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50 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Different
Promoting Solo in the Guardian newspaper (28/9/13) Boyd printed an 'interview' between himself and James Bond from 1969. Fun but it helped me put my finger on it- this is a 007 novel written as though Ian Fleming never existed. While it's obvious from the blurb that Boyd eschewed a classic Bond plot (playing cat & mouse vs supervillain), and clear that he hasn't attempted...
Published 19 months ago by Amon Avis

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing.
I was looking forward to this book having read the gushing Press reviews and having read all of Fleming's books several years ago. Sadly it's a bit of a mess and not terribly well written either. If I didn't know it was written by William Boyd,and Restless is one of my favourite books,I'd have thought it was a half decent effort by a half decent author and ,sex scenes...
Published 5 months ago by Oldbiker


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing., 12 Dec. 2014
I was looking forward to this book having read the gushing Press reviews and having read all of Fleming's books several years ago. Sadly it's a bit of a mess and not terribly well written either. If I didn't know it was written by William Boyd,and Restless is one of my favourite books,I'd have thought it was a half decent effort by a half decent author and ,sex scenes aside,possibly aimed at the Teen market.
Boyd's Bond hardly comes across as anyone British Intelligence would be remotely interested in,rather dim in fact,and the plot is full of "you can't be serious" incidents. I work in a factory putting things into boxes,I could see things writ large that bumbling Bond didn't appear to be capable of noticing. Possibly my talents are wasted and I should contact MI5 with a view to recruitment,more likely Boyd has got it badly wrong and had Rowan Atkinson's painfully unfunny Johnny English character in his mind rather than James Bond.
As a light read plenty will enjoy Solo,I found it pretty poor,not least having read the original Bond books.Anyone who is thinking of buying this would be better advised to begin reading the Fleming books. Anyone who has read those and enjoyed them but not yet read the original Robert Ludlum Bourne series will probably really enjoy those as well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Double O seven out of Double O ten, 27 Oct. 2014
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This is moderately successful, better in some parts than in others, much like the Ian Fleming originals. There's a certain pleasure in ticking off all the generic conventions as they're duly called into service: fast girls, faster cars, particular - and often peculiar - dietary requirements, the right weapon, characters' bizarre names (Sunday, Blessing, Christmas), inventive death, etc, etc: yes, they're all here. Boyd even remembers the story of Fleming learning that in real life one always vomits when recovering consciousness. Fleming included the detail in his next novel, and here it is in Boyd, too. Twice.

While all of this may indeed 'A James Bond Novel' make, it doesn't in itself add up to an effective thriller. Solo is exciting in places, but drags in others, which I suppose is not unusual, but one has come to expect more from James Bond, perhaps unreasonably, especially as I think I remember the same being true of at least some of Fleming's efforts, though they at least had the benefit of originality, a luxury not enjoyed by Boyd.

Boyd has famously chosen to set the novel in 1969, so here we have a historical novel, too: while period detail is dutifully included and anachronism doesn't exactly abound, neither is it wholly absent, and it grates. I don't for a moment believe that she had a 'day from hell', and I'm suspicious of a hospital that was 'state of the art', or that Bond appreciates 'effective PR'.

A generally enjoyable literary exercise: well done. Now, put your money away, Mr Boyd, and write something much better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Such a disappointment, 29 Nov. 2014
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Oh what a disappointment! Ian Fleming was a great story-teller with one of the most enjoyable fictional spies ever imagined. Having read his books years ago I looked forward to this 'sequel' by William Boyd. But sadly Boyd is not Fleming. What we have is a poor pastiche of the style and, of course, the main character, but nothing more. Whereas Fleming had you gripped and turning the pages, this left me unengaged and frankly indifferent, both to the man and to what happens next. I appreciate that only Fleming will write like Fleming, but there are masters of plotting and narrative out there (Anthony Horowitz for one) who can write this kind of 'sequel' and have done it brilliantly for other authors. Sorry. I wanted to enjoy it, but I didn't.
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50 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Different, 30 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Solo: A James Bond Novel (Hardcover)
Promoting Solo in the Guardian newspaper (28/9/13) Boyd printed an 'interview' between himself and James Bond from 1969. Fun but it helped me put my finger on it- this is a 007 novel written as though Ian Fleming never existed. While it's obvious from the blurb that Boyd eschewed a classic Bond plot (playing cat & mouse vs supervillain), and clear that he hasn't attempted Fleming's voice, the wholesale dumping of the thriller style is a courageous mistake. The result is a curate's egg, lacking in action and pace but compelling in tone and atmosphere.

To start with the positive, he's got Bond pretty darn close. Beyond the welcome knitted tie, eggs, fags, etc, there's an appreciation for the dry, humane, pernickety but coldly professional hero. His voice especially shines through: be it grumbles at the service industry, or an impressively unfusty appreciation of young people's fashion and freedom. The mischief in Richmond didn't worry me from a character point of view: silly, reckless, ungallant, man without milk tray but very human.

