Review: Carte Blanche by Jeffrey Deaver


Carte Blanche (James Bond)Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since Ian Fleming’s death in 1964 numerous writers have taken up the task of penning James Bond novels in an effort to keep the Fleming and Bond legacy alive and well. Some of these authors have had lengthy runs that have allowed them to frame out their version of the titular character with years of careful growth, however, others have had only a mere moment to make their mark on the famous character. Suffice it to say, some of these authors have been more successful than others, because of their respective opportunities.

In particular, I enjoyed John Gardner’s James Bond series, which primarily spanned the 1980’s, as well as Raymond Benson’s more-American take on the most-British of spies.
Recently, the popular fiction author, Jeffrey Deaver, was plucked from the ranks to write the latest 007 novel and on the whole I think he does the series justice. He does not take any chances, but he does hold true to the character and the universe which I think will appease fans but in the end deny them poignancy and relevance.

Deaver begins by taking Bond and bumping him into the twenty-first Century. By doing this, Deaver effectively alters the rules and the environment to create a new stomping ground for Bond to partake in, and because of this drastic change small facets of Bond’s backstory were changed but nothing that compromises the character. Besides these few details Deaver doesn’t really change anything else about the James Bond universe. He stays fairly grounded in the lore, and merely uses the revised setting to make a contemporary tale. As far as research is concerned it probably relieved some potential stress for Deaver as well. All things considering, it is an intelligent decision.

Interestingly enough the plot takes places over the course of a single week. It is quick and seamless. Each scene transitions smoothly to the next and it rarely has slow points because of its rapidity. Also, like most (if not all) James Bond plots, it trots the globe. The introduction takes place in Serbia and finally ends in Sudan with stops in Dubai and of course the United Kingdom.

The first several chapters follow James Bond as he thwarts an Irish hit man from derailing a train and polluting the Danube. This seemingly secluded incident then traces back to the villainous Severan Hydt and a much deeper plot that Bond must unravel before the death toll mounts. Hydt has an affinity for death. He enjoys it so much that he photographs it in order to get off on it privately. Severan is truly a villainous character that fits in to Bond’s wheelhouse of world dominators to a ‘T.’

The plot takes countless twists and turns and introduces various faces; some are familiar, while others are fresh takes on espionage archetypes. In the end and in traditional Jeffrey Deaver fashion, the conclusion is not so neatly sewn up as it may seem. There are numerous twists in the last fifty pages or so, but all-in-all, the good guys win the day and Bond has something left to ponder.

Carte Blanche” is not the best James Bond book ever written, nor is it the worst. It fires on all necessary cylinders to function accordingly, but it does not go above and beyond. It doesn’t push the boundaries, and unfortunately I think it will be easily forgettable a couple years down the line. With this in mind “Carte Blanche” receives three-and-a-half stars out of five.

“Carte Blanche” is not as in depth as a John le Carré or Joseph Kanon’s novels, but it gets the job done. It is a quick read, and the characters (whether new or not) seem familiar to the reader. Deaver pays homage to Fleming, while simultaneously holding true to his own form.

(SOURCE: Review: Carte Blanche by Jeffrey Deaver)

View all my reviews

“Skyfall”


“Skyfall” with Daniel Craig, Dame Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, and Rory Kinnear

Directed by Sam Mendes

Skyfall 01The latest installment of the Bond franchise marks the twenty-third in the series as well as the fiftieth anniversary of the very first Bond film, “Dr. No.”  Not only are the stakes and expectations high, but Daniel Craig is still relatively new to the character and has only just surpassed Timothy Dalton’s two-time efforts with the newly released “Skyfall.”  Craig has some big shoes to fill.  Does he hit the mark…does he hop and surpass it?

Yes, with resounding success, and the resultant is “Skyfall” being the best James Bond film to date.

It opens very traditionally with the titular hero chasing down a wanted criminal with the aid of another MI6 field operative.  Bond pursues the escapee in a superb chase scene that spans terra-cotta roof tiles and narrow ledges; the two adversaries ride motorcycles through crowded markets and buildings in a lengthy scene that dwarfs the introductory ‘race’ scenes in “Quantum of Solace.”

However, besides the aforementioned Bond introduction the rest of the film completely breaks convention, but that is what makes “Skyfall” the best James Bond film.

