SOLO by William Boyd - Reviews & Feedback

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  • 4EverBonded4EverBonded the Ballrooms of Mars
    edited December 2013 Posts: 12,459
    Villiers53 wrote:
    Bounine wrote:
    The fact that it seems like Mendes will have Moneypenny out in the field "kicking arse" again is by far the worse news regarding Bond 24 for me so far.

    I don't mind the emotional stuff but now that we've had it for three films they should leave it out for Bond 24. You can have character development without emotional baggage.


    Bounine - How could you not welcome the return of the smoking hot Naomie Harris with her fabulous interpretation of Moneypenny?
    She is a great actor and brings a new dimension to the role. I hope she plays a significant role in the next move. The more glamour the better!
    Well, I'm with you on this, @Villiers53. There are members here who do not care for her; but I am a big fan of this Moneypenny. I believe she will be at times in the field, and definitely have more to contribute than previous Moneypennys. And why not - within reason? I don't want her tagging along as a total sidekick or having to be rescued by Bond time and time again. But I do think, it is time for a different take on Moneypenny. The exact same sort of "secretary only" as we had in the 60's through 90's (although Sam Bond's Moneypenny was more acerbic and upfront, but still ...) is not sufficient these days, in my opinion. And I, too, 0Brady, very much want a different hairstyle for her! All the post Skyfall shots I have seen of her are with far lovelier hair indeed.
    EDIT: I just realized this is on the Solo thread. Well, sorry, but I just picked up the discussion that was going on ...
  • Villiers53 wrote:
    Bounine wrote:
    The fact that it seems like Mendes will have Moneypenny out in the field "kicking arse" again is by far the worse news regarding Bond 24 for me so far.

    I don't mind the emotional stuff but now that we've had it for three films they should leave it out for Bond 24. You can have character development without emotional baggage.


    Bounine - How could you not welcome the return of the smoking hot Naomie Harris with her fabulous interpretation of Moneypenny?
    She is a great actor and brings a new dimension to the role. I hope she plays a significant role in the next move. The more glamour the better!
    Well, I'm with you on this, @Villiers53. There are members here who do not care for her; but I am a big fan of this Moneypenny. I believe she will be at times in the field, and definitely have more to contribute than previous Moneypennys. And why not - within reason? I don't want her tagging along as a total sidekick or having to be rescued by Bond time and time again. But I do think, it is time for a different take on Moneypenny. The exact same sort of "secretary only" as we had in the 60's through 90's (although Sam Bond's Moneypenny was more acerbic and upfront, but still ...) is not sufficient these days, in my opinion. And I, too, 0Brady, very much want a different hairstyle for her! All the post Skyfall shots I have seen of her are with far lovelier hair indeed.
    EDIT: I just realized this is on the Solo thread. Well, sorry, but I just picked up the discussion that was going on …

    @ForeverBonded, it's fine that we discuss on this thread. Better that than the thoroughly awful 'SOLO' and you are right, this interpretation of Moneypenny adds value big time!
  • edited December 2013 Posts: 2,598
    I don't agree. What value? I think that they are bastardising the Moneypenny character.
    They gave her this lame, clichéd Hollywood backstory in SF and then she became desk bound and that's how it should now stay. They shouldn't suddenly reverse their decisions. The whole thing screams of unoriginality and this unnecessary message their trying to put across about how all woman are now equal to men, including Bond. We all know this anyway. We don't need it shoved down our throats in such an appalling, not to mention unoriginal manner and certainly not at the expense of such a historical, well known character. She's a secretary and always should be. Why should she be turned into something else? Bond is the action man, not her. If they're insistent on having a lady in the field, why not have a female double O agent (not MP) who Bond may work with for a short while.

    The Moneypenny Diaries are excellent reads but I still don't really agree on how she was assigned the task of spying but at least she wasn't an action woman like Harris's MP. She just did a bit of spying.

    As for Harris's looks, I think she's only a little above average.
  • edited December 2013 Posts: 4,622
    I'm with @Bounine. I'd dress Harris like Lois Maxwell and chain her to her desk. Occasional field trips maybe with M along the lines of submarine off the Japan coast. Customs booth ala DAF. Nothing too crazy though.
    Maybe a nice fresh desk console.

