Review - SOLO, William Boyd
As the first of the restarted Bond franchise novels that I've tackled I wasn't really sure what to expect. Especially as we've been doing a rewind of all of the movies recently so there's a certain perception of Bond jammed in my brain that's obviously going to take precedence over and above memories of the original books / writing.
At the start of the book this was definitely not Bond as I thought him. There's something oddly thoughtful, considered and reflective in the early chapters that really threw me. Badly. Obviously too many movies where, I have to admit, things got a bit too cartoonish. But I can definitely see how the opening part of this book has appeal. This is a human Bond - somebody that reminds me very much of Daniel Craig's version.
Once the action parts of the book get moving then we're back into more familiar territory, although the idea of filling in a back story around World War II works, providing a bit of continuity for the African civil strife to follow. SOLO also uses this scenario to provide a much more realistic threat for Bond to go up against. Even though I sort of did miss mad evil geniuses, shark tanks, mysterious islands, massive cities in space and all the other daft lunacy.
What Boyd does seem to have done is write a book within the Bond franchise that works as a thriller in its own right, with sufficient of the original framework to be true to the spirit, without trying for a direct copy.
To be honest I wasn't really looking forward to reading SOLO, so I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it became.
It is 1969 and James Bond is about to go solo, recklessly motivated by revenge.
A seasoned veteran of the service, 007 is sent to single-handedly stop a civil war in the small West African nation of Zanzarim. Aided by a beautiful accomplice and hindered by the local militia, he undergoes a scarring experience which compels him to ignore M’s orders in pursuit of his own brand of justice. Bond’s renegade action leads him to Washington, D.C., where he discovers a web of geopolitical intrigue and witnesses fresh horrors.
Even if Bond succeeds in exacting his revenge, a man with two faces will come to stalk his every waking moment.