Friday, September 30, 2011
Incident 20. Thousands of lives will be lost. British interests at stake. Only one man has any chance of piecing together the clues in time - James Bond, returning in this novel set in the modern day. Like any good Bond adventure, he goes to a number of far flung countries in search of answers. Things start out in Serbia, where Bond is trying to stop a train derailment from unloading radioactive toxins into a city’s water supply – and starts to make his first connection to the cryptic message intelligence had received, by tracking one of the recipients, Nile Dunn. But when Dunn heads back to London, Bond has to face a completely different set of rules – he has no license to kill, nor act as anything other than a civilian while in his home country, something that MI-5 has no trouble reminding him of. He must learn to work with his counterpart Percy if he’s to have any hope of tracking his prey. As the days tick by, Bond finds himself whisked off to Dubai as well as South Africa, investigating an international Recycling company owned by a man who may just be so fascinated with death that he’s decided to try killing for himself. All the while, the Friday deadline for Incident 20 looms closer. This is not the Bond of the over-exaggerated movies, but much more aligned with Daniel Craig’s more recent portrayal. He uses some high-tech spy gadgets, but this is a spy novel after all. There are some memorable action sequences, but again these are not “dangling from the top of the Eiffel Tower” type scenes, but nighttime assassinations and covert operations. Bond goes deep undercover during a portion of the book, an aspect rarely used in recent memory despite the fact that it should be a major part of any spy novel. Don’t let all the modern technology and politics fool you, this is an old school James Bond novel, written in a kind of style very reminiscent of Ian Fleming. I’m a long-time fan, having seen all the movies, read half a dozen of the Fleming novels, and a few of the non-Fleming ones. These things can always be hit-or-miss (even Flemings own novels). In fact I listened to Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks a couple of years ago, and found it to dreadful, way too concerned with trying to be a “true” sequel to Fleming’s books, that the story just wasn’t any fun at all. Not a problem here. By not trying to craft a sequel, Deaver has actually done a better job at capturing the voice of the original author, the phrasing of sentences and the tone of the novel – there’s something about the pulpy way in which Fleming wrote (sparse descriptions, pointed text) that Deaver copies well. On top of that, Deaver introduces a number of new secondary characters to the Bond universe, the first memorable ones I can think of in recent history – and I don’t mean villains or bond-girls, but actual co-workers of 007. Philly Maidenstone and M’s Chief of Staff. Even Bond’s parents (who are dead) get more characterization than I can ever remember them having before. Between these new characters and the few dangling plot threads, I’ll anxiously await what I hope will be more Bond novels from Deaver. Since this is an audiobook review, I should talk about that aspect. While not as filled with special effects as a Warhammer audio drama, I was impressed with both the reader Toby Stephens (who is an actor that has appeared in Tomorrow Never Dies, as well as having read Bond books before) and with some of the sound effects that were used (making it sound like the voice is coming through a phone as appropriate). The reader was just excellent, even when attempting to do female voices, and it never once took me out of the experience. If you’re a fan of Bond, this is the best book I’ve read outside of an Ian Fleming original, and I’d more than recommend giving it a shot.
Posted by Jim Haley at 9/30/2011