Monday, July 07, 2008

Devil May Suck

With all the hype about Ian Fleming’s 100th birthday, and Sebastian Faulks’ new Bond novel, Devil May Care, which I showcased in one of screenwriting news articles, I thought I’d pick up a copy.

It failed to live up to my 100-page rule, that is, if a writer can’t get his act together by page 100, I put the novel down. This stab at Bond was, frankly, amateurish at best and brings up an important point, I believe, about protagonists, one of my biggest pet peeves.

One of the worst signs of amateurish writing is when you have a protag that coasts through the story without lifting one finger, without doing one ounce of work, without making one solitary decision, and over the course of 3 acts has EVERYTHING handed to him/her on a silver flippin’ platter. If your protag is, say, a detective, he must do detective work. If your protag is say, I don’t know, A SPY, he should do some SPYING and figure things about for himself. And he should go through hell!

What did we have? Bond on a sabbatical at first trying to decide if he wants to retire. He decides he will. M calls him to return immediately for an important mission, which he has no choice but to accept. So what was the point? It was a setup to a conflict that never happened. As soon as Bond arrives at the appropriate location, a sexy woman by the name of Scarlett is OH-SO-CONVENIENTLY conveniently sitting in his hotel room and OH-SO-CONVENIENTLY sets up a tennis match with the villain, Julius Gorner. They go to this exclusive club. She makes ALL the arrangements for him. He plays tennis, beats him, and then he’s off to have drinks with Scarlett where she OH-SO-CONVENIENTLY explains to Bond Gorner’s entire backstory. Since when does James Bond need to be hand-held through a story? Are you kidding me?

Shouldn’t Bond – JAMES BOND – be DOING something, like, I don’t know, figuring this out for himself? Or establishing a relationship with Gorner over tennis? Try to get information out of him? Couldn’t they at the least make it to the club, and Bond figures out a way to get a match with Gorner, perhaps even engaging Gorner himself and talking his way into a match, thereby, establishing a combative relationship?


The most basic element of writing - a detective should detect. A doctor should doctor people. A spy should, well, SPY. They should be DOING THEIR JOBS, which is what pushes the story forward.


Joshua James said...

It's a damn shame if one has a license to kill and then doesn't kill the maximum allowed . . . that's like hitting the all-you-can-eat buffet, only taking a small salad and completely ignoring the pudding, you know what I'm saying?

Killers KILL. Heh-heh.

Remind me to tell you about my novel, sometime. You'd totally dig it.

Mark said...

A 100-page rule actually seems a bit generous. My own rule is only 50 pages. If pages 1-50 are dismal it's a rare book that will redeem itself, or give a reason to hope it will, on pages 50-100.

By the same token, I don't usually dismiss a book based on one review, but the flaws you point out are fatal to good storytelling.

James Patrick Joyce said...

It was a setup to a conflict that never happened

If you stopped at page 100, you can't make such statements. You don't know what set-ups were played out.

I haven't read the book, but trust that your comments are valid, for the first 100 pages. And that's still a condemnation.

But some comments are only valid if one has read the entire work.

Mystery Man said...

Josh - Yes! Killers SHOULD kill! Hehehe... Looking forward to it.

Mark - Thanks, man. It was a chore just to GET to page 100. I know everyone hates a critic, but I always feel like flaws, especially fatal ones, are learning opportunities for me. I always get more out of a failure than a success.

James - Hehehe... See? Unlike other popular screenwriters whose readers are suck-ups and sycophants, MY readers keep me honest! I agree. I won't argue those points.


Danny said...

I was pumped when I first heard about this book. Then the terrible reviews came out, and I stayed away. What a disappointment.

Anonymous said...

I too recently read this book thinking it was the next Bond movie and was horrified. It was dreadful and a real chore to get through. I never did understand why it was set in the past except for the Ekanoplan. It seemed to me the author read about this amazing machine and came about a lame way of using it with Bond along for the ride.
Boy was I relieved when I saw the trailer for the new Bond film which looks real good. I think a rogue Bond is an interesting Bond.

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