Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The name is Faulks, Sebastian Faulks

By Sunil K Poolani

Devil May Care: A James Bond Novel

Sebastian Faulks (Writing as Ian Fleming)


Price: 395; Pages: 295

When I was in the boarding school, James Bond novels were banned. The nuns thought Bond was full of whisky and women and, in all their Biblical simplicity, did not want us to get influenced by Agent 007. Needless to say, we read the Ian Fleming classics in the sly — this was much before our mofussil city talkies started showing the legendary Bond movies.

So it thrilled me when I read Sebastian Faulks short biography: “…the books were banned at his school, but he read them by torchlight under the sheets.” Faulks is no rookie. He is the author of the much-acclaimed novels like Human Times and Birdsong, first an epic and the second sold more than three million copies.

After Fleming’s death, and when Hollywood is still regurgitating the Bond movies to charm the secret agent’s aficionados, Faulks comes as a saviour to millions of Bond admirers across the world. Faulks, you will realise, is the best person, as you savour the book, to recreate the magic created by Fleming.

One may argue why Faulks set the story of the present-day Bond (in this post 9/11 terror attack days) in the former USSR days. In Devil May Care’s case the plot unfolds in the Cold War days. But, as you would know most of the old Bond stories were set in the fifties, sixties and seventies — and Faulks, too, follows suit. Hello, there is nothing wrong in it, as one should realise Bond is not an evergreen hero, let alone immortal.

To be frank, after a long time Devil May Care is one book that hooked me from page one. Seriously. The thriller starts on a very promising note: a murder, that of drugs dealer Hashim. He was killed in a peculiar manner: his tongue was pierced. That lead leads to an intriguing and devastating ploy that a psychopathic schemer is planning. His name is Gorner with a monkey-like left paw, which he is ashamed of, nevertheless.

Gorner is one of the best brains the world could boast of, but only for devastating consequences. Naturally, Bond has been deputed to hunt him down and also to scuttle a sinister plan that would wreck the western world, especially Britain. If Gorner can’t stand anything British, Bond is a proud Briton, all set to save his homeland from the scum of the world.

In between, as it should be (like any Bond book or movie) comes in a lady in armour: Scarlett. She, nonetheless, comes under several aliases (including posing as her ‘twin sister’ who never exists) at different points of time as the book progresses.

But naturally, after a rollercoaster ride-type narrative till the end, Bond survives, and discovers, at the fag end of the book, that Scarlett is Bond’s colleague. But, alas, Garner, escapes. Obviously, Faulks plans a sequel to this book, and it is not anyone’s guess that Gorner will reappear; maybe in several books to come.

Devil May Care has been apparently written to celebrate the centenary of Fleming’s birth on 28 May 2008 and is, sans doubt, a deft furtherance of Bond’s charming legacy. And Faulks is a true inheritor of Fleming’s Midas touch.

Final things finally: do not expect a path-breaking literature here; it is at the best a great thriller; a great bedtime read when you get fed up of pelvic gyrations of Bipasha Basu.

And, yes, I get a feeling that Faulks, if he hones his skills further, which I am sure he will, can be a better writer than Fleming. Blasphemous it may sound, but it is the truth.

-- Sahara Time

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