SOLO by William Boyd - Reviews & Feedback

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  • edited August 2014 Posts: 4,622
    Villiers53 wrote: »
    Of course, to have any relevance at all, the books have to evoke Fleming but I would humbly suggest that 'Colonel Sun' is way more than a pastiche. Personally I think that it evolved the saga in a way that Fleming himself may have done had he lived. Furthermore, I think that as a novel it is up there with FRWL, OHMSS & Moonraker.
    Just in the same way that Horowitz's Holmes novel is way more than a Conan Doyle pastiche.
    We simply need the correct author.
    @Dragonpol pushes Horowitz like crazy. That could be a good idea although I'd prefer the certainty of Higson. Another qualitative flop will set the reputation of the Bond literary franchise back to Benson levels.
    Funny, we all have different views. I've read every continuation novel there is and Colonel Sun is the one I like least. I find it plods. The villain I found to be pathetic - a sicko sadist who later suddenly has regrets. At least Bond blew him away real good.
    The only continuation novel that I consider a superior work, and very much in the Fleming style is the Pearson book. I love that book! Not only a great read, but the perfect compliment to the Fleming ouevre. I notice Pearson blithley refrained from any Colonel Sun reference, at least I think he did.
    As for the others, Gardner and Benson both provided enjoyable regular reads. I only have little quibbles with them. Nothing serious. Benson - maybe a bit of a fanboy, with his hamfisted efforts to link with Fleming characters decades later.
    Higson and MP Diaries are both solid, although I could have done without Young Bond entirely.
    The last 3 celebrity author efforts I think are the worst written. Main problem I think is that none of the authors are actual Bondphiles, so they all impose their own attitudes and style etc.
    Colonel Sun is written well enough. Its just not a story that I find to be very interesting. I remember when I first read it, as an adolescent, I thought, wow Bond is sure getting lots of extra sex with this Greek chick with the un-Bond girl name. More than Fleming ever gave him. So there is that.
    My 13-year-old self was impressed. But years later, as an adult, I found the book still dragged. The villain was still pathetic. The girl was still hot, but also nuts. Way too much Marxist lecturing at the end. Best parts of the book though, were when Bond finally took down the Colonel and when he sagely acknowleged the girl was better left to go her own way.
    I would have dumped her, just so I wouldn't have to listen to her.
    Yes I know she'd be crushed, ;) but you got to draw the line somewhere with the crazy talk.


  • Posts: 802
    Villiers53 wrote: »
    A latecomer to the party but I just finished my first reading of Solo. Having spent a couple of months going through the Gardner and Benson crop (with Moonraker slotted here and there) I come out of Solo slightly dampened. Don't quite know what to make of it. Personally I preferred it to the previous two outings but sadly lacking in some quarters. The African adventure and Bond's preoccupation with the actress and...all the rest.
    Hopefully Bond will return. Somehow. [/quote

    @SirHilaryBrayOBE, have you read 'Colonel Son'?

    Yes I have. A couple of times, last time was...a few months ago I think. Pretty much read all things Bond now. Well, except Young Bond/Moneypenny Diaries.

    @SirHilaryBrayOBE
    Go to 'The Moneypenny Diaries' immediately. They are just amazing. I think many male Bond fans steer clear of them because they are written by a female and they perceive them as 'chick lit'.
    Don't be perceived. They are truly a creative and innovative spin off that will have any Bondist burning the mid night oil.
    Don't miss them!
  • SirHilaryBrayOBESirHilaryBrayOBE Chez Hilly, Portsmouth
    Posts: 66
    Villiers53 wrote: »
    Villiers53 wrote: »
    A latecomer to the party but I just finished my first reading of Solo. Having spent a couple of months going through the Gardner and Benson crop (with Moonraker slotted here and there) I come out of Solo slightly dampened. Don't quite know what to make of it. Personally I preferred it to the previous two outings but sadly lacking in some quarters. The African adventure and Bond's preoccupation with the actress and...all the rest.
    Hopefully Bond will return. Somehow. [/quote

    @SirHilaryBrayOBE, have you read 'Colonel Son'?

    Yes I have. A couple of times, last time was...a few months ago I think. Pretty much read all things Bond now. Well, except Young Bond/Moneypenny Diaries.