Moreover the period setting is consummate, effortlessly weaving in the old world trappings that were a powerful counterpoint to 007's extravagant adventures: Dimple Haig, the old pound note, Jensen FF. By extension, the undoubted high light of the book is the fictional African failed state. Boyd's background obviously informs the wildlife, geography, politics of Zanzarim; the late colonial setting is perfect for Bond who operates best on a thin veneer of civilisation, the private club never more than a few steps from the urban guerrilla. Remoteness and exoticism are at the heart of the best Bond outings, and Zanzarim must be a contender for the most alien: vivid, horrific and haunting.

The problem is not so much the plot (I needn't repeat here) but the storytelling. This isn't a thriller by any means: too recursive and wandery, it's disjointed and lacks urgency. Not uneventful, but with little incident and almost no action until the halfway mark. Scenes occur so we can revisit them once something happens. I don't need shootouts and car chases, but to deprive a man of action of his purpose is dangerous. Without a proper mission or megalomaniac to hunt the pace flags badly. I don't mind continuation writers breaking rules (Amis, Gardner, Benson) but you better have a damn good reason.

Fleming's cardinal rule (borrowed from pulp fiction) was keep the plot flying and they won't see the plot holes. Here they appear cavernous, as chapters end with little coercing you to start the next. Gardner proved that 007 mysteries (semi-concealing the bad guy for plot reasons) need plenty of action, heavy on the quirky/bizarre/macabre. Without head to head showdowns over cards/cars/golf, 007 wilts amid a conspiracy. The girls and henchmen are well characterised but fail to loom large. Crucial as once out of Africa the leaden pace makes Bond's solo mission appear arbitrary, out of character and unconvincing.

In fairness the twists are good, and the prose better than I feel he's been given credit for. Erudite but unshowy, with an impressive knack for description, it's an easy read. I enjoyed it as a romance in the same old-fashioned sense that applied to Fleming's work (a story with scenes remote from ordinary life), but mourned it as a non-thriller. An interesting period companion piece about 007, but not a Bond adventure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I liked this Bond story, I really took to it., 28 Oct. 2014
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Roger Cave - See all my reviews
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I'd seen some negative reviews of this book, which initially put me off reading it. Well, I'm glad I made the me to read this solid little novel.
It's a "sort of" Bond, as he's now in his forties, wants to replace his Bentley with a Jensen, and looks like he wants to settle down. Nevertheless, the author his done his homework and has produced a decent follow up to the series.

Anyway, I enjoyed the story, which was evident by the speed I read it.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bond Reinvented, 13 May 2014
This is a far better book than Seb Faulks hammy pastiche of 2009. It has a grittiness and authenticity all of its own. Just as Boyd is a better writer, this is a superior effort, up there with Fleming's best. Why?

For a start, this character is more like Bond - he is violent, sexy, intelligent and a few steps ahead of most people. When he fails he fails spectacularly. The story is about deception - Bond thinks he is helping stop a civil war, in Africa but ends up in the middle of it, helping the wrong side. He is taken in by an African seductress, in true Bond fashion, helps a typically ruthless Bond henchman called Kobus Breed, and ends up on the winning side by going 'solo' to get his revenge. It avoids a lot of Bond cliché's whilst embracing them. at the same time.

I am happy that Boyd took this on. He is one modern Brit writer I always read, and this is more than pastiche. It is an addition to the Bond cannon - and moves it forwards.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved the setting and characters, 29 Oct. 2014
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M. J. Taylor (Newbury, Berkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
Fabulous read. The quickest I've read a novel in a few years. I loved the setting and characters, but most of all, Bond himself was perfect. I've never read a William Boyd before, so I'm going to read another next! Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bond goes to Africa in contemporary take on civil wars and daring do, 12 May 2015
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As a fan of William Boyd I immediately warmed to this tale set in a fictitious West African country engaged in a civil war. Boyd's Bond can keep company with the original without embarrassment and is neither parody nor pastiche. The story engages attention from the start and is paced as a thriller. Boyd has personal experience of West Africa and I can relate my own experiences to the way he uses this setting for much of the book. It was such a good read that I never asked why? Or questioned the author's decision to write a 'Bond novel'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT, 27 Oct. 2014
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A wonderful James Bond adventure with lots of exciting twists that I would recommend to any Bond fan. Well written and great story set back in time.
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3.0 out of 5 stars In hospital and needed something to relieve the waiting boredom ..., 29 Nov. 2014
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Cover 3/5 I have the red one. Says little about the book.

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Adequate for a light read. Nothing like the real thing I remember but then it is some time since I re- read one of the originals. As one of the other reviewers says Bond is a little to careless. Like the Mekon in Dan Dare one of the main characters looks to return?

Alexander of the Allrighters and Ywnwab!
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Solo: A James Bond Novel
Solo: A James Bond Novel by William Boyd (Hardcover - 26 Sept. 2013)
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