Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Carte Blanche

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Carte Blanche (Hodder & Stoughton, 2011).

You know that you've become old when James Bond is suddenly, and officially, eight years younger than you. Last year, Ian Fleming's estate let novelist Jeffery Deaver, who is highly regarded for his modern thrillers, take a crack at 007. In Carte Blanche, published last year, Bond has been formally rebooted to age 32. Born in 1979 and a veteran of the Afghanistan War, Bond works for a covert agency attached to MI6, and has carte blanche to act in Her Majesty's interests overseas. But when the trail of a strange cypher that states British casualties will number in the thousands leads him back to the UK, he finds that he has to follow the rules of the domestic service, MI5. Is James Bond really ready to be a team player?

Deaver's take on the character was quite fun. I enjoyed Bond's competence and realism, and his humanity. I don't know that it's accurate to say that he feels guilty at one point, but he at least considers the emotional ramifications of his actions. There's even a Bond girl who gets away from him, which is quite amusing. I like the way that Deaver's Bond has a masterful command of tactics, even if the overall strategy sometimes eludes him. What is shaping up to be a major plot point and the deaths of dozens turns out, much to Bond's surprise, to be a completely innocuous fetish on the part of one of the villains. I really enjoyed the way that Bond spends almost the entire book having no idea, once the villain has been established and followed, exactly what the heck his plan actually is. We're so used to the supercriminals in the movies showing off and bragging about their schemes that it was quite pleasing to be as in the dark as our hero.

Briefly, I was really pleased and entertained by this Bond story, though I am sorry to say that it looks like it's going to be a one-off, and all the neat threads begun in it probably won't ever be developed. Prior to this, the publishers - slash - licence holders tapped Sebastian Faulks for a one-off novel set in Ian Fleming's original, 1960s-continuity, and this will be continued in the next novel, to be written by William Boyd and published next year. Recommended, even if it proves to be a complete hiccup in the character's publishing history, and even though I kept visualizing a young Sean Connery in the part, and not Daniel Craig. Had to keep forcing Craig's face and build into my mind's eye; got a bit distracting, really.

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