A James Bond Novel – With Original Material by Ian Fleming
Hello once again! It is time for me to review another audio tale. What should I focus on this time? Something popular and well-respected? Perhaps something fantastical? Or something entirely different? I think I will return to Mr James Bond for a change. However unlike my last 007 review for Thunderball it won’t be for one of Ian Fleming’s original stories but a modern Bond book of sorts.
Forever And A Day is one of two Bond books by Anthony Horowitz commissioned by the Ian Fleming estate, the other being Trigger Mortis. Horowitz has spent the last few years flexing his literary muscle in writing more books in his Alex Rider series (Think James Bond for teenagers), two Sherlock Holmes stories in the form of The House Of Silk and Moriarty as well as an original novel The Magpie Murders. Interestingly both Trigger Mortis and Forever And A Day have some original material by Fleming that was never originally used included inside the narrative.
The plot is as follows: It is the early 1950s. Bond’s predecessor as 007 lies dead in the French Riviera. It is time to see if James Bond can earn the 00 number. Who killed 007? Why did they do it? And what connects a French chemical company, a European subsidiary of a film manufacturer and the beautiful Madame Sixtine?
Forever And A Day is an official prequel to the first Bond story Casino Royale. James has much to learn in this book. He is not as knowledgable as he became during the original novels with some obvious errors being made and clear signs of general inexperience. On top of this he is generally younger and somewhat less cynical and unlikeable than he becomes later. Especially with regards to the ‘Bond Girl’ Madame Sixtine who makes an interesting contrast to this younger Bond.
I find the story quite an entertaining listen. Horowitz has worked hard to capture the mindset and general writing style of the Ian Fleming originals. With several long loving descriptions of exquisite meals, high rolling casinos, fast cars and beautiful women. Not forgetting of course the action packed spy-work and traditional Bond villainy that has to be included.
As a result of capturing the Fleming style, one thing that has to be noted is that Horowitz does make extensive use of language, terminology and attitudes that are very outdated by modern standards and most definitely not the correct thing to say nowadays. For some of my fellow listeners I am very much aware that this means this particular audio would definitely not be to their taste. However this story is set during – at the latest – 1953 due to a couple of lines in the book name dropping The Korean War as an ongoing and current event. So taking into account the ‘semi-realistic’ tone the book is going for, language such as the kind I’m discussing can potentially be acceptable depending on each person’s personal limits.
Strange as it may be to say I can somewhat sympathise with the villain of the piece.
Their plan is appropriately evil and cartoonish but their reasoning for why they are doing it is understandable especially from a perspective of history even if the actual plan is horrific.
The narration for this audiobook comes from an actor by the name of Matthew Goode known for – among other things – the part of Ozymandias in the film adaptation of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, and roles in The Imitation Game and Netflix’s The Crown. Goode has the perfect voice for James Bond. He completely encapsulates Bond’s general demeanour both while in serious spy mode and when needling the villain as well as when he is his traditional flirtatious and smooth self. To be honest I think he could play the part brilliantly in live action if he accepted it although that isn’t exactly likely. Goode’s Bond honestly feels like a less experienced version of Connery or Craig. I would be more than willing to listen to more books narrated by Goode – 007 related or otherwise. I can’t honestly think of any criticisms of his portrayal as any issues I have can be traced back to either the Fleming originals or Horowitz.
Said critique boils down to the fact that – as much as I love James Bond be it in book or film form – writing books directly inspired by the 1950s and 1960s originals means the book feels like a time capsule. If you accept this going in you are much more likely to enjoy it as I did. But if you come in expecting something more modern or perhaps something inspired by the Craig films as Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver was, you may well be disappointed. There was one particular scene which bothered me personally near the end of the book but it has an in story reason so although the description of said scene was something I had issues with it is justified and makes sense. There may be other issues with the story that I don’t personally notice but the story and narration are done very well.
In conclusion Forever And A Day is a very entertaining and enjoyable novel depending on your personal preferences. Bond feels very true to himself and the story overall is definitely on par with its inspirations. Horowitz has succeeded in his aim and I would not be surprised if a third book in the same vein was to be announced soon.
I do recommend the book for fans of Bond, the early Connery films and other similar period characters. As for my next review? You will hear from me again when I discuss…At Childhood’s End.