    Did Boyd even include MP. I can't remember, which is probably a good thing. She didn't figure much in the Fleming books either.

  • edited December 2013 Posts: 2,598
    timmer wrote:
    I'm with @Bounine. I'd dress Harris like Lois Maxwell and chain her to her desk. Occasional field trips maybe with M along the lines of submarine off the Japan coast. Customs booth ala DAF. Nothing too crazy though.
    Maybe a nice fresh desk console.

    Did Boyd even include MP. I can't remember, which is probably a good thing. She didn't figure much in the Fleming books either.

    Yes, all that is perfectly fine. Not an action woman though.
  • Posts: 4,622
    She bites as an action woman anyway. That's why Mallory put her on desk duty. She's no Agent XXX.
  • Posts: 2,598
    If Mendes turns her back into a field agent though then this would be a big mistake I think.
  • TheWizardOfIceTheWizardOfIce 'One of the Internet's more toxic individuals'
    Posts: 9,117
    Bounine wrote:
    I don't agree. What value? I think that they are bastardising the Moneypenny character.
    They gave her this lame, clichéd Hollywood backstory in SF and then she became desk bound and that's how it should now stay. They shouldn't suddenly reverse their decisions. The whole thing screams of unoriginality and this unnecessary message their trying to put across about how all woman are now equal to men, including Bond. We all know this anyway. We don't need it shoved down our throats in such an appalling, not to mention unoriginal manner and certainly not at the expense of such a historical, well known character. She's a secretary and always should be. Why should she be turned into something else? Bond is the action man, not her. If they're insistent on having a lady in the field, why not have a female double O agent (not MP) who Bond may work with for a short while.

    The Moneypenny Diaries are excellent reads but I still don't really agree on how she was assigned the task of spying but at least she wasn't an action woman like Harris's MP. She just did a bit of spying.

    As for Harris's looks, I think she's only a little above average.

    Hear, hear.

    If they send her back out into the field it would be ridiculous. Just what would it say in her job description?

    'Essential Requirements - Good communication skills, typing, knowledge of Microsoft Office and the ability to shoot a gun'?

    Her job is 'secretary'. If her job was 'field operative' then fine but it's not. So by this rationale when MP rings in sick does M call down to Bond and say 'would you mind coming upstairs and doing some typing'?

    It would seem a pretty extravagant waste of MI6's budget to have every employee trained to be able to do every job.

    We can only hope this is the usual speculative crap we get in the papers in the run up to every Bond film.
  • edited December 2013 Posts: 802
    @Bounine, the value added is the reboot of an iconic character by portraying her in a modern idiom as a young, Mi6 recruit assisting both in the field and HO environments.
    One of many interesting character developments in "Skyfall" that Mendes will doubtless want the writers to persue in his follow up.
    If only IFP could find a writer who would handle literary Bond with the same creativity!
    @TheWizardOflce what has happend to your normally infallible tasteometer?
  • Posts: 2,598
    Villiers53 wrote:
    @Bounine, the value added is the reboot of an iconic character by portraying her in a modern idiom as a young, Mi6 recruit assisting both in the field and HO environments.
    One of many interesting character developments in "Skyfall" that Mendes will doubtless want the writers to persue in his follow up.
    If only IFP could find a writer who would handle literary Bond with the same creativity!
    @TheWizardOflce what has happend to your normally infallible tasteometer?

    Personally, I see little creativity in what they've done with the Moneypenny character. There are countless backstories she could have been given, and they chose one with very little originality. The IFP celebrity writers could have done much better than this clichéd Hollywood banality.
  • I hope she changes her hairstyle for Bond 24; I'm not a fan.
    Evidently it's mutual. Moneypenny isn't very keen on your Barnett@)BradyM0Bondfanatic7.
    Perhaps you should meet and decide a hairstyle strategy?

  • TheWizardOfIceTheWizardOfIce 'One of the Internet's more toxic individuals'
    Posts: 9,117
    Villiers53 wrote:
    @Bounine, the value added is the reboot of an iconic character by portraying her in a modern idiom as a young, Mi6 recruit assisting both in the field and HO environments.
    One of many interesting character developments in "Skyfall" that Mendes will doubtless want the writers to persue in his follow up.
    If only IFP could find a writer who would handle literary Bond with the same creativity!
    @TheWizardOflce what has happend to your normally infallible tasteometer?