    @SirHilaryBrayOBE
    Go to 'The Moneypenny Diaries' immediately. They are just amazing. I think many male Bond fans steer clear of them because they are written by a female and they perceive them as 'chick lit'.
    Don't be perceived. They are truly a creative and innovative spin off that will have any Bondist burning the mid night oil.
    Don't miss them!

    I have aimed to read the Diaries for a while. Just for curiosity's sake.

    Bad or not, were I ever to write a Bond novel I don't think I'd match what has come before. Though what @timmer has said about Benson's hamfisted attempts of bringing IF's characters back (and so forth) rings true. Draco hurt in Doubleshot for various reasons.

    Off to find these diaries, wherever they be.
  • edited August 2014 Posts: 2,544
    Villiers53 wrote: »
    Given that Fleming's Bond is a period piece, the question of what constitutes 'PC' has to be seen within the context of the time.
    Smoking, daily drinking and discreet romantic assignations were not seen as incorrect in polite society. Expressing racist and or homophobic tendencies would also not be considered necessarily incorrect. Conversely, poor manners, vulgar language used out of context and being incorrectly dressed almost certainly would.
    How these traits should be expressed in continuation novels when many new readers may not have experienced the originals is a key issue.
    Boyd's approach in his somewhat shambolic effort seems to have been to over emphasise the smoking and drinking to a ridiculous extent as part of an effort to give the character more depth and turn him into a gritty, tortured spy. Unfortunately the absence of a good, thrilling plot rendered Bond's persona somewhat irrelevant.Going forward it's a no brainer to suggest that modern readers have no appetite for a hero with racist or homophobic tendencies albeit, I would argue that Bond himself never expressed such in the original novels, it was more the language of the time that gave rise to that interpretation.
    With regards to the smoking, drinking and womanising - it's more about proportionality than anything else and the complete preoccupation should be to find a great author that can deliver a great plot.
    Horowitz did it for Holmes with "House Of Silk" and succeeded in tackling one of the great issues of our times en route. Hopefully somebody will do the same for poor old 007.

    I agree. Maybe Bond consumed such nasty things in abundance due to the fact that he was so bored with the whole affair. ;)

    SOLO is by no means a fantastic book what with the absence of any real plot but there were a number of scenes (or whatever the word for the literary equivalent is) that I found entertaining with passages that evoked that Fleming feel. In terms of the latter, this is something that Faulks and Deaver were not able to achieve. As for Benson, occasionally he would partly achieve this. The problem with Benson is that he just couldn't write.

    If Boyd hadn't have gone so overboard with the drinking and smoking, and crafted a good, solid plot then I feel it would have been a Bond book that I would have been proud to say is part of the literary Bond canon.

    Not that he will, but I wouldn't be opposed to Boyd having another go if he were to promise that he'd scribe a proper Bondsque plot this time around.
  • Posts: 7,645
    I found the role Boyd gave Bond in this book namely that of defender not of the realm but cooperate interest not well worked out, and as it would have perhaps have annoyed Bonds sensibilities which we get a wee bit of at the end. In a sense this latest 007 outing is Bond less as a defender but more as a representative of the interests of the great English empire that is getting smaller by the year. It would perhaps be great reading but Boyd sadly never made it that far with this novel. Even if his complaints of the likes of 007 and what they represent in this novel shines clearly through in the novel which is understandable if you consider the background of Mr Boyd and his love for the continent which has indeed been mishandled in the beginning, middle and end of the colonization.
  • Posts: 4,622
    The Boyd book was somewhat readable, passable as a Bond yarn, I guess. It did manage to keep me turning the pages, but when all was said and done, it left a rather meh feeling - one of almost helplessness - ie can't we get a writer that might deliver something really readable.
    Bring on the new Young Bond. We endure.
  • Posts: 2,544
    "The only continuation novel that I consider a superior work, and very much in the Fleming style is the Pearson book. I love that book! Not only a great read, but the perfect compliment to the Fleming oeuvre."

    @timmer I agree whole heartedly.
  • edited August 2014 Posts: 4,622
    Bounine wrote: »
    "The only continuation novel that I consider a superior work, and very much in the Fleming style is the Pearson book. I love that book! Not only a great read, but the perfect compliment to the Fleming oeuvre."