Bond does not use the traditional lines or the quick quips that we have all come to expect.  Instead the writers aimed to pay homage to the franchise by referencing to its predecessors.  With a bit of dialogue, Bond commands his fellow operative, Eve, to remove her hand from her ear in a direct reference to Craig’s debut, “Casino Royale.”  In a similar fashion, the new Q makes a jab to the absurdness of an exploding pen, which was of course used in Pierce Brosnan’s “Goldeneye.”  These are just but a couple references amidst a myriad.  There are several films that are referred to directly by name, but being used in dialogue throughout the film.  Even his trademark, “I like my Martini shaken not stirred,” is switched out for a brief scene depicting Bond telling the bartender that she made his drink “perfectly.”  The drink is still the same Martini, and the bartender obviously shook the drink rather than stirring it, but it is all handled within the scene rather than passing it off to Bond in dialogue.

But, besides this shattering of shackles and subsequent retelling of a classic character “Skyfall” aims higher.  It ponders questions of loyalty and global warfare, but through the lenses of cold war throwbacks.  Are individuals like M (Dame Judi Dench) and Bond meant to exist in a constantly shifting realm?  Are there any shadows left to skulk in?  It turns out there is.

For the first time “Skyfall” divulges some of M and Bond’s backstory.  Rather, than keeping with this shallow persona of what a secret agent should or should not be “Skyfall” rounds them out by adding substance and history to them.  It essentially serves as the conclusion to an ad hoc trilogy of films.  In “Casino Royale” we see James Bond become a 007 and flounder a bit as a new agent.  He is talented, but new to the trade–arrogant and hotheaded.  In “Quantum of Solace” the plot solely revolves around his want for revenge.  He possesses the skills and has been dealt the sorrow of experience, but in “Skyfall” we get to see what James Bond might look like if he lost his ‘oomph’ for the game.  It is the perfect end cap to the overarching plot.

Javier BardemAnd, not only does the plot dig deeper than ever, the acting is top-notch.  Silva (Javier Bardem) is the best Bond villain since Stravos Blofeld.  He is crazy and demented on a whole level on his own.  He is not about toppling the Crown or reaping the rewards from some nefarious plots; he is only bent on revenge.  It is personal for him, and not in the way that 006 (Sean Bean) grappled with 007 in “Goldeneye,” but in the way that an asylum patient stews over forgotten events by blaming the voices.

Although, Desmond Llewelyn is a legend and played Q with a certain sort of finesse that will never be matched, Ben Whishaw plays the part for modern audiences. He represents the modern era–forethought, rather than odd ingenuity.

Exploding pens?  No.  Radios.  Yes.

Ralph Fiennes plays his part wonderfully.  He fits into the Bond-a-verse with ease, and I am excited to see how his part expands into the future.

Overall, the film is exquisitely crafted.  It pays homage to its roots, but firmly moves forward.  It dismisses convention, and dives into the causation of Bond not Bond’s causalities.  I cannot recommend this film enough–even non-Bond fans will be surprised…who knows maybe you’ll become a fan?

Here is a trailer for “Skyfall” by Sony Pictures:

“Skyfall” poster from AllPosters.com


I am a huge James Bond, and recently I had the pleasure of seeing “Skyfall” in theaters with my longtime girlfriend, Celeste Sievers.  I haven’t been to the theaters to see a Bond film with her, so for me it was a sort of silly bonding moment–nevertheless I was ecstatic!  As far as the reviews are concerned–they are correct.  “Skyfall” is the best James Bond film to date, and I hope to have a corroborating review within the fortnight.

In honor of a tradition started by my lovely parents, I have continued onward with my collection of James Bond posters.  Beginning with Daniel Craig‘s run at “Casino Royale” I have framed the past two movie posters, which are up in my apartment along a wall.  To keep with this, I recently ordered my “Skyfall” poster (featured left), and I hope to have a picture up showing the three framed side-by-side as soon as possible.

If you haven’t checked out Allposters.com I would highly recommend you do so.  They sell a spectacular range of prints for very reasonable prices–along with framing services.  Also, every time I have ordered a poster from them there has always been a discount offered at checkout, whether it be free (or discounted) shipping or discounted posters there was always a promotional code available.  And, in this instance, it fit my James Bond tradition incredibly perfectly.

Cheers, to all the James Bond-o-philes and readers, and have a happy Thanksgiving if I don’t post before then!

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