    What? You actually consider MP regularly out in the field in a 'Sidekick Simon' role to be a good idea?

    Why not introduce Loeila Ponsonby and that guy with one arm who works the lift too and have them Tanner, M and Q all tooled up alongside Bond and MP for a kind of MI6 Avengers?

    As the great Malcolm Tucker once said 'F**k me - we are through the looking glass now folks'.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 Quantum Floral Arrangements: "We Have Petals Everywhere"
    Posts: 28,694
    Villiers53 wrote:
    I hope she changes her hairstyle for Bond 24; I'm not a fan.
    Evidently it's mutual. Moneypenny isn't very keen on your Barnett@)BradyM0Bondfanatic7.
    Perhaps you should meet and decide a hairstyle strategy?

    I have no idea what that even is, but no, I don't think I'd get even close to her, considering she'd probably cock everything up and shoot me too.
  • Posts: 2,598
    barnet - a person's hairstyle
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 Quantum Floral Arrangements: "We Have Petals Everywhere"
    Posts: 28,694
    Bounine wrote:
    barnet - a person's hairstyle

    I understand that, I just don't know what it looks like.
  • edited December 2013 Posts: 2,598
    It's just a cockney phrase for hairstyle/haircut. It doesn't refer to any specific hairstyle. There's a lot of cockney words/phrases. For example, "apples and pears" means stairs.

    Daniel Craig needs a different hair style for Bond 24. It was too short in Skyfall, especially on the sides. I liked his hairstyle in CR. That was much better.

    As for Harris, she can wear her hair in a massive afro for all I care. In fact, that'd be quite funny. I wish you saw more girls walking around with big afros like in the 70's.
  • Samuel001Samuel001 Moderator
    edited December 2013 Posts: 13,353
    Bounine wrote:
    It's just a cockney phrase for hairstyle/haircut. It doesn't refer to any specific hairstyle. There's a lot of cockney words/phrases. For example, "apples and pears" means stairs.

    Right. Also called 'Barnet Fair' = hair. Just rhyming slang.
  • Villiers53 wrote:
    @Bounine, the value added is the reboot of an iconic character by portraying her in a modern idiom as a young, Mi6 recruit assisting both in the field and HO environments.
    One of many interesting character developments in "Skyfall" that Mendes will doubtless want the writers to persue in his follow up.
    If only IFP could find a writer who would handle literary Bond with the same creativity!
    @TheWizardOflce what has happend to your normally infallible tasteometer?

    What? You actually consider MP regularly out in the field in a 'Sidekick Simon' role to be a good idea?

    Why not introduce Loeila Ponsonby and that guy with one arm who works the lift too and have them Tanner, M and Q all tooled up alongside Bond and MP for a kind of MI6 Avengers?

    As the great Malcolm Tucker once said 'F**k me - we are through the looking glass now folks'.

    @TheWizardOflce, your normally infallible tasteometer is going berserk!
    Surely somebody of your considerable wisdom must realise that in a contemporary Bond's IT world, the role of secretary has to be recast as executive assistant?
    What would you have poor Moneypenny do - sit on M's knee in the now defunct Regent's Park HQ doing Pitman shorthand?
    As in the terrific "Skyfall", I'm sure Mr.Mendes will find a way to develop these characters that will not interfere with Bond's independence.
    Given that both the old and the new M got involved - to good effect - in the action last time, I'm sure we can look forward to more creativity with the supporting cast that will stop well short of turning Bond into a ensemble piece.
    Better that approach than the one taken by our celebrity trilogy cohorts who's contribution to their development seems to be to forget them or in the case of Boyd with Leiter, to make him a boring and irrelevant adjunct.

  • Posts: 267
    Villiers53 wrote:
    Villiers53 wrote:
    @Bounine, the value added is the reboot of an iconic character by portraying her in a modern idiom as a young, Mi6 recruit assisting both in the field and HO environments.
    One of many interesting character developments in "Skyfall" that Mendes will doubtless want the writers to persue in his follow up.
    If only IFP could find a writer who would handle literary Bond with the same creativity!
    @TheWizardOflce what has happend to your normally infallible tasteometer?

