As most of you already know, I love the Ian Fleming James Bond novels. I adore the era it’s set in, coupled with the Cold War tensions, espionage and Bond’s suave demeanor. Because of this, I had a hard time getting into the last Bond novel, Carte Blanche, a reboot, that set Bond in modern times. I just didn’t enjoy it all that much, especially with Bond fiddling on his smartphone for a good portion. That to me isn’t Bond. I never did read the last novel that was set in the 60s, Devil May Care, which was written by Sebastian Faulks, who mimicked Ian Fleming’s writing. I own it and will definitely be reading it, but that isn’t what I’m here today to talk about. Just recently, a new James Bond novel was released, Solo, written by William Boyd, which places Bond back in the 60s, 1969 specifically, with Bond celebrating his 45th birthday and being tasked with heading to Africa, to stop a civil war. Does this novel bring me back to the heyday of Fleming’s Bond? Read on to find out…
Short nitty-gritty plot description from the back cover is as follows: It’s 1969, and, having just celebrated his
forty-fifth birthday, James Bond—British special agent 007—is summoned
to headquarters to receive an unusual assignment. Zanzarim, a troubled
West African nation, is being ravaged by a bitter civil war, and M
directs Bond to quash the rebels threatening the established regime.
arrival in Africa marks the start of a feverish mission to discover the
forces behind this brutal war—and he soon realizes the situation is far
from straightforward. Piece by piece, Bond uncovers the real cause of
the violence in Zanzarim, revealing a twisting conspiracy that extends
further than he ever imagined.
Moving from rebel battlefields in
West Africa to the closed doors of intelligence offices in London and
Washington, this novel is at once a gripping thriller, a tensely plotted
story full of memorable characters and breathtaking twists, and a
masterful study of power and how it is wielded—a brilliant addition to
the James Bond canon.
Tatlock’s Quick ‘n Dirty Recap: As already mentioned above, Solo takes place after the Fleming novels, in 1969. James Bond has turned 45, he’s getting grey in his hair and his drinking is getting obscene. He still smokes like a chimney and fraternizes with women. Still, even with all that, Bond feels lonely and tired. M has just the thing for Bond, a mission that requires him to travel to Africa, under the guise of a journalist and put a stop to the civil war that is happening, between two factions, that are vying over the newly discovered oil supply. Bond quickly settles into his mission, meeting local agent Efua Blessing Ogilvy-Grant, who is tasked with transporting Bond into hostile territory. Everything is going fine, until the plan backfires and we find Bond in over his head and getting put right in the middle of the feuding. One thing leads to another and Bond finds himself on a warpath for revenge, going solo (hence the name) and seeking cruel justice.
Tatlock’s Opinion: That’s the Quick ‘n Dirty recap for sure. I don’t really want to spoil anything in the story, so I decided to kinda jump all over the place, to give you folks the general gist of things. So, what did I think of Bond’s latest adventure? I loved it! William Boyd had me gripped from the first page and kept the pace going strong throughout. I’ve read a few complaints about the opening first few chapters being slow, but to me it was a heavenly delight, to just settle back into 60s Bond’s life and see what he has been up to. However, for action junkies, once the mission is a go, the action certainly takes precedence. The book also doesn’t go shy on the violence, as Bond can be quite brutal at times (for good reason) and even some of the bad guys can be even more brutal.
Speaking of bad guys, fans may be a little put off at the lack of one true big, world dominating baddie. Instead, we get a realistic take on the “villains”, who are just evil for evil’s sake. One person in particular, relishes in the blood of war and taking lives is something that ignites this persons life. What Boyd does with this character in the story, leaves me completely intrigued as to what will happen next in Bond’s life. Here’s hoping either Boyd, or someone else gets to continue the Fleming timeline from here.
Verdict: William Boyd returns Bond back to the universe and time period he so rightfully deserves to be in. He manages to breath fresh air back into the character, yet still maintains everything we loved about Fleming’s creation.
Rating: 5/5 (I was completely captivated from page 1 to page 336. It returns Bond to form and resurrects Fleming’s character wonderfully.)