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ChickenStu on Devil May Care

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#1 ChickenStu



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Posted 14 July 2014 - 06:50 PM

Not too bad. Quite entertaining. Although I get the vibe from the book that it's more of a "Bond Greatest Hits" than a straightforward Bond novel if you follow me. The overall story was good enough - but felt more of an excuse to shoehorn classic Bondian moments in than to try and tell a story. I guess the same could be said for a lot of the continuation novels. 


The characters of Mathis and Leiter were used well in their capacity - but back to the "Greatest Hits" analogy - they were more traditional representations of the character rather than flesh and blood incarnations. Same with M, Moneypenny and Bond himself for that matter.

Gorner was too much of a bug eyed loon to really take seriously as a villain but I'll give him this: he sure was fun! Although one particular passage where he explains how he "entertains" his workforce I found a little distasteful. I did enjoy the sequence where he had Our Man and Scarlett hostage. Also - the penultimate action sequence on the plane was also enjoyable. 


Chagrin was a fun henchman although more could have been done with him I feel. 


The good thing is - this being a "Bond Greatest Hits" and everything - Faulks wisely chose from the best. There were throwbacks to From Russia With Love (the business on the train), Casino Royale and On Her Majesty's Secret Service (the way Our Man lets his guard down and allows himself to have feelings for his leading lady), Goldfinger and - somewhat surprisingly John Gardner's Licence Renewed (the aforementioned business on the plane). 


I didn't like the twist behind the Scarlett and Poppy characters. Too underwritten for a start - and when the big twist came - it made no difference to the overall story whatsoever. It was kind of dumb - and it's difficult to believe Our Man would not see through it.


The front cover of the book proudly states that Sebastian Faulks is "Writing as Ian Fleming". A tad over optimistic I feel. I should say that "Sebastian Faulks is writing as any other Bond continuation author". He obviously is very very talented -but one gets the feeling that all the continuation authors are reigned in by a set of unwieldy guidelines and blocked dams that they may not traverse. 


Until the powers that be at IFP lift certain restrictions - and allow an author to take the "next step" the Fleming would have done had he lived... these books will be no more than "above average holiday pool-side reads". 


Thanks for reading. 

Edited by ChickenStu, 14 July 2014 - 06:53 PM.

#2 Guy Haines

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 06:33 AM

One problem I had with this novel was the villain. Try as I might I couldn't take his physical deformity seriously, but also I had trouble with his grand scheme, which appeared to switch from simply undermining the UK from within to attempting to trigger an all out war. It was as if, part way through, the writer realised that the first, more realistic plot was going nowhere and went for a second plot which was more fantastical. As a fan of Britain's RAF "V force" I liked the intervention of the Vulcans, though - another example of "Bond's Greatest Hits", namely from Thunderball?


And speaking of "greatest hits" - what was behind the villain's Anglophobia? Early in the book we're told it was something similar to Drax's hatred of England in Moonraker, and yet by the end of the book we don't really know why Julius Gorner was an Anglophobe. It was as if the author had no idea either but just threw it in to remind the reader of Drax.


I agree about Mathis and particularly Leiter - I liked the idea of a mid 60's Felix as a Hollywood Boulevard private eye! But while Devil May Care is an enjoyable enough read it does seem at times like a "box ticking" exercise - Anglophobe villain (check), deformed Oriental henchman (check), leading lady who isn't what she seems (check) - and as you say, a "Bond's Greatest Hits" compilation of events.

#3 SecretAgentFan



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Posted 16 July 2014 - 12:52 PM

The first third of the book is okay.  The rest turns it into a parody of all things Bond.

#4 Guy Haines

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Posted 24 August 2014 - 08:49 AM

I'm ploughing through the audio versions of the books and have just finished Devil May Care. I've had cause to revise my opinions a bit but not by 180 degrees.


It's well written. A lot of it reminded me of the way Ian Fleming wrote his novels, but then Sebastian Faulks was "writing as Ian Fleming".


I liked the way Faulks used some of the characters - Rene Mathis and his "Friday mistress" problem, Felix Leiter for once on a mission pretty much on his own, with only Darius the Tehran section chief as help. I liked Darius at lot, the way he's narrated.


Chagrin was a much more horrible henchman than I appreciated first time around and his back story, and what he did to missionaries and children in his homeland is gruesome and downright disturbing.


I got to like Scarlett more the second time as a listener, although the clues are there and so the reader/listener shouldn't have been too surprised at the end when her true profession is revealed. (Actually, a female Double-O is someone I wouldn't mind seeing in the films.)


The characters I have a problem with most though are the villain, Gorner, and, oddly enough, Bond, or rather what Faulks does with them. Gorner is a standard brand evil genius with an almost laughable deformity, a kind of mix of Drax, Goldfinger and Dr No. However his motivation is unclear. We know he's an Anglophobe, but why? Even the bits we are told about him don't add up. He may have turned against Britain because of bullying about his deformity whilst studying at Oxford. Yet Gorner himself says he changed sides in the Second World War from Nazis to Soviets because he'd calculated that the Russians had a better chance of eventually beating the British in a war. And Gorner studied at Oxford after the war, so his hatred of Britain didn't come from some "Hooray Henry" teasing him, as Bond thought it might. At least Hugo Drax had a couple of reasons for his mania - a terrible time in the English private school system and the defeat of Germany. Gorner's motivation is either vague beyond bits of history he quotes ("Remember the starving Irish!") or as related by Scarlett completely made up by her, as she admits at the end of the book. I'd have preferred some backstory which really explained it - perhaps his family had been swindled out of a fortune by an Englishman, or that his mother had been raped by one and he, Gorner, was the by-product and couldn't handle it.


Bond is the other problem for me. He seems subdued. We know there's a question mark over his future in the service, although in the action sequences he seems enough like the old 007. But in dealing with Gorner he lacks the verbal comebacks. He misses a trick when Gorner is outlining his outlandish plan to get the Russians to destroy Britain. The Bond of Moonraker wouldn't have missed a beat in replying to Gorner, mocking his Anglophobia, putting it down to some childhood disorder or bullying, and then, to borrow and change a line from the 1955 novel, might have said something like this in conclusion, with complete and withering scorn in his voice:


"And now, Gorner, lets get on with this farce, you monkey pawed circus freak!"


There's none of this. Bond seemed passive - starved and brutalised admittedly, but some of the "old 007" could have surfaced at least. It didn't, and I was a bit disappointed.


I enjoyed it more listening this time around and Jeremy Northam does a very good job as narrator, but I still hold to some of my criticisms.