    What? You actually consider MP regularly out in the field in a 'Sidekick Simon' role to be a good idea?

    Why not introduce Loeila Ponsonby and that guy with one arm who works the lift too and have them Tanner, M and Q all tooled up alongside Bond and MP for a kind of MI6 Avengers?

    As the great Malcolm Tucker once said 'F**k me - we are through the looking glass now folks'.

    @TheWizardOflce, your normally infallible tasteometer is going berserk!
    Surely somebody of your considerable wisdom must realise that in a contemporary Bond's IT world, the role of secretary has to be recast as executive assistant?
    What would you have poor Moneypenny do - sit on M's knee in the now defunct Regent's Park HQ doing Pitman shorthand?
    As in the terrific "Skyfall", I'm sure Mr.Mendes will find a way to develop these characters that will not interfere with Bond's independence.
    Given that both the old and the new M got involved - to good effect - in the action last time, I'm sure we can look forward to more creativity with the supporting cast that will stop well short of turning Bond into a ensemble piece.
    Better that approach than the one taken by our celebrity trilogy cohorts who's contribution to their development seems to be to forget them or in the case of Boyd with Leiter, to make him a boring and irrelevant adjunct.
    Couldn't agree more with @villiers53 regarding Ms.Harris. I find her absolutely charming and I think her version of Moneypenny is the first welcome development since the great Ms.Maxwell.
    Back to Solo, I was in JFK the other day sat opposite this man who was reading 'Solo' and who kept sighing. Couldn't help but ask him if he was enjoying it - the response - "I read everything Bond but, never again". The damage done!

  • TheWizardOfIceTheWizardOfIce 'One of the Internet's more toxic individuals'
    Posts: 9,117
    Bentley wrote:
    Villiers53 wrote:
    Villiers53 wrote:
    @Bounine, the value added is the reboot of an iconic character by portraying her in a modern idiom as a young, Mi6 recruit assisting both in the field and HO environments.
    One of many interesting character developments in "Skyfall" that Mendes will doubtless want the writers to persue in his follow up.
    If only IFP could find a writer who would handle literary Bond with the same creativity!
    @TheWizardOflce what has happend to your normally infallible tasteometer?

    What? You actually consider MP regularly out in the field in a 'Sidekick Simon' role to be a good idea?

    Why not introduce Loeila Ponsonby and that guy with one arm who works the lift too and have them Tanner, M and Q all tooled up alongside Bond and MP for a kind of MI6 Avengers?

    As the great Malcolm Tucker once said 'F**k me - we are through the looking glass now folks'.

    @TheWizardOflce, your normally infallible tasteometer is going berserk!
    Surely somebody of your considerable wisdom must realise that in a contemporary Bond's IT world, the role of secretary has to be recast as executive assistant?
    What would you have poor Moneypenny do - sit on M's knee in the now defunct Regent's Park HQ doing Pitman shorthand?
    As in the terrific "Skyfall", I'm sure Mr.Mendes will find a way to develop these characters that will not interfere with Bond's independence.
    Given that both the old and the new M got involved - to good effect - in the action last time, I'm sure we can look forward to more creativity with the supporting cast that will stop well short of turning Bond into a ensemble piece.
    Better that approach than the one taken by our celebrity trilogy cohorts who's contribution to their development seems to be to forget them or in the case of Boyd with Leiter, to make him a boring and irrelevant adjunct.
    Couldn't agree more with @villiers53 regarding Ms.Harris. I find her absolutely charming and I think her version of Moneypenny is the first welcome development since the great Ms.Maxwell.
    Couldn't agree less with @villiers5 but couldn't agree more with @Bentley. However the topic of Ms Harris in the role is not what was being discussed. Are you saying you are in favour of a gun toting MP following Bond around the globe @Bentley?

    I find that rather surprising given that I always had you down as someone who knew his literary Bond.

    Given that MP only appears about 3 times in the whole of Fleming even letting her have a scene is more than sufficient exposure. Apart from the fact that it makes no sense for a secretary/PA/whatever to be sent all over the globe to do battle with Bond, she's just a peripheral character - why the desire to elevate her to the tedious cliche of the ass kicking Bond girl?

