Sunday, August 21, 2011

Carte Blanche: The new James Bond novel

Carte Blanche: 007
Jeffery Deaver
Simon and Schuster, 2011

Since I now work for a publishing house, I want to start including books reviews and discussions on this blog as well as movie and theatre reviews. Those posts will continue for sure, but I'm also branching out and tackling fiction, non-fiction, comic books, and whatever else I get around to reading and writing about. First up, a recent release that I received while I was studying at NYU. I didn't get a chance to read it until the program ended, but I'm glad I made the time to sit on the couch, drink a beer, and read this new Bond novel. "Reboot" has become a dirty word when referring to recent films, but this is an excellent "reboot" of the literary James Bond.

Things that worked perfectly:
  • Echoes of Film Bond. Deaver's story would fit perfectly into the list of James Bond films. The story takes Bond to exotic locations, involves three beautiful Bond women, a diabolical villain with a real-world plot, and a psychotic henchmen. Action sequences were drawn right from the second unit team, and even John Barry's scores were running through my head as I read them. In fact, Deaver draws so much from the film Bond tradition that he even includes the next bullet point.
  • A pre-title sequence! The book actually starts focused on other characters, including the engineer of a locomotive through the countryside. We're introduced to Bond a few short chapters in, when he is involved in a shootout, the destruction of the aforementioned locomotive, and a car chase across the countryside. I could almost hear the title song kick up, and I loved it.
  • Echoes of Book Bond. As much as Deaver connects to the cinematic Bond history, he also has his feet planted in Fleming's tradition as well. From the description of Bond's eyes and the lock of hair that falls over his eyes to Bond's occasional melancholy and genuine sadness, Deaver knows his Fleming history. It's great to see such a wonderful blend of the two elements of Bond's history.
Things that worked out okay:
  • Bond's new backstory. Drawing on the backstory of the literary Bond, Deaver brings back the idea that Bond is an orphan whose parents were killed in a ski accident when he was a boy. I thought it was going to originally stay as backstory, but Deaver expands on it and starts creating an intrigue-laden story for Bond's parents that is more than Fleming ever intended. It is an interesting idea, and I like the attempt to make this more of a modern thriller than Fleming's books. It comes off as a little obvious, although Deaver does include a twist on it that makes it more interesting that just the cliche.
  • Pacing. I love books with short chapters. I don't know why, but the chapters come across like popcorn and it's almost impossible to stop reading. Deaver uses this technique really well during the action scenes, but it's one of the those styles that can't help but call attention to itself. In short, it works really well, but there are small places where it feels forced.
Things that didn't work so well:
  • Nothing. Literally, nothing. There are some pieces that don't work as well as others, but no element fell flat on its face. That surprised me, but my standards for books are much more flexible than for films.

This is a very enjoyable book. I grew up watching the Bond films, and I read all of Ian Fleming's original novels. "Carte Blanche" is a great way to update the Bond series and bring 007 into the 21st century, and there are even rumors that this book might form the basis of the next Daniel Craig film. I'd be all about that, especially since this book is a lot better than Quantum of Solace. Ultimately, I was up late at night reading as much of the book as I could, and that is the best recommendation I can give it.

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