance, I never understood why Deaver introduces a minor subplot involving the firebombing of a cleaner’s house or why he has a Serb intelligence agent trailing Bond across the globe and eventually trying to kill him. Undeniable implausibility, perhaps? The eventual climax is dull indeed, a cowboys-in-a-cabin shootout which takes place near the Twelve Apostle Mountains.

This is all humdrum stuff. These should be moments of tension and terror, but they pass by in a rather unexciting fashion, complicated by too much dialogue and too many shifting points-of-view – another trait of Mr Deaver’s work. Too often he cuts away from Bond’s POV and tells us how his adversary is experiencing the incident. Rather than increasing the suspense, this deflates the reader’s interest, as the story’s focus rests mainly on James Bond and his antics. Used once or twice, for surprise value, the form has merit, but Deaver overplays his hand and the device, which is a literary version of a cinematic edit, occurs at the very start and reoccurs throughout the narrative. By the time it’s employed at the end, I hardly cared anymore and simply raised my eyebrows in mock astonishment.

To make up for this deficiency, Deaver has concentrated instead on old fashioned espionage and modern technological detail. This is rather heart-warming. M’s lair might be the office of old, but there’s plenty of new blood in the ODG. Bond’s accomplices are remarkably, almost impossibly, swift in providing him with the gizmos and gimmicks he needs to complete his mission, including a pen-come-mobile phone which saves impending disaster – so swiftly applied again that if you blink you’ll not read it. Bond may drive a Bentley Continental at home, but abroad he tries to blend in using a police Jetta and a battered Alfa Romeo. He also uses his wits to unravel the pieces of the villain’s jigsaw when technology is failing him. Bond is well aware of the vagaries’ of spy craft. “The war I’m fighting, the enemy, might even be on your side,” he intones, and is justified after realising MI5 are actually spying on the ODG. As befits a rounded character, he occasionally makes mistakes, contacting the promotion chasing Osbourne-Smith instead of Bill Tanner and failing to spot the flaws in Felicity Willing’s make-up until it’s almost too late.

Once again this is more to do with Deaver’s writing style, which relies on red herrings to keep the reader on their toes. The Dubai episode is one; the vengeful Serbian agent another; mortifyingly he provides a final twist at the novel’s end and the effect is to almost negate everything that has gone before. Other than extending the piece by another forty pages, Deaver’s method completely destroys the centre point of villainy in the novel, Severan Hydt.

Hydt is a mass of contradictions. His business is phenomenally hi-tech and he’s been dabbling in E-warfare, developing the Gehenna machine, a process which scans and reconstructs classified waste material to be sold to the highest bidder. This is an intelligent, modern ruse which sits well in Deaver’s world of computer and satellite communication, intelligence and counter intelligence. Yet Hydt’s true obsession is with waste material, “I love decay, decline, the things others shun,” he remarks, and he’s named himself after Septimus Severus, the last great Roman who sowed the seeds of the empire’s destitution. The neurosis has even spread to his sexual needs and he catalogues photographs of dead bodies, worshipping them, “he was no more repulsed by it than an abattoir worker the odour of blood and viscera.” Deaver’s protagonists often have peculiar urgent eccentricities and I guess necrophilia was next on his list. Bond’s observation that “the man’s got a whole new idea about pørn” is a line which strays a bit too far into nauseous humour for Hydt isn’t a pørnographer. I was reminded more of Norman Bates, although Hydt, being a multimillionaire, employs others to find his cadavers or do his killings.

That heavy role is supplied by Niall Dunne, a curiously asexual master planner variously described as an “an architect… a draughtsman… a man who leaves nothing to chance.” Despite the moniker, he’s as fallible as Bond, and it’s Dunne’s lack of one hundred per cent security at Green Way which leaves the door open for Bond’s infiltrations. He’s blinded by unrequited love, as obsessed with his amour as Hydt is with corpses. The revelation he and not his boss is the major player in the grand scheme is somewhat unsatisfactory, for at no point does he display the haunting, fearful, abject, corrosive qualities of Severan Hydt, a slice of villainy worth an entrance into the grand canon of Bond Bad Guys. I’d give him a seat just for the audacity of using a gaol door for a desk.

