Saturday, August 15, 2009

This agent always gets his ghoul

kw: book reviews, fantasy, mystery, spies

It has been nearly fifty years since I read through my mother's collection of James Bond books. I guess that is time enough to warrant various parodies and other takeoffs of Ian Fleming's superspy. Simon R. Green's favored genre is supernatural horror with mystery mixed in, so his latest series, as yet untitled, places erstwhile members of the Bond family in such a setting. The Spy Who Haunted Me is the third in this series, which has titles that echo Fleming's.

Green borrows other tropes, including the name of his protagonist, Edwin Drood, from Charles Dickens's last, unfinished novel. The earlier Drood is the victim of a rather inept murder plot. This Drood is a force to be reckoned with. His cover name, Shaman Bond, and references to his famous "uncle James", establish the other connections.

The setting: Six secret agents, including Drood/Bond, are enticed into a sort of scavenger hunt through five seemingly unsolved mysteries, including Loch Ness and Roswell, New Mexico. The prize? The secrets of the most famous Independent Agent of them all, Alexander King, a failing nonagenarian.

In the world of this series, humankind is at risk from all the fantastic dream creatures we've imagined over the millennia, and more, including 53 kinds of space aliens (until a 54th shows up). The Droods, a large clan either gifted with second Sight, or so endowed by courtesy of a torc, a special amulet and necklace they wear, take on the challenge of protecting humanity from all of them. Magic has its place alongside science, and its facile use is a requirement for the Droods and several other classes of protective agent, even some CIA operatives.

It is really hard to say more without giving away too much. Half a century ago, I found Ian Fleming too enamored of sadism and graphic sex; reading him was less enjoyable than it might have been. Simon Green has fewer flaws, and is a better writer, with some rather cool ideas, even if many of them are treated like a magician's rabbits, pulled one after another out of a hat with little logic to hold them together. Fun escape literature.

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