Sunday, October 02, 2011

Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver

I read all the original Ian Fleming James Bond novels quite literally decades ago. I haven't read any of the subsequent books in the series by other authors. Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver has garnered a lot of publicity and, for some reason I can't really explain, I decided to give it a try.


This is not your father's, err, my James Bond. He has been transported to 2011. He actually has some sensitivity. And Mr. Deaver decided to create a back story: James actually had parents, with their own secrets. There are inter-agency conflicts between the various branches of the British spy network. But there is still the Q branch helping out with gadgets, now including tricked-out mobile phones, and Bond's service still is in the assassination business. In keeping with the late Mr. Fleming's original novels, the settings have a travelogue character about them, with this book jumping from the UK to the Middle East to South Africa. Deaver does a reasonable job describing the scenes in South Africa, even if the world is much smaller today than when Fleming was penning novels and describing the settings that most people were unlikely, at the time, to ever see. (Some say the novels were autobiographical, some say about others he knew, and some say were just that, novels). Anyway, the setting isn't quite as essential to the plot development as it once was.

The original novels usually centered on an enemy worthy of the UK's espionage capability and Bond's skills (SMERSH; SPECTRE). That eventually made them unbelievable - how could something like that exist anyway ? - and the cinema versions became spoofs and parodies as the cars and gadgets became unbelievable. At least we thought the bad guys were too fantastic. Then along came Idi Amin, Kim Il Jong and Saddam Hussein, skimming millions or billions while subjugating, if not starving, their own population. Suddenly, the idea of whack jobs with nuclear weapons, cholera, smallpox or whatever doesn't seem so outlandish after all.

In Carte Blanche, Bond battles Severan Hydt, mogul of a waste processing and disposal business. Hydt has some rather unusual personal habits creating an evil persona. He is out to exploit some technology to make himself even richer and more powerful. Like Goldfinger, Hydt has associate/protector, with a controlled temperament and carefully developed personal combat skills that Bond must face. Finally, the book is a bit like a detective novel since there are some false leads and an important plot twist.

I won't say I'm hooked on a new Bond series, but it was set up well enough that I'll likely try the next installment.

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