By the end of the novel, all the loose ends tied up, Bond is contemplating a moment of “truth and reconciliation” with Bekka Jordaan, the fractious police officer who eventually aids him in Cape Town. Bekka is another of Deaver’s contradictory characters and she isn’t entirely successful: too argumentative to be attractive, whatever her beauty; too officious to be interesting to Bond or the reader; too docile to be sexually intriguing.

In some respects her messed up home life is a mirror of Bond’s own of lies and death, “espionage, that great landscape of subtext.” Deaver introduces a sub-element to Bond’s world as he learns (like Higson’s Young Bond before him) that one of his parents may have been a spy. This minor sub plot hardly helps the novel. It’s another of Deaver’s red herrings, and he seems to enjoy teasing and toying the reader. No purpose, no response.

Overall, there is much to like in Carte Blanche. What it lacks in action it makes up for in intrigue and character, especially with a more resolute, authentic Bond and a bone fide nemesis in Severan Hydt. There are plenty of minor plot holes and an assortment of red herrings, but these don’t detract from the novel’s overall impact. The eventual climax is a bit of a disappointment and no amount of crackle and spark in the dialogue can hide that, but much of what leads up to it is excellent. Modern thrillers tend to read quite a bit like this and Jeffrey Deaver has provided exactly that, ignoring the previous conventions and treading his own pathway through the field of 007 folklore. Carte Blanche indeed.

Lovely review, chrisno1.

#49 Dustin

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 05:57 PM

Well, I'm done with it. Follows what I noted during the last week on my iPhone. Am a bit too lazy to write it up properly.


Pacing seems a bit off during the pts, all very fast and with very little atmosphere. Also the details of the location seem to have changed during writing. First it takes Bond mere seconds to cover the distance from the restaurant to the railway. Later it takes him five minutes with the Jetta to get back to where the Rostilj is situated.

Monday, chapter 6
Unscented soap? Why ever?

References to carte blanche / carte grise seem contrived and overly often. (little did I know that I was in for another hundred references when I wrote this)

Why does Bond not send his evidence immediately to HQ? Sitting on it in his Chelsea flat while he sleeps costs crucial time.

Jetta, Bentley, Audi. Is it a coincidence they are all VW brands? The strange thing is: there is a Mini mentioned with a vase and a plastic flower attached to the dashboard. Far as I know that's a feature on the New Beetle, also a VW. Perhaps someone spotted the odd inflation of VWs and changed that one for a Mini.

Bond arriving at the disbanded March barracks. There is a dark car parked near the largest caravan, yet despite all the working equipment, bulldozers and caravans, no workers seem to be present. Why ever does Bond not check out the caravan first?

The repeated 5.11 ad is becoming tiresome. Bond donning it like a Batsuit seems odd. Either Bond expects trouble and dresses for it right from the start, or he has just to stick with his clothes as they are when trouble arrives. And the "tactical" gear is really a bit much. Any leisure clothing would have done just as fine. Even with a left pocket for the empty magazines he invariably keeps there.

Finally it's entirely beyond me how an agent can search a site, any site, of fairly limited space for traces of enemy/criminal/terrorist activity. And miss the perhaps not entirely unimportant detail that said site is rigged for explosive demolition. It's just... phew...

Then the thing about helping out the schoolboy. That one rings untrue. Not because it would be beyond Bond to do so, far from. But someone commanding wealth in the private jet class would hardly send his or her child to an ordinary school. Contact with ordinary humans would be kept to a minimum, for a number of reasons, simple security being not the least of. Imagine not a bunch of small-fry bullies leaning on the kid but a coldblooded criminal abducting him. No go, these people would have their own bodyguards, and with good reason.

