Book Review – Solo

A James Bond Novel by William Boyd (Jonathan Cape) ISBN: 9780224097482

The estate of Ian Fleming has cleverly preserved the spirit of the James Bond’s literary license with integrity and class—they’ve shaken the iconic spy franchise but never stirred the hallowed basic formula. Over the years, they’ve invited high calibre writers to continue Fleming’s tradition, including Kingsley Amis (Colonel Sun) Sebastian Faulks (Devil May Care) and Jeffrey Deaver (Carte Blanche), to name a few.

William Boyd, the award-winning author of A Good Man in Africa and Brazzaville Beach, now has a stab at 007. With the great sense of irony and humour he displayed in his earlier work, like Stars and Bars, Boyd has the just right tone to pull of James Bond’s laconic charm.

When Bond meets a cool Scandinavian beauty in a jersey all-in-one cat suit with a gold zip from groin to neck, we know we’re getting the good stuff. The book will excite literary purists, rather than those who know the character from the Bond movies.

Anthony Ehlers

William Boyd has been nominated for the cornucopia of literary accolades and yet has never gained the publicity traction enjoyed by his contemporaries. That being said it is no mean feat to be invited to write a James Bond novel by Ian Fleming Publications Ltd so it’s possible that Boyd is well known by the right people.

What is expected from a Bond novel if not guns, girls, grit and great cars? All these elements are woven effortlessly together under an African sky as Bond is assigned to Zanzarim where he must end a civil war over oil. We have an action-packed front seat as Bond takes us on a road through the jungle, accompanied by the luscious Blessing Ogilvy-Grant, as they clumsily but successfully infiltrate the military stronghold of Dahum and close in on the leader of the Fakassa armies, Brigadier Solomon Adeka.

A series of events take Bond by surprise (not to mention the reader who is surprised that Bond is surprised), and takes matters into his own hands as he embarks on a solo mission to invoke retribution upon a chillingly crafted villain, Rhodesian mercenary, Kobus Breed. Needless to say Bond succeeds with a few loose ends for another esteemed author to pick up on should he wish in the next instalment of 007.

Though Solo’s Bond is ambitious, car-loving, food-appreciating and still a favourite of M’s, he does seem to lack a few of the Fleming tick boxes. Don’t expect any of Bond’s cold assessments of beautiful women or gruesome killers as he displays more emotion than usual. He seems more of a martyr for Her Majesty’s Secret Service than he does a free man protected by anonymity and a license to kill. There is also a sad lack of conversation-crushing one-liners and the novel is parched for the elixir of humour that a spy novel relies on for relief.

Justine Cullinan

Posted on: 19th November 2013