Basically this is a James Bond novel with Sebastian Faulks trying to write in the style of Ian Fleming. He doesn’t entirely fail. It’s as if he has visited the Ian Fleming style market stall and picked up all the right ingredients to make the perfect Bond novel but when he gets home to his kitchen it all goes wrong – he puts things in the wrong order in the wrong amounts and the resulting meal is a complete mess with parts of it undercooked and other bits burnt to a crisp and the flavours that should be subtle overpowering and the flavours that should be strong barely there at all.
The thing he does well throughout I think is that he successful captures the voice and character of James Bond, albeit a rather tired muted Bond – but it is still the Bond I know and love from the novels. It’s just that this genuine Bond is then plonked in a mucky world that is not Fleming’s world. Another thing Faulks does quite well is the action sequences, there are some truly thrilling moments (in fact a surfeit of them!)
I think what he really lacks is Fleming’s lightness of touch. When Fleming goes into minute detail it builds tension and helps the reader imagine the scene – when Faulks does it’s tedious and boring. When Fleming writes a sordid or horrible scene it makes you gasp, it’s so unexpected and shocking – when Faulks writes a scene of torture or sex you think ‘oh no not another one’ and start to feel quite sick! Perhaps the problem is that an author is never going to write well if they are trying to imitate someone else, they will only ever be a poor copy.
I was so disappointed with this book I don’t feel inclined to analyse it further or go into details about the plot. What I want to do it forget I ever picked it up! I would basically say if you’re familiar with the Bond novels don’t read this it’s a poor imitation and if you fancy returning to Bond’s world just reread some Fleming, if you don’t know the Bond novels don’t read this it’s rubbish – pick up an original Bond novel instead!