This is a different kind of James Bond. This is the James Bond who is not really needed at his agency very much anymore. After his last battle, he’s now taken a forced sabbatical after being driven to clerical duties and then forced in to relaxation and wealth. There’s a brand new agent working for Universal that’s taken over his duties, and Bond is having a considerably hard time facing that.
It may seem like an eye roll and a groan to the average reader, but Bond is basically stir crazy when we first meet him at the beginning of “Devil Maycare.” He smokes foreign cigarettes, already has a routine that screams monotony, and a seemingly random murder of a young Middle Eastern man has suddenly become so important that it’s pulled Bond out of his sabbatical of woeful relaxation and considerable obsoletion in to the duties of 007 once again.
Told through florid prose by author Sebastian Faulks, “Devil Maycare” has an obsession with wanting to mimic Ian Fleming’s writing style, rather than build its own unique take on the Bond universe. So rather than Faulks writing as Faulks, it’s instead Faulks writing as Fleming undermining his style for the sake of emulating Fleming, which is all sorts of contradicting, and a bit of a let down. You’re never really sure if Faulks is writing as himself, or as Fleming, thus you’re never really certain who you should be paying respect to when the book is over. Such irksome literary caveats aside, “Devil Maycare” is a bit much to take in. Firstly, it seems more intent on paving the way for the next movie, than really telling a story.
And secondly, it takes a while to get over the rather smug storytelling since Faulks (or Fleming) is often interested in explaining every single detail of sophisticated wine, and names of streets rather than get the story moving forward. Bond doesn’t really appear until the end of the first chapter, but the build up is well explored with some interesting tension. Why did this young man die in the first place? And how does it connect to the new mission Bond’s been sent on. Once we get forward progression in check, the story of Bond and his inevitable deletion from the organization he’s devoted his life to, is quite fascinating and complex.
This Bond is thoughtful and thorough and explores every scar on his body like a picture from the past. Faulks pays lip service to past endeavors and tussles, with Bond unfolding as the aged seasoned agent, even for folks like me who aren’t real fans of the Fleming secret agent. I’ve never had anything against James Bond, I’ve just personally never found anything entertaining about the man. His movies are goofy, his personality is dull, and the series is spread pretty thin. However (pay attention to this however, Bond fans), this is a novel that anyone who is generally a fan of spy fiction and action novels will enjoy.
I found myself impossibly attracted to this world, and Bond is such an interesting character with actual depth and human flaws, it makes me rethink the movie series altogether. Faulks writes him as a man and his relationships with people are true to form Bond as he romances women, battles deadly villains with unusual mechanical hands, and even flirts with Ms. Moneypenny in one of my favorite examples of interplay, in the novel. While I do tend to fault Faulks for being too pedantic in his establishing his decadent set pieces, the man’s writing is awfully immaculate to read, with some well placed and concise dialogue. “Devil Maycare” takes a little time to get moving, but when it does, it’s a great literary sequel to Bond with some fantastic action sequences, and beautiful build-up to the villain, with Bond being Bond. Accept no substitutes.