SOLO by William Boyd - Reviews & Feedback

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  • Posts: 267
    Bounine wrote:
    Perdogg wrote:
    Please let Ken Follet write a Bond novel before he dies.

    Yeah, if they IFP do continue with the celebrity writers then Follet would be a good choice. I've read a few of his books. 'Eye of the Needle' is still my favourite. Fantastic book. Atleast he's a thriller writer like Deaver , but unlike Deaver his books aren't filled with twist after twist after twist... If he was chosen, let's just hope he can do justice to the character unlike Deaver. His Bond is unrecognisable.

    Personally, although Follet has written some good books (Eye of the Needle, Pillars Of The Earth - notably), I think his overall quality is variable and don't feel him to be right for Bond.
    Given that IFP have our hero on literary life support we need the resurrection man. Another debacle and book Bond would be consigned to the read and laugh file.
    If the plan is for retro Bond, Higens is a slam dunk. It would be a natural continuation for him and pre Casino Royale would prove to be a very fertile era that Charlie could mine ad nauseum.
    I think a modern Bond is not so obvious. The technical aspects of spying can't be ignored and they introduce a level of complexity that doesn't fit naturally with the Bond formula. Lee Child circumvents this issue by having a hero, Jack Reacher, that eschews all technology and who works in the shadows. Clearly this isn't an option for an employee of HMSS.
    We need somebody that can marry the high old tone with it's sex, violence, glamour and snobbery with the modern tools of espionage and surveillance without making it heavy or dull. This is a little more complex than the retro route and it makes me think a lot about Charles Cumming. That said, having recently read the fabulous 'I Am Pilgrim' I am also thinking a lot about Terry Hayes because, in many regards, IAP is what a modern Bond novel could be.


  • TheWizardOfIceTheWizardOfIce 'One of the Internet's more toxic individuals'
    edited October 2013 Posts: 9,117
    Bentley wrote:

    Higens is a slam dunk. It would be a natural continuation for him and pre Casino Royale would prove to be a very fertile era that Charlie could mine ad nauseum.

    Hmm. A quick google seems to suggest there's actually no such bloke as Charlie Higens.

    There's a Mike Higens who seems to be some sort of preacher with a video on YouTube that has been viewed a phenomenal 2 times (even Solo can boast better figures) and also a Phyllis Higens who emigrated from Somerest to Canada in 1921 but I'm sceptical about their writing credentials.

    I still think Charlie Higson would be a better bet.
  • Posts: 686
    Bentley wrote:
    Bounine wrote:
    Perdogg wrote:
    Please let Ken Follet write a Bond novel before he dies.

    Yeah, if they IFP do continue with the celebrity writers then Follet would be a good choice. I've read a few of his books. 'Eye of the Needle' is still my favourite. Fantastic book. Atleast he's a thriller writer like Deaver , but unlike Deaver his books aren't filled with twist after twist after twist... If he was chosen, let's just hope he can do justice to the character unlike Deaver. His Bond is unrecognisable.

    Personally, although Follet has written some good books (Eye of the Needle, Pillars Of The Earth - notably), I think his overall quality is variable and don't feel him to be right for Bond.
    Given that IFP have our hero on literary life support we need the resurrection man. Another debacle and book Bond would be consigned to the read and laugh file.
    If the plan is for retro Bond, Higens is a slam dunk. It would be a natural continuation for him and pre Casino Royale would prove to be a very fertile era that Charlie could mine ad nauseum.
    I think a modern Bond is not so obvious. The technical aspects of spying can't be ignored and they introduce a level of complexity that doesn't fit naturally with the Bond formula. Lee Child circumvents this issue by having a hero, Jack Reacher, that eschews all technology and who works in the shadows. Clearly this isn't an option for an employee of HMSS.
    We need somebody that can marry the high old tone with it's sex, violence, glamour and snobbery with the modern tools of espionage and surveillance without making it heavy or dull. This is a little more complex than the retro route and it makes me think a lot about Charles Cumming. That said, having recently read the fabulous 'I Am Pilgrim' I am also thinking a lot about Terry Hayes because, in many regards, IAP is what a modern Bond novel could be.


    if you ever get a chance to get a hold of The folio edition of "Live and Let Die", the introduction by Ken Follet proves he would be up to the task.
  • Posts: 267
    Bentley wrote:

    Higens is a slam dunk. It would be a natural continuation for him and pre Casino Royale would prove to be a very fertile era that Charlie could mine ad nauseum.

    Hmm. A quick google seems to suggest there's actually no such bloke as Charlie Higens.

    There's a Mike Higens who seems to be some sort of preacher with a video on YouTube that has been viewed a phenomenal 2 times (even Solo can boast better figures) and also a Phyllis Higens who emigrated from Somerest to Canada in 1921 but I'm sceptical about their writing credentials.

    I still think Charlie Higson would be a better bet.

    What sharp little eyes you have @WizardOflce. Thankfuly you have the intellect to understand the limitations of the iPhone key pad?

  • TheWizardOfIceTheWizardOfIce 'One of the Internet's more toxic individuals'
    Posts: 9,117
    Wait till you get to my teeth!
  • Posts: 269
    I've finished reading 'Solo'. While it's an entertaining read, and it's nice to follow Bond on an exotic mission abroad with all his flaws, meals, and tastes for drinks, I can't say it was a great adventure.
    Boyd manages to imitate perfectly Fleming's style of describing Bond's thoughts, but the storyline doesn't follow.
    Fleming's book usually had a clear setting : Bond was given a clear assignment, designated a bad guy, and then Bond built his mission with cold professionalism and entertaining action while, adding a bit of his reflections to darken the story. Bond faces evil, and our interest is to see how he defeats it.

    It's unfortunately not the case here. In this African journey, Bond visits Zanzarim, following pretty guides, feeling shocked by a ruthless mercenary, and commenting thoroughly everything he sees. Bond doesn't follow a lead. He's rather the journalist he is supposed to be as a cover : a perfect tourist in a world he's just discovering. So yes, Boyd is good as describing Nigeria and Biafra (or should I say Zanzarim and Dahum), but it doesn't bring a lot to the world of Bond. While it is entertaining to see Bond visiting a hotel for journalist, walking in the jungle, getting involved in local politics, witnessing massacres, and changing suits, drinking, eating and having sex, he seems lost in a war not his.

    The second part in Washington is not better : Bond doesn't really goes 'solo' (without much reason by the way) : he's rather visiting what's happening in the world of NGO's and warlords with guns and secret IDs. In the end, 007 unveils a plot, Boyd tells us how bad and cynical the Western powers are toward Africa, Bond enjoys his drinks, and we just had a nice journey.

    We'll have to come back for a real 007 adventure.
    The problem with this not so surprising nor thrilling story is that it leaves us with Boyd's description of Bond's way of life, so much that it becomes at some point really repetitive.
    I will keep this book on my shelf, but rather as a documentary on African civil wars, and especially as a great book for cooking : after all, each chapter's interest mainly lies in bond's recipes for food and cocktails.

    I don't regret reading Solo, but I'll come by later if I want to read a real spy thriller.
  • Posts: 806
    I can't believe he put James Bond in a Jensen. Simon Templer under Simon Dutton era in1989 when Timothy Dalton was 007 that time drove Jensen replacing his jag. Jensen brand is rumoured to be revived soon.
  • edited October 2013 Posts: 267
    Bond would no more drive a Jensen wear a Crusader's outfit in Saudi Arabia!
    The very idea is risible. As one who is old enough to have driven said vehicle when launched, I can tell you that they couldn't make it around the corner without terminal mechanical failure.
    Unfortunately his choice of car is as bad as the book itself!
  • Posts: 267
    Ytterbium wrote:
    Ytterbium wrote:
    The problem with this not so surprising nor thrilling story is that it leaves us with Boyd's description of Bond's way of life, so much that it becomes at some point really repetitive.
    I will keep this book on my shelf, but rather as a documentary on African civil wars, and especially as a great book for cooking : after all, each chapter's interest mainly lies in bond's recipes for food and cocktails.

    I don't regret reading Solo, but I'll come by later if I want to read a real spy thriller.

    Sorry to disappoint you @Ytterbium but as a documentary on African Civil Wars it is also decidedly crap!
  • Posts: 7,652
    Bentley wrote:
    Bond would no more drive a Jensen wear a Crusader's outfit in Saudi Arabia!
    The very idea is risible. As one who is old enough to have driven said vehicle when launched, I can tell you that they couldn't make it around the corner without terminal mechanical failure.
    Unfortunately his choice of car is as bad as the book itself!

    Your hammering on the Jensen car is about as daft as the discussion of 007 drinking beer in SF.
    In the case of Jensen cars they are beautifull and absolutely not for the general audience which I presume is more or less the thought behind the car.



  • Posts: 267
    SaintMark wrote:
    Bentley wrote:
    Bond would no more drive a Jensen wear a Crusader's outfit in Saudi Arabia!
    The very idea is risible. As one who is old enough to have driven said vehicle when launched, I can tell you that they couldn't make it around the corner without terminal mechanical failure.
    Unfortunately his choice of car is as bad as the book itself!

    Your hammering on the Jensen car is about as daft as the discussion of 007 drinking beer in SF.
    In the case of Jensen cars they are beautifull and absolutely not for the general audience which I presume is more or less the thought behind the car.


    @SaintMark - Have you ever driven said vehicle?

  • SaintMark wrote:
    Bentley wrote:
    Bond would no more drive a Jensen wear a Crusader's outfit in Saudi Arabia!
    The very idea is risible. As one who is old enough to have driven said vehicle when launched, I can tell you that they couldn't make it around the corner without terminal mechanical failure.
    Unfortunately his choice of car is as bad as the book itself!

    Your hammering on the Jensen car is about as daft as the discussion of 007 drinking beer in SF.
    In the case of Jensen cars they are beautifull and absolutely not for the general audience which I presume is more or less the thought behind the car.


    Unfortunate atack @SaintMark. This guy doesn't brag about it but I've seen his collection!

  • Posts: 7,652
    No, I have not driven the car but have seen a few being driven and at carshows, they look very lovely and sound great.
    Even the guys from Top Gear were endeared towards the car. And I hardly would call them unknowledgable when it comes to cars?
  • SaintMark wrote:
    No, I have not driven the car but have seen a few being driven and at carshows, they look very lovely and sound great.
    Even the guys from Top Gear were endeared towards the car. And I hardly would call them unknowledgable when it comes to cars?

    The only decent Jensen ever produced was the iconic 541R.
    The Interceptor was a dog from the get go and was the car that took them into bankruptcy. I picked one up in 1971 from a dealer in Darlington to deliver it to a hairdresser in Newcastle. A distance of about 30 miles. The journey took me six hours and not because I was lost - it broke down twice!
    But your in good company because Boyd hasn't driven one either and it didn't stop him putting this crap car in his crap book.
    As for Jezzer and the gang, would you seriously trust the opinion of a crew that dress like that?
  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    Posts: 17,245
    So, it's a car thread now? :))
  • Posts: 7,652
    Villiers53 wrote:
    SaintMark wrote:
    No, I have not driven the car but have seen a few being driven and at carshows, they look very lovely and sound great.
    Even the guys from Top Gear were endeared towards the car. And I hardly would call them unknowledgable when it comes to cars?

    The only decent Jensen ever produced was the iconic 541R.
    The Interceptor was a dog from the get go and was the car that took them into bankruptcy. I picked one up in 1971 from a dealer in Darlington to deliver it to a hairdresser in Newcastle. A distance of about 30 miles. The journey took me six hours and not because I was lost - it broke down twice!
    But your in good company because Boyd hasn't driven one either and it didn't stop him putting this crap car in his crap book.
    As for Jezzer and the gang, would you seriously trust the opinion of a crew that dress like that?

    I had a volvo like that, but the next one drove me for 10 years without a problem.

    As for the folks of top gear, yes I would trust them on their knowledge and enjoy their shows a lot. And accept that they are really big 007 fans as well.

  • 4EverBonded4EverBonded Riding a white swan to Matera
    Posts: 12,436
    Learning about the cars is more interesting than reading Solo, whenever I get around to it, I think ... for me, anyway
  • After discovering that my local book store had been selling Solo (US Edition) simce the 23rd. I am going to go buy a copy later on tomorrow, one day before its official release. Time to get reading! :)
  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    Posts: 17,245
    After discovering that my local book store had been selling Solo (US Edition) simce the 23rd. I am going to go buy a copy later on tomorrow, one day before its official release. Time to get reading! :)
    Go for it. My unofficial research shows you as a Bond fan have a 54% chance of liking it a lot!
    :)>-
  • chrisisall wrote:
    After discovering that my local book store had been selling Solo (US Edition) simce the 23rd. I am going to go buy a copy later on tomorrow, one day before its official release. Time to get reading! :)
    Go for it. My unofficial research shows you as a Bond fan have a 54% chance of liking it a lot!
    :)>-

    And based on the fact that I like a diverse collection of novels increases my chance of liking it to 72%
    :D
  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    Posts: 17,245
    And based on the fact that I like a diverse collection of novels increases my chance of liking it to 72%
    :D
    Me too in all probability.
    We'll see. :D
  • Posts: 267
    chrisisall wrote:
    After discovering that my local book store had been selling Solo (US Edition) simce the 23rd. I am going to go buy a copy later on tomorrow, one day before its official release. Time to get reading! :)
    Go for it. My unofficial research shows you as a Bond fan have a 54% chance of liking it a lot!
    :)>-
    Every Bond fan should read this - it's virtually a duty - then we should start the petition!

  • It would be interesting to know how many Fleming fans actually enjoy the book - my feeling would be precious few.
    Reviewers that call SOLO representative of vintage Fleming are almost impossible to understand.
  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    edited October 2013 Posts: 17,245
    Villiers53 wrote:
    It would be interesting to know how many Fleming fans actually enjoy the book - my feeling would be precious few.
    I also belong to AJB, and after reading all the reviews possible here, there and at places all over the web my sense is that:
    1. Incredibly serious Fleming purists will dislike it, but then they will normally dislike any Bond not written by Fleming.
    2. Fleming fans have a good chance of enjoying it if they are not hardcore against little slip ups here & there.
    3. Those merely acquainted with Fleming's Bond will enjoy it for what it is.
    4. Movie Bond fans have a good chance of disliking it since it's not their usual Bond.
  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    Posts: 17,245
    Interesting; thanks.
  • Bought a copy of Solo, the gold on the cover is shiny and the ends of the pages are suspiciously rugged and starting to read it, have high hopes. Keep you posted.
  • DragonpolDragonpol Writer @ http://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 15,481
    After discovering that my local book store had been selling Solo (US Edition) simce the 23rd. I am going to go buy a copy later on tomorrow, one day before its official release. Time to get reading! :)

    Oh, contraband, then! :)
  • Creasy47Creasy47 In Cuba with Natalya.Moderator
    Posts: 36,601
    I'd like to buy it tonight so it ships out tomorrow, at least, but $16 is a gamble for me right now. I'll wait, I'm sure it'll be a lot cheaper soon. After all these reviews - even before them - I don't terribly want to check it out.
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