    @timmer I agree whole heartedly.

    Which is why I kind of think, that the Fleming continuation novels stopped with him. He sort of tied the Bond saga all up. We learned Bond's origins, more of his history, and of exploits post TMWTGG.
    And even though Pearson finished with Bond rushing off to Australia to deal with the Bunt threat, he still pretty much had him retired, even if it was Mi6 that was trying to transition him out of field work, unless they really needed him for something that required his talents and experience, such as dealing with Fraulein Bunt.

    The Pearson book seems to have been lost to posterity I think. But personally I go with Pearson's version of Young Bond. Pearson's story came first, long before Higson, and is firmly rooted in what Fleming had served up.

    Higson IMO is writing an alternative pre-Fleming timeline. I'll stick with what Pearson published in 1973.
    IFP really should have insisted that Higson make his YB consistent with the Pearson narrative. After all Glidrose also commissioned Pearson.
    How tough would that have been, really?
  • Posts: 532
    About a third of the way in and not the least bit enthralled. Passing Bond around from author to author like a plate of hors de oeuvres is not boding well for the series.
  • edited August 2014 Posts: 2,544
    @timmer

    Higson IMO is writing an alternative pre-Fleming timeline. I'll stick with what Pearson published in 1973.
    IFP really should have insisted that Higson make his YB consistent with the Pearson narrative. After all Glidrose also commissioned Pearson.
    How tough would that have been, really?"


    Who knows how insistent they were but what we do know is that Higson was more than insistent on not reading Pearson's book which I felt was disappointing. He could have weaved Bond's adventures around Pearson's chronicles.

    For me, the real biography is what Pearson wrote.
  • Posts: 2,544
    CrabKey wrote: »
    About a third of the way in and not the least bit enthralled. Passing Bond around from author to author like a plate of hors de oeuvres is not boding well for the series.

    I very much agree. It's silly, and I'd even go so far as to say, disrespectful to Fleming's creation as each author has his own interpretations of the character. Moreover, it just means that there's too much inconsistency. Gardner updated Bond's personality subtly for the 80's, and succeeded, but the difference was that he wrote 14 books, so Bond's personality didn't change with every book.
  • Posts: 802

    Bounine wrote: »
    CrabKey wrote: »
    About a third of the way in and not the least bit enthralled. Passing Bond around from author to author like a plate of hors de oeuvres is not boding well for the series.

    I very much agree. It's silly, and I'd even go so far as to say, disrespectful to Fleming's creation as each author has his own interpretations of the character. Moreover, it just means that there's too much inconsistency. Gardner updated Bond's personality subtly for the 80's, and succeeded, but the difference was that he wrote 14 books, so Bond's personality didn't change with every book.

    It is certainly a bag of nuts and bolts. I'd love to know the sales numbers associated with the celebrity trilogy disaster.
    My bet would be Faulks was huge due to the novelty factor - associating a literary name with the franchise and coinciding the launch with Fleming's centinarary.
    Deaver good but well below Faulks.
    Boyd disappointing.
    Of course, IFP have trousered thousands for little effort so probably don't care. They certainly don't display the same passion for the literary franchise that the Brocoli family have for the movies and seem to have a very cavalier approach to things.
    Personally, I'm not so hung up about the lack of continuity as I am with the quality.
    On balance, I believe that period settings offer more possibilities for the development of the key ingredients that made the originals so remarkable. The march of technology has rendered espionage quite a dry business and successful modern practitioners tend to focus on moral ambiguity rather than good versus evil but if Silva can make Allon relevant in this day and age, I'm sure somebody should do the same for Bond.
    For me, the absolute imperative remains to find the right author and this will mean IFP has to exercise more control. I'm not a huge fan of all the Bond movies (exception FRWL & SF) but it's clear that Brocoli controls the project and if they don't like the script outline it doesn't get done.
    There is no reason for the books to be any different. These authors are not dealing with their own creation.

  • edited August 2014 Posts: 2,544
    @Villiers53

    "There is no reason for the books to be any different. These authors are not dealing with their own creation."

    There is no reason but it happens unfortunately. Look at Deaver, he turned the character into someone who was barely recognisable. Criminal.