    There's nothing wrong with my tasteometer @villiers but you might want to seek medical attention before you sit down for another meal as your taste buds are so off you could easily wolf down a nutritious plate full of fried gravel, horse manure and a boiled copy of Solo all washed down with a steaming cup of hot bleach and not only declare it delicious but also leave a tip just before you start bringing up your stomach lining.

    Ultimately though I am fairly confident that Mendes is not as deranged as you and won't render the whole final scene in SF of her finally sitting behind her desk meaningless by having her go back into the field like John Matrix for 'one last job'
  • edited December 2013 Posts: 7,653
    From discussing a book towards discussing the movie , medes and Naomie harris. Isn't there another thread currently on the subject of the next movie?

    http://www.mi6community.com/index.php?p=/discussion/5144/bond-24-production-timeline-mendes039-management-of-bond039s-future/p69#Item_2042
  • Posts: 267
    [

    There's nothing wrong with my tasteometer @villiers but you might want to seek medical attention before you sit down for another meal as your taste buds are so off you could easily wolf down a nutritious plate full of fried gravel, horse manure and a boiled copy of Solo all washed down with a steaming cup of hot bleach and not only declare it delicious but also leave a tip just before you start bringing up your stomach lining.

    Ultimately though I am fairly confident that Mendes is not as deranged as you and won't render the whole final scene in SF of her finally sitting behind her desk meaningless by having her go back into the field like John Matrix for 'one last job'

    Good heavens old chap. A little decorum please!

  • Bentley wrote:
    [

    There's nothing wrong with my tasteometer @villiers but you might want to seek medical attention before you sit down for another meal as your taste buds are so off you could easily wolf down a nutritious plate full of fried gravel, horse manure and a boiled copy of Solo all washed down with a steaming cup of hot bleach and not only declare it delicious but also leave a tip just before you start bringing up your stomach lining.

    Ultimately though I am fairly confident that Mendes is not as deranged as you and won't render the whole final scene in SF of her finally sitting behind her desk meaningless by having her go back into the field like John Matrix for 'one last job'

    Good heavens old chap. A little decorum please!

    Worry not @Bentley. It clearly takes all sorts.
    Back to 'Solo'. I've been following the flow of the Amazon reviews and have come to the conclusion that they are very publisher manipulated. If you read them in order, you can see that the first reviews were quite negative and were clearly from genuine reviewers. Once they saw the direction of travel, the PR machine lept into action.

  • Posts: 267
    Villiers53 wrote:
    Bentley wrote:
    [

    There's nothing wrong with my tasteometer @villiers but you might want to seek medical attention before you sit down for another meal as your taste buds are so off you could easily wolf down a nutritious plate full of fried gravel, horse manure and a boiled copy of Solo all washed down with a steaming cup of hot bleach and not only declare it delicious but also leave a tip just before you start bringing up your stomach lining.

    Ultimately though I am fairly confident that Mendes is not as deranged as you and won't render the whole final scene in SF of her finally sitting behind her desk meaningless by having her go back into the field like John Matrix for 'one last job'

    Good heavens old chap. A little decorum please!

    Worry not @Bentley. It clearly takes all sorts.
    Back to 'Solo'. I've been following the flow of the Amazon reviews and have come to the conclusion that they are very publisher manipulated. If you read them in order, you can see that the first reviews were quite negative and were clearly from genuine reviewers. Once they saw the direction of travel, the PR machine leapt into action.

    I know. I often read the Amazon reviews before buying. Evidently they are now the most powerful things in the publishing world and for the most part, I find them to be a reasonable barometer.
    The normal trend, if a book is good, is for the early posters to sing its praises and then for things to drop off when readers, impressed by initial reviews, buy and discover it's not quite for them.
    Think about it - the chronology of it is entirely logical.
    In the case of SOLO, the first reviews were at best mixed and then there was a flood of he positive. I think the practice is called sock-puppeting.
    At the end of the day, it doesn't amount to a hill of beans — when something is bad, it's bad and the truth will out.
    IFP will need more than a few friends to turn that turkey into a success.
  • edited December 2013 Posts: 4,622
    A few thoughts on Solo.

