Solo (ISBN 978-0-099-59034-7, Vintage Books, 2013) is a “follow on” in the James Bond novels, this one written by William Boyd with his James Bond now aged 45, which fits in with Fleming’s Bond apparently. Boyd is a prolific writer with 17 books to his credit, but this is the first 007 one.
In this adventure Bond is sent by “M” to a small war-torn West African country in the throes of a civil war. His mission is to stop the war, and that is about as much as he was told.
The country, called Zanzarim, reminds me of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur, Nigeria and any of the rapidly going backwards African countries rolled into one. Author Boyd was born in Ghana and spent much of his life in West Africa, so his descriptions of the terrain are probably very accurate.
I got the impression that this 007 novel had been written with more than one eye hopeful of a screen offer, and undoubtedly the tale being set in darkest sub-Saharan Africa would be a good setting for any Bond movie.
Boyd’s Bond is definitely more of the Roger Moore style, suave, sophisticated and everything he requests is first class, rather than today’s Daniel Craig who is far more physical and bleeds a lot.
The plot speeds up towards the end of the book, with some surprising twists and turns, some occasioned by Bond letting his guard down and allowing himself to be identified.
However, it is not often that I will trawl for reviews on any book, but I finished this one with so much mixed feelings I began to wonder if it were just me. Interestingly, the international reviews were definitely mixed as well. When Boyd’s Bond shows disgust at dead bodies hanging from trees, I have to wonder – would Fleming’s Bond, who could kill many people and not bat an eyelid have been disgusted? After all, even in this story Bond was given carte blanche to exterminate enemies by the British Government itself, and he professes to being squeamish? Even more non-Bond for me was his tale at the beginning of the book where a German soldier was hit by a bullet while he was pointing his firearm at Bond, and afterwards Bond vomits. No, I’m sorry it doesn’t fit. Hearken back to many of the previous books/films and Bond had no compunction about killing Scaramanga (Man with the Golden Gun), Karl Stromberg (The Spy who loved me) or millionaire industrialist Max Zorin (A View to Kill).
I am no prude, but I got a little tired of the gratuitous sex that author Boyd has included in the book for the 45 year old Bond, who appears as an inveterate voyeur as well as being an aging Lothario. Boyd/Bond is obviously a breast man, rather than a leg man!
A romp in the Bond genre for B. 385, cheap enough, but for me there was not enough meat. Well crafted, believable rhetoric, but just not enough for me. You will have to put me down as one of the nay votes I’m afraid.