Thursday, June 23, 2011
He May Be 21st Century Bond But He's Still Classic.
A funny thing about cigars, well a good cigar at any rate, the first five or six puffs are often harsh enough to gag a maggot. The middle of the cigar settles down into an even and pleasant taste on your palate. The final 3rd of the cigar however is so smooth and good it leaves you forgetting those first few wretched puffs and wanting to light up another. Certainly nothing about the latest James Bond novel Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver is wretched unless you can't get over the fact that Ian Fleming hasn't awakened from the grave to write it in which case get over it because he isn't going to anytime soon. That's not to say there aren't good reasons for disliking the book. good ol' "Mark A" for instance didn't like it because of the brand of sunglasses Bond wears. And you wonder why I call these clowns nerd boys? Not fan boys, nerd boys they look for reasons to hate things. Anyway I digress this review is about Carte Blanche not idiot nerd boys.
James Bond is in his 30's in 2011 and is a veteran of the Afghanistan war. I have no problem with the update to the character in fact I think it's quite smart. Remember even Ian Fleming was updating the character when he was alive. At first Bond was born in 1920 then by You Only Live Twice 1924. Now Bond was born sometime in the late 70's no big deal. I only have one issue with the update and this goes beyond the world of Bond but to the society in which he is created. He's given up the Cancer sticks bully for him. But he still drinks like a fish. Nobody will ever explain why liquor which will kill you faster than tobacco doesn't get the same rap. Now this is not something I am willing to trash the book about and give it one star I am just saying.
The character of Bond isn't terribly different than he's ever been. He's more liberal if only slightly so. Of course Fleming's Bond was a proper Teabagger until of course John F. Kennedy plugged Fleming's books then he just became a proper conservative. This Bond doesn't like the term Coloreds or Coloureds. My we've grown up since Live and Let Live haven't we Mr. Bond. N**ger Heaven ring a bell? Felix Liter and Rene Mathis are thrown in though seemingly only to throw them in and M is once again Miles Messervy not Barbara Mawdsley. Sorry Judith Dench.
I am not going to get into any spoilers I will say that John Cox over at the Book Bond wrote an excellent review and it's worth reading. Really his entire Blog is fantastic. Cox is a fan boy not a nerd boy. The book is really 404 pages at least the American version which I would imagine is the same as the British though that is not always the case. There are a few pages of glossary in the back in case you get mixed up with all the differant intelligence, spy and police offices involved in the book. Do not be put of by the fact it is the longest Bond novel to date nor that it took me 8 days to read it. Even the slowest of readers could knock this off in 3 days with out much problem. So why did it take me 8? I was savoring it. Really it's not a tough read and the pages do fly by.
The Villain or Villains continue the latest Bond phenomenon of being environmentalist and do- gooders. Severan Hydt is man who made a fortune with his international trash collecting business. He get's off on pictures of dead bodies. I'll say no more other than I like that fact that the bad folks in Carte Blanche have their good sides. (ridding the world of rubbish is a good thing is it not?) Makes them more of a human character.
There are 3 women. They are all well written and presented. I agree with Cox's review that in many ways Carte Blanche apes John Gardner's style but thankfully at no point does Bond mourn the loss of the love of his life only to shag another woman 6 pager later. In fact the Sex and Action are there of course but they are not there in over-abundance. The book is none the worse for their long absences though. There are a lot of plot twists most of them good though again I agree with Cox's opinion on the Dubai section of the book. I almost felt like Deaver had kicked a chair out from under me by the end of that section. It's one of the few missteps of the novel. There is violence lots of it especially in the last 100 pages. And it's the last 100 pages where the book really brings the goods ergo the Cigar reference.
At no point was I ever unhappy or not liking Carte Blanche but until the last 100 pages I was thinking of calling this the best Gardner Bond that Garnder had never written and commenting that Carte Blanche was a vindication of what he wanted to do with the Character of James Bond. Bring him into the real world. Maybe Deaver was given more leeway to more successfully flesh out a more real character in a more real world. I do not make the comparison to belittle Gardener nor insult Carte Blanche Garnder wrote some very entertaining Bond novels though Carte Blanche is better than any of them with the possible exception of Nobody Lives For Ever.
I would love to see Carte Blanche turned into a movie (that will never happen) I would also love to see Deaver get the go ahead to write another Bond novel (that might happen) I believe his second effort will be even better than his very good first effort. There is a certain percentage of people who were going to hate the book no matter what. Fleming didn't write it, An American wrote it, They didn't write it, Bond uses the wrong foot cream you name it. Bottom line is Carte Blanche is a great James Bond novel. One of the best continuation novels yet written although I must say By Royal Command the last proper young Bond novel by Charlie Higson was a just a little bit better. Still Carte Blanche is a triumph. **** 1/2 *****