The bugged flash drive is an ingenious device and sounds quite authentic. I only wonder why there is no spyware that hoovers Hyde's systems for evidence on Gehenna and opens a backdoor for further ODG spying.

Somewhere around chapter 50 or so:

Have to admit it's becoming a chore. I have a number of books on my desk I have to read - for various reasons - and some of them seem more alluring than Carte Blanche right now.

Part of that is due to that most irritating habit of riding that stupid "carte blanche" allegory into the ground by the umpteenth usage, this time by M's inner monologue, of all people. If I hear/read it one more time I swear hereby to shoot somebody. And I'm not inclined to suicidal tendencies.

(off topic: the same goes for that "the Bond we all know and love" rubbish; none of us knows the same Bond, much less do we "love" him; if this is our idea of love we probably deserve everything that's coming our way!)

Apart from this minor rant the chapter in question gives a nice idea about the administrative side of affairs in Bond's (or rather M's) world. Politics raising its ugly face and all that, very nice thought up indeed. What jars is that Bond here is already referred to as the top VIP agent of British Intelligence. And ODG supposedly a substantial branch with probably a man-force in the hundreds. All of them apparently just working as 24/7 support for one agent: 007 James Bond.

It's ludicrous but the only reasonable explanation why a couple of Mandarins insists that Bond be sent to Afghanistan. The logic move would have been to send other ODG personnel to that spot, but apparently nobody thought of that. Must remember to apply for a post as advisor with the FCO.

Chapter 51:
An interesting side plot is resolved, perhaps a bit too quickly. The idea would have been worth its own novel. Unfortunately it's just an excuse for a few minor twists along the ride. Unsatisfactory.

Oh, and security in British Intelligence seems still up to snuff, as tight as it used to be in the sixties. Everybody seems in on the ODG's purpose and the meaning of the 00. Phew, why bother with the OSA? Might as well sell the mission reports to some film producer.

Wait...

Chapter 60 or thereabouts:
Bond bitches about a .357 Magnum revolver with a mere six (no, it's even one cartridge less) shots. I beg your pardon? Is that the same guy who only just took on his adversaries without a handgun of his own? Who fought his way through Hydt's complex with a captured gun and resisted his enemies until the last shot?

Frankly, I detest this modern practice of spraying the landscape with tons of ammunition. It's stupid, unprofessional and a damn nuisance in general. I know Deaver is one of the legion of dedicated American shooters, probably IPSC or some such abbreviation. Of course his passion and the cultural background of living in an economy based on firearms shows proudly in his work, nothing wrong about that. Nonetheless I think it's justified to question the capacity-fetish that's raising its ugly head here. Bond is not just a marksman beyond the ordinary limits, he's also a professional. Is it reasonable to expect him to hit his target? Either that or he holds his fire.
Plinking away like a horny 14 year old high on his own testosterone should not belong to his behaviour.

Generally the climactic battle is entertaining, up to a point, in an A-Team-80's kind of way. Not too much, frankly. Underwhelming.


Resume: Carte Blanche is probably what you'd expect when Bond was rebooted by the Spooks people as a tv series. I generally like the idea and some of what Deaver came up with. Other things are - astonishingly, even to me - enormously irritating. Trite beyond belief. Tedious without mercy. Excruciatingly mindnumbing.

I refer of course to the Fleming-box-ticking that infests the whole work like an army of tiny and relentless harvester ants, out to cut space for the "original" into the structure of the reboot. Completely unnecessary IMO.

The strange thing is, it really seems obvious to me that someone on the publisher-end of Carte Blanche (IFP? Deaver?) has spent some time inspecting CBn's very pages dedicated to the concept and provided a lowest-common-denominator list of must-haves for the final product. Sporting practically everything that was mentioned as somehow essential, Bentley, Eton, independent means, Rolex, Asser&Turnbull, Walther and all and sundry from the Fleming originals. I actually found myself expecting a smarmy Mexican popping up, only to find himself at the edge of Bond's deadly commando stroke.