    Anyone think Boyd is coming back? He left two tantalizing loose ends. Namely the villain loose end to be dealt with, and the fact that M told Bond to drop by on Monday I believe it was, to discuss a mission that might interest him.
    Boyd seems to be hinting that he would like to come back.
    Mind you Deaver did much the same the same thing at the end of CB, but IFP appears to have left both him and modern-context Bond dangling.
    Because I like reading Bond novels, even so-so Bond novels, I would like IFP to allow Boyd to continue where he left off, see where he goes with what he left dangling and also for someone to continue where Deaver left off.
    Bring back Deaver if you must, but it also wouldn't take a lot for someone else to read the Deaver book, and continue with Deaver's present time continuity.
    There was nothing grievous with Deavers re-boot per se IMO. I just didn't like Deaver's portryal of the character and his obsession with mystery-novel type twists and turns.
    This way we could have two adult-Bond continuities going at the same time.
    Boyd's thread could continue until 1981. ie until it bumped into the start of the Gardner timeline.
    Chop Chop. Lets get some books going here. There is a captive fan base that will read anything served up. I know I am not alone.
  • Samuel001Samuel001 Moderator
    Posts: 13,353
    Boyd already said before release, he won't return. I think IFP will focus on Young Bond for now, so I doubt we'll see another adult book until 2018 if not later.
  • Posts: 4,622
    Samuel001 wrote:
    Boyd already said before release, he won't return. I think IFP will focus on Young Bond for now, so I doubt we'll see another adult book until 2018 if not later.
    IFP then either needs to make him an offer that he can't refuse or maybe just flatter him. That can often work. Boyd should be thrilled to be writing Bond.
    Failing the continuation of Boyd, then get on someone else to pick up the Boyd thread and commit to a trilogy or something.

  • edited December 2013 Posts: 2,598
    Certainly Boyd might not very well continue, but I'd like him too. He understands the Bond character and he's perfectly capable of writing a decent spy thriller plot which I think he would this time if he did come back. Many people do like SOLO too. MI6 gave it a positive review as well. Some writers though don't share our sentiments about how great it would be to write a Bond book. To be honest, if I was someone like Lee Child who had a series of successful books, and was asked by IFP to write a Bond book, I'd feel a bit reluctant for a number of reasons.

    As for continuing in the present too, I'd be keen on this as well, but I definitely would not want Deaver to do it because of what he did with the character coupled with all the ineffective twists. Bond is barely recognisable in his book. Deaver told me himself that he wanted "him (Bond) to be liked". With the exception of all the twists, the story of CB was entertaining though. If Deaver continued you'd have to expect more twists as that's what his fans like. You'd also have to expect the same unrecognisable Bond too.
  • Posts: 2,904
    The Dec.19 issue of the London Review of Books has a rather creative review. It's behind a paywall, but I have access to the whole thing. Here it is:

    Semi-colons are for the weak
    by Colin Burrow

    ‘Morning dearie’. Bond heaved himself awake. A set of teeth was grinning at him from the glass next to his bed. He was in an Innov8 2000 Profiling Hospital Bed with full electronic tilt control. Two tubes ran out of his side to drain the cavity where his right lung used to be.

    The nurse was trying to put her arm around him to help him sit up.

    ‘Now Jimmy … ’

    ‘My name is … ’ What the devil was it?

    ‘Don’t mumble, Jimmy. There’s a parcel for you.’

    Bond clawed at the parcel with a hand on which he could still see the white outline of the skin-graft he’d had between Casino Royale and Live and Let Die. These physical details from his past made him feel real.

    ‘Let me,’ sighed the nurse.

    Basic parcel protocol flashed into his mind. He muttered ‘Bomb’.

    ‘That’s no word to use to a lady, you naughty old thing. Look, it’s a book. I don’t think we’re up to it today. I’ll just put it here next to your tooth glass.’

    When the nurse had left the room he ignored the rubbery hospital eggs and the dark liquid that they passed off as coffee and tried to make sense of the book.

    He was half his real age. Forty-five and past it. Had a birthday dinner. Sensible to spend it at the Dorchester on your own. He flipped on through a lot of standard Bond stuff. Kit? Jensen Interceptor II; a vulgar choice of car. And as for a hired Mustang … Skirt? Good to see that every other nipple is still ‘pert’ after all these years, or better still ‘perfectly round, like coins’. Mission? Off to Africa this time. But reading Graham Greene on the flight? What kind of pansy does this Boyd fellow think I am? Nasty civil war to sort out. Oil money at stake. That’s more like it. Juicy little coffee-coloured girl who turns out to be the local section head, too. Or does she?