    Eon have improved the quality of their films as of late but they're not or at least weren't all heavenly angels. Look at what they let Tamahori do to DAD coupled with the terrible dialogue and action over kill in the Brosnan era.
  • Posts: 802
    Bounine wrote: »
    @Villiers53

    "There is no reason for the books to be any different. These authors are not dealing with their own creation."

    There is no reason but it happens unfortunately. Look at Deaver, he turned the character into someone who was barely recognisable. Criminal.

    Eon have improved the quality of their films as of late but they're not or at least weren't all heavenly angels. Look at what they let Tamahori do to DAD coupled with the terrible dialogue and action over kill in the Brosnan era.

    I couldn't agree more. My point about the movies was that they had a perspective and were consistent. Even when they were consistently bad. I've never particularly liked the direction of the movies. Personally I loved FRWL, thought OHMSS was OK and quite liked Skyfall (more for the direction and the technical aspects than for Craig as Bond). That said, I'd never doubt eon's passion.
    I do however doubt IFP's passion and intentions. They've gone for a fast buck and the outcome is a triumph of novelty over substance.
    I remain convinced that it would be entirely possible to get a quality writer, get he or she to present a plot outline and then work with them throughout the process. The objective being not to stifle their creativity but rather to ensure that they deliver on their promise.
    I know I sound like a broken record but Horowitz's Holmes novel is a master class in how to handle an iconic character.
  • edited August 2014 Posts: 2,544
    Villiers53 wrote: »
    Bounine wrote: »
    @Villiers53

    "There is no reason for the books to be any different. These authors are not dealing with their own creation."

    There is no reason but it happens unfortunately. Look at Deaver, he turned the character into someone who was barely recognisable. Criminal.

    Eon have improved the quality of their films as of late but they're not or at least weren't all heavenly angels. Look at what they let Tamahori do to DAD coupled with the terrible dialogue and action over kill in the Brosnan era.

    I couldn't agree more. My point about the movies was that they had a perspective and were consistent. Even when they were consistently bad. I've never particularly liked the direction of the movies. Personally I loved FRWL, thought OHMSS was OK and quite liked Skyfall (more for the direction and the technical aspects than for Craig as Bond). That said, I'd never doubt eon's passion.
    I do however doubt IFP's passion and intentions. They've gone for a fast buck and the outcome is a triumph of novelty over substance.
    I remain convinced that it would be entirely possible to get a quality writer, get he or she to present a plot outline and then work with them throughout the process. The objective being not to stifle their creativity but rather to ensure that they deliver on their promise.
    I know I sound like a broken record but Horowitz's Holmes novel is a master class in how to handle an iconic character.

    If IFP go for another celebrity author for adult Bond then I will have arrived at the unfortunate conclusion that they are only interested in the money and have no interest in being loyal to Fleming's wonderful creation and releasing books that are of a high quality which don't demean our favourite spy, the latter of which has been happening. Very sad. We've been getting one crappy read after another and out of all the fictional heroes it could have happened to, it had to happen to Bond!

    Certainly they could recruit a talented, suitable writer for Bond and have this author sign a 5 book contract, but will they? Or are they merely interested in continuing to use Bond like he's some generic brand of peas?
  • Posts: 68
    With all the bad reviews read here, I hesitated a long time before finally buying Solo and reading it. I expected it to be so bad that in the end I found it a good surprise.

    Some of you are, I think, a bit too harsh with it. It certainly is by far the best of the last three continuation novels we've had these last years.

    Yes, the plot isn't very imaginative and yes Bond's infatuation with the actress is a bit astonishing but for the rest, I enjoyed the african part and the fact that Bond was really "investigating" ...
  • Posts: 802
    Tounet77 wrote: »

    Some of you are, I think, a bit too harsh with it. It certainly is by far the best of the last three continuation novels we've had these last years.