Oh my gods! Why, oh why did they listen to us?

Mind you, I really liked the initial idea. It's just that the outcome didn't agree with me.

Could perhaps have done with some editing.

Edited by Dustin, 08 June 2011 - 06:07 PM.


#50 Roebuck

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 06:25 PM

I am not happy about Bond wearing Oakleys but I have tried to justify this decision by telling myself he only wears them in combat. I have been to their website and even the street wear Oakleys are nothing to write home about. I would have Bond wearing tortoise shell Persols like I wear.


Oakleys probably won’t accessorise well with a dinner jacket, but for a character who’s done military service in Afghanistan it’s a valid choice on Deaver’s part. They have optical quality a shooter would appreciate, plus they're insanely rugged. The Industrial M-Frames I use undergo rigorous impact testing where quarter-inch steel shot is blasted at the lens at 102 mph. Performance wise they’d certainly meet the standard Bond would want in the field.

#51 Jump James

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 06:28 PM

I have read the first part of your review Dustin, and we are reading of the same page. I didn't think Bond would put ripped clothing back on again ref 5.11. Would he?

And the anti-social Bond did seem like a gimmick just to get him the Jet. Not sure Bond should spend down time like this.

Also making notes like you whilst reading said book on same phone. Possible nerd alert review coming up when I have finished book. ( I'll read the rest of your review after)

#52 Dustin

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 08:05 PM

I have read the first part of your review Dustin, and we are reading of the same page. I didn't think Bond would put ripped clothing back on again ref 5.11. Would he?



Strange indeed. I should think he'd have several outfits handy, especially at the office and his flat. It's not as if these clothes are exceptionally expensive.

Edited by Dustin, 09 June 2011 - 02:52 PM.


#53 lgw007

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 08:21 PM

Here's my review of Carte Blanche - as published on 007magazine.co.uk

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#54 Simon

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 10:15 PM

As seemingly hard as it is for authors to satisfy the literary ongoing needs of Bond fans, I do think it should be observed by the contrasting ongoing success of the film makers to offer success.

I am sure there are detracting elements in both mediums, but it does appear to me, there is more success to be found in the moving adaptations than literary.

Surely, both creators are liable to fall in to the same traps of regurgitations of plotlines and old characters, but why is it the films either succeed better, or get away with it more?

I think I will be reading Carte Blanche when the furore has died down.

#55 chrisno1

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 10:35 PM

Here's my review of Carte Blanche - as published on 007magazine.co.uk

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Nice review.
Your final summary noting that that this is generic Deaver blended with generic Fleming rather hits the mark, although I'd suggest the prose is completely Deaver, while some of the locales, a few staple characters, a worthy adversary and the underlying melancholy are all that remains of Fleming. While I think you're being a trifle harsh, the review's very well observed.

#56 Matt_13

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 01:37 AM

Lot of nit picking going on regarding very small details that I didn't think made much of a difference in the overall narrative. I believe the sunglasses only come up once (used in a very cool way, I might add), as does the name iQphone (a name Deaver himself jokes about in a self deprecating manner in the text itself!). The argument that Bond is too "nice" is a bit ridiculous. Less of a bastard in his personal life yes, but that, in my humble opinion, is a representation of modernity. No man today could get away with half of the stuff Fleming's character did in the 50's. Again, still not up to writing a full review yet (in all honesty it'll probably come in about 4 weeks when I've returned from Portugal), but I look forward to you all reading it. In the meantime, I will gladly say that Deaver did a hell of a job on a very difficult assignment, and one look at the arguments put forth by many of those who weren't as impressed demonstrate that he really did craft an interesting narrative that has people talking, unlike the mediocrity put forth by Mr. Faulks. Rant over, as you were gents.

#57 Dustin

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 04:39 AM

Lot of nit picking going on regarding very small details that I didn't think made much of a difference in the overall narrative. I believe the sunglasses only come up once (used in a very cool way, I might add), as does the name iQphone (a name Deaver himself jokes about in a self deprecating manner in the text itself!). The argument that Bond is too "nice" is a bit ridiculous. Less of a bastard in his personal life yes, but that, in my humble opinion, is a representation of modernity. No man today could get away with half of the stuff Fleming's character did in the 50's. Again, still not up to writing a full review yet (in all honesty it'll probably come in about 4 weeks when I've returned from Portugal), but I look forward to you all reading it. In the meantime, I will gladly say that Deaver did a hell of a job on a very difficult assignment, and one look at the arguments put forth by many of those who weren't as impressed demonstrate that he really did craft an interesting narrative that has people talking, unlike the mediocrity put forth by Mr. Faulks. Rant over, as you were gents.




Well, you're right that most of my notes are nitpicking. I think the book could have done with some editing. For example cut out the entire Fleming box-ticking - most of it entirely without consequence for the narrative and only there to satisfy us - and you immediately get a 100 per cent better book. You can once more double the quality by cutting all the references to supposed Britishness, from Winslett to Doctor Who, that are mainly there to keep those sceptic about an American writing Bond. Cut out two or three redundant subplots, throw out the Dubai episode, go right to South Africa and put the emphasis on atmosphere and you could get actually a pretty good book instead of an average one.

There is lots of potential present in Carte Blanche, it's just buried under too much of everything: Fleming, staple diet Bond classics, characters, locations, twists, wines. Cut it down the middle, forget about one half and it could rock.

There is really only one thing I think Deaver bungled up completely, the fisticuffs with the idea of wearing down the opponent by evading him until he's tired. That's rubbish. But apart from that I think he did a pretty splendid job in re-imagining Bond. I can believe a lot he's telling us about his version, the parents and their early death, the fear of heights, overcome in an effort by founding a climbing club. All that rings true and is even delivered with the right tone. I can live with this version of Bond that has friends and is quite the modern networked character instead of the loner of the 50s that has only a few good friends we never see. I can live with the modern professional Bond who is as much into analysis and intelligence as he's into his assignments. Analysis would have been beyond the original's abilities and nobody would have called for Bond to know anything beyond his initial field of operation. And I can even live with this professional military version of Bond even though the original was more of a civilian who happened to end up in the Secret Service. All of that is in my opinion handled not bad, if perhaps a bit predictable. It's modern thriller fashion and as such Carte Blanche delivers.

Which is all it was intended to do in the first place.

#58 Jump James

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 07:33 AM

It’s funny you should say that Matt, I also couldn’t understand the nit-picking that David Sch and Loomis were doing after they read the first chapter extracts of Carte Blanche in The Times. Now I think the reason why I couldn’t understand it was due to the fact I enjoyed the chapters. So perhaps it’s the same with you and Dustin’s view? You liked it and he didn’t like it as much as you did. Therefore his points become trivial, nit-picking even.

I doubt anyone opened up the first few pages of Carte Blanche thinking “right, I am really going to hate this book”. I didn’t, my posts reflect how excited I have been. I’ll write a review once I have finished it.

Perhaps ultimately it depends on how much each individual is willing to give up on Fleming’s Bond and make way for the new 21st Century Bond. I have learnt so far that I seem to struggle greatly with it.

#59 TheREAL008

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 02:53 PM

I'm getting the feeling that people aren't liking this because possibly the novel puts Bond in a quasi realistic setting, intending to stray away from Fleming...except for name checks.

I could be wrong also.

#60 zencat

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 03:26 PM

Just finished. Standing ovation. It's everything I wanted it to be and more. This really is a standout among continuations novels. At some point I'll pull together a full review and post it on my site. But for now, like Bond in a Miami hotel room, I'm "completely satisfied." :tup:




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