Tuesday, June 17, 2014


What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Solo (Jonathan Cape, 2013).

I have to say that I don't quite understand the Ian Fleming estate's strategy with James Bond novels. Over the last six years, there have been three new ones, written by three authors, which are set in entirely different times and don't have anything to do with each other. It's almost like the way Toho keeps making Godzilla movies which pretend the only other Godzilla movie that ever happened was the very first one, or the way the Rolling Stones play three new songs and all the old, old hits, but studiously avoid playing any songs that were written after 1982.

This time out, William Boyd was selected to write a Bond book, and Solo is set in 1969. Bond, now 45, is sent to the west African nation of Zanzarim, where a rebel leader, Solomon Adeka, is carrying out a brutal civil war. Adeka is getting assistance from a billionaire who's running guns into the country and from a handful of mercenaries. Strangely, the arms and military supplies are coming in on airplanes bearing the logo of the charity that's supposed to helping the displaced children of the region.

Bond doesn't have to assassinate Adeka; he is in the final stages of terminal cancer when he finally makes it behind the lines under cover as a journalist and dies soon after he arrives, letting the civil war crumble. But he's betrayed all the same and, recuperating in Scotland, he concludes that he's going to have to follow the money back to America to find out who has hijacked the charity and track down that "philanthropist" without MI6 support...

It's a really fun book. I think that Boyd captured James Bond very well, and placed him in a believable world with a very unusual and interesting mission. He brought out Bond's brutality better than some writers wish to acknowledge, with one stunning example near the climax really surprising me. I was very satisfied with it, but I'm also left very curious about what would be happening next to the modern day Bond seen in 2011's Carte Blanche by Jeffrey Deaver. Why are we skipping around? What next, Fleming Estate? A Bond-at-Studio-54 novel by another new author for the 2015 title? Recommended.

No comments: