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Yes, Fleming was almost as descriptive as you are. ;) Seriously though, a lovely analysis.
How right you are - marvellous book.
I lost my copy and was lucky enough to find a first edition in a second hand book store. Evidently it's now available on kindle and I would urge every Bond fan to read it.
Earlier in this thread @WizardOflce describes Gardner as a good but perhaps not great writer.
Interestingly,if he (Gardner) was judged purely on his Bond output I would agree because it was through his 'Generation' trilogy and his Kruger books that he achieved his greatness. He certainly proved to be the equal of Fleming and Deighton. OK, he didn't reach the dizzy heights of Le Carre - but then again, nobody has!
Well said and fair enough, Ice. Glad to hear you are a Gardner fan like I but I have to disagree on the more experimental Bond novels of the 1990s - Ian Fleming himself experimented with his Bond novels and short stories in the 1960s after all. And I do think that Never Send Flowers is one of his better works, but I know you don't agree with me on that one... :)
Having recently read the fabulous 'I Am Pilgrim' by Terry Hayes and when I consider the works of the likes of Charles Cumming, Olen Steinhauer, Barry Eisler and Henry Porter - not to mention the legendary Le Carre - I sometimes wonder if Bond can compete in this revitalised literary genre.
OK, "Skyfall" shows conclusively that Bond not only competes but leads the spy action movie genre but I think the film audience is a little different as the medium dictates a level of simplification. As illustrated by the screen adaptation of the labyrinth like 'Tinker,Tailor,Soldier,Spy.'
On the other hand, in the literary world it is possible to create and articulate quite complex scenarios that play well. All of which represent considerable advances on the basic Bond premise. Of course, one could argue that this is the difference between glamour spy fiction and the real world depicted by Cumming etc.. But I'm not sure it's that simple. 'I Am Pilgrim' is, in many ways quite a glamorous book but it has a level of scope and ambition ahead of Bond but would probably represent a good example of the type of book Fleming would aspire to write if he were alive today.
One things for sure, if you put 'Solo' up against 'I Am Pilgrim' there is simply no contest. It's not even a serious competition. Maybethe real question is, could Bond develop and compete in the hands of a Cumming or Eisler or is the basic premise too weak? Or,maybe I'm just suffering a deep depression after Boyd's sabotage?
Stay calm @villiers53. I think you are just suffering a deep post Boyd depression. This is entirely understandable and probably is the literary equivalent of traumatic distress disorder!
At the end of the day, it's not complicated. If Corinne Turner, the Managing Director of IFP, had an ounce of understanding about Bond and the thriller market she wouldn't have given the project to those celebrity dunces and we wouldn't be in the mess we are in today. We simply need to give it to somebody good and we'll get something good. But in the meantime Turner should fall on her sword as she's made such a dire mess of it!
The book opens with a chapter where Bond looks back on the first time where he as a young soldier in the aftermath of the invasion in Normandy (1944)for the first time faces death. And is actually fine reading and shows a promise for the book.
Then 007 gets shipped of the Africa where he is supposed to end a civil war by taking out the leader of one of the parties involved. It all goes of course horrible wrong and Bond ends up being terrible hurt. The 2nd part of the book is Bond going "solo" on a one man mission to avenge his wounds and the awefull behaviour of a mercenary and his boss.
I really wanted to like this book due to some of the extreme critism I did read on some Bondfora, and re-adress the attitude that Fleming never did write as bad as Boyd did. And perhaps it would be honest to admit that while Boyd is a good writer he has shown with this novel that he lacks the writing skills to write a convincing 007 novel.
Knowing that mr. Boyds roots were in Africa I expected some of the brutality that would reign there in a civil conflict in an oil rich country. We get a rather boring travel through an African country in conflict. Having read the writings of the French novelist Gérard de Villiers I always admired his skill of writing about the geopolitical authenticity of conflicted and exotic places. And the post-colonial Africa would be the place to show us some insight. And while his stories of a Austrian prince hired by the CIA does often showcase ond-dimensional characters and gratious sexscenes they offer a lot of excitement as well. With Boyds vision of Africa we get some polished in my view political correct version of the place. It never gets very authentic or even exciting, and even the plot does not offer any clarity.
The villain is some former Rhodesian mercenary that has some nasty way of hanging dead soldiers on tree-branches like dead fish. ANd of course he has his facial handicap. So far Boyd ticks all the Fleming boxes, but he never gives the man any feeling of threathening menace. Jakobus Breed feels like a man who enjoys his sadist kicks but is a mer man that can be easily taken out. And Bond does eventually do just that. The big financier is a one dimensional character that comes nowhere to his right.
The Bond women are fine in this novel but fail to impress at any level, and nowhere you feel that Bond has any attachment with them. Even if the voyeuristic episode concerning one of them is easily the most exciting part written in the book.
This book is about Bond doing a job in post-colonial Africa where the big cooperations after all those declarations of independencies were scrambling like mad to get some lucreative contracts. And James Bond goes into that situation without any idea of view it is only in the aftermath you get an opinion on that matter in a talk between Leiter & Bond. For me Bond never walked so shallow into any affair/mission written by Fleming, Amis, Gardner, Benson, Faulks or Deaver. And in the aftermath it felt out of place and as some conservative fans said that it was amazing that the British paper "the Guardian" had a positive review so something must be wrong. The only questions Bond asked himself were not so much about the situation he was placed in and what his purpose might be, but about the attractiveness of his female companions. And untill the end of the book where Leiter pops us I kind of missed the male bonding Bond seems to have with male characters. these last Bondbooks written and are already called the celebrity trilogy are more interested in placing women in important roles based upon a certain equality. WHich is something that would be frowned upon by most in 1969 where this tale does plays, and it annoyed me for some time in thsi book.
William Boyd commented on Fleming that he has written some sexist and racist aspects in his books. Which is a fair thing to say if one is fameliar with Flemings books. But perhaps Boyd should have used some more edgier approuch to actually spice up this 007 story. It falls kind of flat and is sometimes a boring story that makes the reader frustrated with the lack of action. Instead we get another foodpornish episode which Boyd writes very well but are to much put in the novel instead of some straitgh action with some sadistic overtones.
As Bondnovel a failure for me, although it is quite an easy read. But of the celebrity trilogy it is sadly the worst of the three.
Perhaps the inheritors of the 007 literary could look into mr. Gérard de Villiers service to write a perhaps less PC version of 007. And the man has the skills and knowledge to make it more fun and real.
One star too many @SaintMark!
@Dragonpol, I can sign up for a new 'Gardner' a la Cumming or Eisler but for God's sake don't bring friend Benson into it — you'll make my depression worse and believe you me, that Boyd character has laid me low!
I preserve the one star rating for really poor books, which I generally put away well before I finish them. This one I finished and albeit not left me inclined to ever read it again.
It did make me want to read Sebastian Faulks attempt again, because I remember it being a better effort. And I want to check it out.
But firstly I am reading the new King or the new Kerr, either of them because I did keep them for after Solo in case that book failed me. Good choice. :!!
Well in his defence he wasn't really a writer, though he is regarded as such now. Although reading that post I'm not sure why I included Benson in it as he was more of a Bond expert that a thriller writer when he took over the Bond continuation gig back in 1996.
Sorry. I hope I haven't spoiled your coffee too much, @Villiers53!
Here, you'll be able to read Cox's review I should think:
You're having a merry jape at our expense now surely SaintMark?
I cannot in all honesty believe that Solo is worse than DMC. I'm actually going to have to read it now out of perverse curiosity.
And I am going to reread DMC simply because both books are in the original timeline of Flemings Bond. I recall to little of the Fauls book to honestly tell you which I like better. But the setting in a post colonial Africa was a wee bit too tame for my taste. I do recall really enjoying the Persia setting of DMC. (but this might just be my love affair with James Leasors Doctor Love book & movvie.)
But read SOLO simply because you do not have to listen to other people in order to make your mind up, just read the bloody book.
Positive review from the Financial Times: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/3ba1dda6-25fd-11e3-aee8-00144feab7de.html
("Fleming’s Bond was a sadistic racial essentialist prone to rhapsodise about the 'sweet tang of rape'")
Mediocre review from The Express:
A positive review in GQ, from someone who's definitely familiar with Fleming:
And a woman at that, how odd.
How sexist of you, Fleming would not have liked this remark by you. ;)
It's interesting how the reviews are generally positive but the 3 or 4 Bond fans who have read it thus far dislike it intently.
Does the book portray a Bond who is too far removed from his original counterpart and the reviewers don't realise this as they're unfamiliar with Fleming?
There's nothing worse when someone labels a book rubbish or words to that effect and refuse to read it just because a few people claim that it's terrible. SOLO might very well be a disappointing book but people should read it for themselves first before simply making up their minds and casting dispersions upon it without even having read it. The fact that many official reviews out there are positive too, makes it even worse.
It's positive and the reviewer is familiar with Fleming. Sample quotes:
"With Fleming, God was in the details and nuances, and Boyd posts a respectable score, not least when he deploys a Flemingesque phrase such as 'the creeping melancholy of hotel life' or echoes the short story 'From a View to a Kill' while vividly summoning a memory of Bond's wartime experiences. [...] At his best, Fleming had a gift for the precise evocation of time, place and emotion. He would not have made the lazy assumption that commuters on Richmond station are universally 'jaded', or begun two consecutive episodes, separated by a couple of pages, with the same bland phrase: 'The next morning …' And did he not once state very precisely that the word 'actually' was not a part of Bond's vocabulary? Boyd has him using it on page 142: '"I did, actually,' Bond said with a modest smile."' And yet, all things considered, Boyd's attempt entertains far more than it exasperates."
GQ review is a classic example - it is by Olivia Cole who interviewed Boyle at the RFH.
It was clear on the night that she new absolutely zero about Bond and Fleming. Her questioning of Boyd was pre-scripted and was about as deep as a paddling pool.
When you look at Amazon reviews, despite a fair number of over enthusiastic sycophants, it's struggling to maintain 3 stars. The reviews written by Bond afficionados kill it!
Read it and weep - it's a stinker and Lucy Fleming is right, Ian will be looking down or up on this.
But we're she's wrong, he won't be smiling, he'll be thinking - why the ..ck did you commission this?
Many people have said that Mr Boyd is deeply versed in all things Bond !
I have yet to see any such proof and I've read Solo
Honestly both Boyd @ IFP need a good kick to prevent this happening again
and as for miss Cole she may have many talents apart from the obvious but they were not on display that evening at the south bank
@Villiers53 quite right it is a stinker
I will read SOLO and obviously decide for myself but at the risk of sounding negative I won't be surprised if I'm not ecstatic about the book seeing the Bond fans on this website seem so against it and these are people who also enjoy at least the first half of the Gardner novels just like myself (many don't). I find it quite curious though how so many of the official reviews are positive. Are all these reviewers too scared to criticise Boyd or something? They weren't with Faulks's Devil May Care. Hard to believe but if this is the case, then its just shameful, and there seems little point in ever reading a book review. On Amazon UK, many of the reviews do give the book 4 out of 5 stars, a couple even 5 out of 5. Some have given 1 or 2 out of 5 (currently around 35%) which has obviously brought the overall rating right down. Some are undoubtedly forum members. There is only one person who has given the book 3 out of 5. It seems like an almost "love it or hate it" situation. Curious.
Maybe many just don't know Fleming's Bond enough but some of them seem to and have still given the book a positive review.
It doesn't sound like a lot happens in Africa but at the same time it does sound pretty atmospheric which I love.
Thanks for that. Interesting.
I'll have to read this book! :) Better get this Jack Reacher book finished so I can start on Mr. Bond. I'm so damn busy at the moment. Annoying. Maybe if I spent less time on these forums... :)
It is interesting to compare the Amazon Solo reviews with last weeks other hot thriller releases from Robert Harris and Frederick Forsyth. Reviews of the latter are well written by people who have clearly read the books. By contrast, a lot of the Solo reviews, particularly those of a positive nature, looked like they have been dashed off by the friends of Boyd/IFP.
It's also interesting to compare the Solo reviews with those of I Am Pilgrim. The sheer number and disbursement of 'Pilgrim' reviews leave no doubt that they are genuine and diverse. Again by comparrison, the Solo reviews look like the fix is in.