Rather than attempt re-inventing James Bond for the new century, Ian Fleming Publications engaged Faulks to essentially pick up the story where Fleming had left it, specifically just after The Man With the Golden Gun. In this new novel, set in the 1960s, James Bond is on extended leave, dealing with the mental and physical difficulties he encountered in Jamaica when he dealt with Scaramanga. He knows he is aging and fears he is also losing his edge; and that is when M calls with another assignment.
The rest of the story is as near to classic, literary James Bond as you can get without the original author. (Fleming passed away in 1964, just before Golden Gun was published.) Forget all the John Gardner books of the 1980s and 1990s; we are still in the Cold War here, and only those of us over 45 will recognize a lot of the references and period flavors. If you have only experienced James Bond in theaters or on DVD, this is NOT the book for you. Get the original Fleming novels and read those first. The films are all formulaic, while the books are each unique to themselves, even though they do follow a timeline of sorts.
That said, this work contains the expected megalomaniacal villain (complete with henchmen), exotic locations around the world, Felix Leiter, and a few nifty surprises. It is not terribly long, which I think is the main weakness. Fleming would often go slightly overboard with his descriptions of the golf, baccarat, blackjack, rummy, or other contests wherein Bond gets to know the inner workings of his adversary’s mind. Faulks uses the same techniques, but sort of rushes through them, and when the climax battle is reached, it almost seems as though the villain is a stranger, or showing a side we have not yet seen before. Not to mention the fact that after nearly 40 years, I was hoping for more of a time-consuming project that I could simply bask in for a week or so, rather than just a few days.
Rated: Mild. There are about 15 occurrences of mild language, about the same number of using the Lord’s name in vain, and two uses of more moderate language. Sexual references are a combination of implied and superficial.