    I think it depends on your perspective.
    As somebody who read Fleming in the '60s and remember his position as one of the preeminent thriller writers of his time, I compare and review the continuation authors yes, to a certain extent in comparison to the originals but, mostly in comparison with other thrillers that I have read from contemporary authors because if literary Bond is to have any relevance it has to compete with today's offerings.
    However, within both contexts I judge the celebrity trilogy to be dire. Sorry but they are all just bad books. Give me Le Carre, Furst, Silva,Cumming, or Lawton any day of the week. This is the problem and also the acid test for any Bond novel. The franchise can't live on nostalgia.
  • edited August 2014 Posts: 4,622
    Villiers53 wrote: »
    I compare and review the continuation authors yes, to a certain extent in comparison to the originals but, mostly in comparison with other thrillers that I have read from contemporary authors because if literary Bond is to have any relevance it has to compete with today's offerings.
    However, within both contexts I judge the celebrity trilogy to be dire. Sorry but they are all just bad books. Give me Le Carre, Furst, Silva,Cumming, or Lawton any day of the week. This is the problem and also the acid test for any Bond novel. The franchise can't live on nostalgia.

    Deft observation there @villiers. So you would consider Le Carre, Furst ...etc the worthy thriller writers of today? I ask as I might just read some of them, although I have read both Le Carre and Silva.
  • Posts: 532
    Hopefully SOLO will be Boyd's solo effort at writing a Bond novel. Not much here felt like a Bond novel. Oh sure, he threw in things here and there to remind readers he'd read all of Fleming's novels, but none of it felt genuine. At times Bond seemed a little silly--really, breaking and entering? M must now stand for Maudlin. Old school chum whose only purpose in the story seems to be for a convenient diversion. I had a difficult time getting into the story and staying with it. Only after Bond was out of Africa did the story pick up, but even then it all seemed to fizzle out. SPOILER ALERT: The final pages appear to signal sequel, but I'm hoping those impressions in the garden belong to Felix.

  • Posts: 802
    CrabKey wrote: »
    SPOILER ALERT[/b]: The final pages appear to signal sequel, but I'm hoping those impressions in the garden belong to Felix.

    Mon Dieu!
    @CrabKey, I didn't think of that. Pray God you'r wrong - I couldn't take another of these stinkers!

  • Mi6LisbonBranchMi6LisbonBranch Lisbon, Portugal
    Posts: 243
    I finished reading last night SOLO and here is my (brief) review.

    Overall I enjoyed reading this novel a lot and thought it was a nice espionage thriller that, especially in the first half (the one set in Zanzarin) didn’t feel much “Bondian” though.
    I did enjoy a lot the final act (Bond’s revenge plan and trip to the USA), i think it is well written, the plot seems consistent and plausible, some of the characters are “strong” and well-constructed (ex: Kobus Breed, Blessing) and I particularly liked the ending.
    In fact I found ironic that the ending is the exact contradiction to the “supposed” SPECTRE movie ending.
    While in the movie JB apparently is leaving Mi6 to start a life with Madeleine here he leaves the girl, he got in love with, to keep her safe and stays committed to his job, which is his life!
    There are some interesting references to the James Bond character from the novels (the king’s road apartment, the former college student friends, his time during WW2, Felix Leiter..) and one or two moments we can identify with as being James Bond novel.
    But otherwise it is just a very fast paced, suspenseful, intriguing “African war zone” thriller novel.
  • Posts: 2,544
    I finished reading last night SOLO and here is my (brief) review.

    Overall I enjoyed reading this novel a lot and thought it was a nice espionage thriller that, especially in the first half (the one set in Zanzarin) didn’t feel much “Bondian” though.
    I did enjoy a lot the final act (Bond’s revenge plan and trip to the USA), i think it is well written, the plot seems consistent and plausible, some of the characters are “strong” and well-constructed (ex: Kobus Breed, Blessing) and I particularly liked the ending.
    In fact I found ironic that the ending is the exact contradiction to the “supposed” SPECTRE movie ending.
    While in the movie JB apparently is leaving Mi6 to start a life with Madeleine here he leaves the girl, he got in love with, to keep her safe and stays committed to his job, which is his life!
    There are some interesting references to the James Bond character from the novels (the king’s road apartment, the former college student friends, his time during WW2, Felix Leiter..) and one or two moments we can identify with as being James Bond novel.
    But otherwise it is just a very fast paced, suspenseful, intriguing “African war zone” thriller novel.

    I know you put part of this in spoilers but the fact that you mentioned that the ending contradicts the supposed ending of SPECTRE fills me with some ideas. Please don't mention anything even remotely related to SPECTRE on these literary threads. I don't want the movie to be ruined for myself.