    There had been a time when Bond made his way in prose like a stealthy cat. Short sharp runs were punctuated with sudden pounces. He always acted decisively though he didn’t always get things right. Short clauses. Main verbs up front. Or no main verbs at all. A sprinkling of commas were reserved for the rare subordinate clause. And semi-colons? They were for the weak. His past was limited to the odd dark penumbra of recollection, which, along with the occasional out-of-register word like ‘penumbra’ or ‘chatoyance’, gave him psychological depth and reminded readers that they should have read the previous books too.

    He could confess that in his novels he had been too much of a boom and bonk merchant. He enjoyed himself more in his short stories, where there was less need for a hyperventilating blockbuster climax and more time for the real Bond experiences: for waiting, for anxiety, for anger and social resentment, for adversaries who were dark reflections of himself, and for exact physical description. When in ‘The Living Daylights’ he was stuck in a tiny room in Berlin from which he was supposed to shoot a sniper before the sniper shot a Western agent Bond had time just to be Bond – to read a bad German thriller, to eye up the girls, to watch the curtains, to feel the boredom and unease of being ordered to kill. ‘Octopussy’ released sour guilt among the tropical fish, and allowed Bond himself to be no more than a blank force of retribution who caused the death of a man who was effectively his alter ego. He liked that. But even in the novels there were some set-piece descriptions of which he could still be proud. Some of them were little masterpieces, like the sea scenes in Live and Let Die, where each fish became a stealthy predator, and the whole world of man and beast seemed driven by a relentless desire to kill. It was a pure Bond-world of controlled sadistic destruction all the way down to the plankton: ‘Then he would focus his eyes on the phosphorescent scribbles of the minute underwater night-life and perceive whole colonies and populations about their microscopic business’. That was damn fine writing.

    Bond could deliver little shots of irony back then, along with the .25 calibre slugs. As he escaped from the US in Diamonds Are Forever he entered ‘the great safe, black British belly of the Queen Elizabeth’. Yet even the black British womb of queen and country turned out to be infiltrated by American gangsters and assassins. Empire on the turn and all that. His favourite moment, though, had to be seeing the naked Honeychile Rider on the beach in Dr No (none of that kitsch swimming-costume of that terrible film), when she combined the pose of the spinario with the breasts of Botticelli’s Venus. Bond smiled as he remembered the perfect line with which he had introduced himself to her: ‘I’m an Englishman. I’m interested in birds.’

    Back in the day the girls had valleys of cleavage, and usually the ones he fancied were not afraid to hold his gaze for a second before their grey or blue eyes fell demurely. People said his women were infantilised. He could see now that it was an odd coincidence that so many of them had been raped at least once in their past. And when James had taken them to bed so that he could console them for the wrongs inflicted on them by life they usually got badly hurt soon afterwards. Or killed. That was a shame. But Honeychile displayed true grit in Dr No when she said (after her unfortunate experience with the giant crabs): ‘Of course it wasn’t very nice having my clothes taken off and being tied down to pegs in the ground. But those black men didn’t dare touch me.’ How could people say his fiction was sadistic? Honeychile had taken it all in the right spirit.

    As Bond leafed through the new volume of his adventures he realised that it was all over. He was stuck in prose that creaked with the weary energy of pastiche. The girls had to have surprising inner resources as well as great tits. These days he had to suffer not just from the regrets of a trained killer but from post-traumatic stress. He had to spend weeks stranded in an Africa that was a standard issue decaying postcolonial playground for mercenaries, with the odd pathos-filled episode in which children starve slotted in to show that this was a thriller with a conscience. He was relieved to see that he was still allowed baddies who were physically deformed, but he was nauseated by the amount he was forced to eat. Meal after meal, most of it with a tasteless dash of local colour, or ‘surprisingly tasty, peppery fish stew with dago-dago dumplings’. It was a relief when he was reduced to eating pawpaw in the jungle. There seemed to be some funny stuff going on in the old tummy too: ‘He felt a little, animalistic quiver of desire low in his gut and his loins.’ Must be all that steak and scrambled eggs. It was true that there was a recipe for Scrambled Eggs James Bond in the rather weary short story ‘007 in New York’. But a footnote in Solo explaining how to prepare the James Bond salad dressing? Bond could see that this might be good for market-share, but otherwise remained unconvinced.

