Sebastian Faulks replicates the old 007 formula
Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks
US edition, Doubleday
What if the Devil may care that Sebastian Faulks can write in the name of Ian Fleming? This is the astounding concept behind the book’s extravagant marketing promotion, complete with supermodel Tuuli Shipster posing on board the HMS Exeter in a red catsuit! Published to coincide with Fleming’s 100th birthday, the new Bond novel is a clever collection of all the familiar elements of the 007 novels and films, and when you read it you’ll say, “This book has all the familiar elements of the 007 novels and films.” Does the book merit all the fuss? If you look past the hype, there’s really nothing extraordinary about the book. Faulks has assembled a checklist of Bondian conventions: Bond is ruthless, snobbish, and lecherous. The villain has enough PhDs to qualify as a megalomaniac with the usual physical deformity. Miss Moneypenny flirts with 007, and the obligatory Bond girls are luscious. The plot races along like a speeding Lotus Espirit but sometimes falters in blandness like Daniel Craig 007 and his Ford Mondeo. About the only new things brought into play are the story’s backdrop of 1967 and M taking up yoga (it is, after all, the time of Flower Power). The plot—something about drug smuggling that spirals into a nuclear countdown on the Soviet Union—is serviceable but we’ve seen it all before in the film Octopussy (in that film, the nuclear threat was set for a US base in Berlin). Fortunately, the world can still depend on one man to save it. You can guess the rest, right up to the last scene, which promises some voracious sex with the Bond girl. But after 30 or so Bond novels in the entire oeuvre, our man 007 is reasonably tired and the formula itself has become shaky and not stirring.