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Bond returns in ‘Devil May Care’

  Bond is back, and just in time for a tasty summertime read.
  “Devil May Care” was released last month to celebrate the 100th anniversary of James Bond creator Ian Fleming’s birth. Fleming shepherded Britain’s iconic secret agent through 14 novels and short story collections before his death, leaving Bond to the devices of a stable of other authors (most notably, John Gardner and Kingsley Amis) to then soldier on.
  Now, it’s Sebastian Faulks’ turn to take Fleming’s literary franchise for a spin. Faulks (“Charlotte Grey,” “Birdsong”) has said that his aim was to replicate Fleming’s style, and it’s a sign of his success that “Devil May Care” reads like it could have been published in the ‘60s.
  This time out, we find Bond dealing with a bout of midcareer melancholia until boss/father figure M assigns him to see what a mysterious Dr. Julius Gorner is up to. The answer involves poppies, the usual high-tech toys and a plan that involves destroying Britain — and rocky ally the United States — from both inside and out.
  Gorner isn’t the best villain Bond has faced, but he does have a creepy/fascinating physical deformity and a suitably megalomaniacal personality. Scarlett Papava, on the other hand, turns out to be one of the series’ most interesting, and ultimately most surprising, female leads.
  Faulks wisely avoids divorcing the series from its Cold War roots. Set in 1967, “Devil May Care” meshes nicely with the continuity of Fleming’s offerings, and Faulks even takes advantage of the retro setting to have a bit of fun (Bond is mystified by the long-haired young people he sees around London and considers absurd Gorner’s assertion that the CIA runs a contraband-carting airline called Air America).
  Faulks also incorporates a few of Fleming’s signature bits (the sporting contest between Bond and Bad Guy), some of Fleming’s signature expressions (even that silly “comma of black hair” business) and — most thankfully — Bond buds Felix Leiter and Rene Mathis.
  Readers of Fleming’s novels already know that the literary Bond is way more interesting — more human, more conflicted, even, at times, more fearful — than the eventually buffoonish movie Bond. And while nobody would argue that the Bond books are great literature, they are a fun read. Hard-core Bond fans already have ripped “Devil May Care” on Internet fan sites. But the rest of us will find Faulks’ novel either a solid introduction to or a pleasant continuation of the adventures of the world’s most iconic secret agent.

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