    As he read on he had to accept that even his food scenes had gone limp. He flicked forward to the moment when he finally got it together with the ripe-bodied starlet Bryce Fitzjohn – though surely that should be Fitzjames, he thought with a grin. Maybe there was, as this Boyd person claimed – he just couldn’t stop those clichés rolling – ‘life in the old dog yet’. Or maybe there wasn’t:

    They both knew exactly what was going to happen later and that knowledge provided a satisfying sensual undercurrent to their conversation as they ate the meal she cooked for him – a rare sirloin steak with a tomato and shallot salad, the wine a light and fruity Chianti, with a thin slice of lemony torta della nonna to follow.

    Bond confessed to himself that he had in the dark days of the 1960s succumbed to a glass or two of Chianti. But ‘light and fruity’? He gritted his gums. He accelerated on to the sex scene: ‘They made careful love in her wide bed, Bond relishing the smooth ripeness of her body. Afterwards, she sent him down to the kitchen for another bottle of champagne and they lay in bed drinking and talking.’ ‘They made careful love’? What the hell did that mean? Protected sex? Tender sex? Both? Bond snorted. And the mere idea that he of all people would go to the kitchen like a scullery-maid to get more champagne. At least it was Taittinger and not Tesco’s bloody Finest. He coughed out a bitter laugh. He was full of hatred for the modern world. Its caringness. Its warm unspecificity. That stuff would get you killed.

    It was then he felt the kick in his chest. It was as though a donkey had coiled up its back legs and whammed him. He felt for a moment fully alive. Energy flooded into him. He sat up. Then his eyes filmed over. He fell back. The nurse came back into the room. A weak smile spread across his face.

    A young man with aquiline features and a well-cut suit came that afternoon to look over Mr Bond’s affairs. Nurse Moneypenny was anxious to tell him everything. ‘I came in just as he was, you know, passing.’

    With a gloved hand the young man deftly slipped the copy of Solo into a decontamination sack so it could be tested for toxicity before it was shredded. He then swept the rest of Bond’s possessions into a bin-bag: the bound copies of Mayfair, the battered Rolex Oyster Perpetual, the copy of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s The Traveller’s Tree, and the Beretta .25 with the skeleton grip which had been rusting beneath Bond’s mattress during all those rounds of chemo. Bit of a lady’s weapon, thought the young man. Can’t think why he hung onto that.

    Back at headquarters racks of servers flickered into life. In a bunker deep beneath the Virginia countryside young Desdemona Leiter casually monitored the stream of intercepts from GCHQ. As ‘007’ flashed before her eyes she thought to herself ‘Poor old bastard.’ Then a message from her man in Baqubah blipped onto the screen. She swept back her blonde hair. Code Green. Leiter uncrossed her elegant legs and swivelled on her Kneelsit ergonomic computer chair to face another monitor. There was a drone to dispatch. Life was such a drag.
  • edited December 2013 Posts: 2,598
    LOL. I'm sure some will have a field day with this review! Let the games begin..! :))

    It's a pity that SOLO lacked plot but the entertaining well crafted scenes in this book made it an entertaining read all the same.

    "Pastiche" seems to be a popular, boringly overused word when it comes to Bond continuation books. This is part of the reason why I said in my above post that if I was a famous writer like Lee Child for example (I mention him because I love his 'Jack Reacher' books) that I would be reluctant to scribe a Bond book. It seems like what ever an author writes in a Bond book he'll either get accused of "pastiche" or the complete opposite, a Bond book that is rubbish because it isn't a Bond book. It's just all too easy to slay a continuation adult Bond novel. Certainly there are Bond continuation books that are better than others, but for a Bond continuation author to be accused of "pastiche" is pretty ridiculous. Nevertheless, this is what's being done and it seems like an adult continuation author is doomed from the moment he decides to take on the project - before he puts a single word to paper. The Young Bond authors on the other hand have the advantage of being assigned a project that differs somewhat to that of the adult Bond adventures for obvious reasons.
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