  • Mi6LisbonBranchMi6LisbonBranch Lisbon, Portugal
    Posts: 243
    Bounine wrote: »
    I finished reading last night SOLO and here is my (brief) review.

    Overall I enjoyed reading this novel a lot and thought it was a nice espionage thriller that, especially in the first half (the one set in Zanzarin) didn’t feel much “Bondian” though.
    I did enjoy a lot the final act (Bond’s revenge plan and trip to the USA), i think it is well written, the plot seems consistent and plausible, some of the characters are “strong” and well-constructed (ex: Kobus Breed, Blessing) and I particularly liked the ending.
    In fact I found ironic that the ending is the exact contradiction to the “supposed” SPECTRE movie ending.
    While in the movie JB apparently is leaving Mi6 to start a life with Madeleine here he leaves the girl, he got in love with, to keep her safe and stays committed to his job, which is his life!
    There are some interesting references to the James Bond character from the novels (the king’s road apartment, the former college student friends, his time during WW2, Felix Leiter..) and one or two moments we can identify with as being James Bond novel.
    But otherwise it is just a very fast paced, suspenseful, intriguing “African war zone” thriller novel.

    I know you put part of this in spoilers but the fact that you mentioned that the ending contradicts the supposed ending of SPECTRE fills me with some ideas. Please don't mention anything even remotely related to SPECTRE on these literary threads. I don't want the movie to be ruined for myself.

    Yes, sorry for that. After i posted the comment i thought about what you said. Wont do it again. cheers
  • 4EverBonded4EverBonded Riding a white swan to Matera
    edited December 2014 Posts: 12,409
    delete
  • As this thread has evolved, I have the feeling that Solo and perhaps the other celebrity author offerings may have been better received by lovers of the movies and casual/infrequent readers than by habitual thriller readers?
    If Solo lovers would like to comment it would be very interesting.
    Maybe I'm just not the audience?
  • Solo was a fun read. that's all I ask for.
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy My Secret Lair
    Posts: 13,384
    I didn't like it at all. :(
  • edited December 2014 Posts: 2,544
    Villiers53 wrote: »
    As this thread has evolved, I have the feeling that Solo and perhaps the other celebrity author offerings may have been better received by lovers of the movies and casual/infrequent readers than by habitual thriller readers?
    If Solo lovers would like to comment it would be very interesting.
    Maybe I'm just not the audience?

    I much prefer the Bond books to the films and enjoy reading thrillers in general. In terms of SOLO, I just think it has some fun Bondian segments but the book as a whole, is lacklustre, with no real plot. Obviously I could never say that I am a SOLO lover so maybe I shouldn't have even made this post. :)

    My parents are regular thriller readers like me and they didn't think SOLO was bad but they far from raved about it either, not unlike me. It just has some enjoyable, interesting extracts but overall isn't a good book.

  • Bounine wrote: »
    Villiers53 wrote: »
    As this thread has evolved, I have the feeling that Solo and perhaps the other celebrity author offerings may have been better received by lovers of the movies and casual/infrequent readers than by habitual thriller readers?
    If Solo lovers would like to comment it would be very interesting.
    Maybe I'm just not the audience?

    I much prefer the Bond books to the films and enjoy reading thrillers in general. In terms of SOLO, I just think it has some fun Bondian segments but the book as a whole, is lacklustre, with no real plot. Obviously I could never say that I am a SOLO lover so maybe I shouldn't have even made this post. :)

    My parents are regular thriller readers like me and they didn't think SOLO was bad but they far from raved about it either, not unlike me. It just has some enjoyable, interesting extracts but overall isn't a good book.
    I can understand how people could say that they liked "segments".
    As an avid reader, the only reason I slogged my way through it was because I couldn't believe how bad it was - particularly coming from William Boyd.
    That said, if an occasional reader and lover of the movies picked it up and actually enjoyed it then I suppose that would be understandable. Given their lack of comparative.
    One go forward question could be substitute the names of Fleming's characters and leave everything else in place — how many would he have sold and how would it have been reviewed. Hypothetical but interesting?
    My view — not a lot and many critics would have said that Boyd had lost the plot!

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