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3.9 out of 5 stars36
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 23 November 2012
An essential for Bond fans, by a Bond fan. Kingsley Amis (1922-1995) was a British writer of darkly comic novels (Lucky Jim, The Old Devils), essays on jazz & drinking, and what he called genre fiction (eg sci-fi, spy thrillers) both as writer and critic. A Bond book fan when it wasn't fashionable for 'literary types' to be, he met Fleming, liked him and was invited to write a light hearted but thorough literary appraisal of the canon: The James Bond Dossier (1965) and a tongue in cheek companion piece, The Book of Bond or Every Man His Own 007 by "Lt.Col Bill Tanner"!

When Fleming died, it was natural that Amis was asked to ghost edit the complete but rough manuscript of The Man with the Golden Gun (1965) and then write its follow up, Colonel Sun (1968). [The gap was bridged by the final collection of short stories Octopussy (1966) and an attempted children's spin off, The Adventures of James Bond Junior: Double-O Three and a Half by "RD Mascott" (1967)- weird but surprisingly good!].

Score: 9/10. It's autumn, six months after 007's duel with Scaramanga, and a recently healed Bond is worried he's in a rut. Then a casual visit to the home of his convalescing chief ends with a drugged Bond running for his life and M kidnapped. With the only clue an obvious trap, 007 has no choice but to head for Athens and an assignation with Ariadne: a beautiful communist agent working for Russia. However as the gunfire and double crosses begin beneath the Acropolis, a sadistic Chinese spymaster waits on an obscure Greek island plotting the downfall of both sides.

I'll admit frankly that it's one of my favourite Bond novels by anyone, perfectly judging tone and content. Whereas Faulks' Devil May Care (2008) was the work of a great writer first and a fan second, Amis has no loftier ambitions than keeping you immersed and enthralled. All the ingredients are here: golf at Sunningdale, roast beef and rose at Scott's, Quarterdeck (last seen in OHMSS), high life in luxury hotels, violent death in alleyways.

We have 360 degree characterisation of a beautiful, fascinating love interest in Ariadne; a tough ally in Litsas, sailor and onetime freedom fighter; and as well studied and vicious a villain in Sun as Fleming ever created (the torture scene is terrifying). Even minor henchman and allies are memorable. Bond's world is unchanged: section chiefs at home, station chiefs abroad, Q branch's gadgets ingenious (but not a get-out-of-jail-free) and above all the sardonic, stalwart staff. The latter are exemplified by Bill Tanner who gets a big part here, while M's kidnap is genuinely disturbing.

It's not a pastiche and I know some fans miss the 'Fleming sweep'- that uncanny narrative drive that held together the most incongruous scenes, and made the most wildly improbable plotting seem plausible. The plot's less outrageous and the writing's less eccentric, but we get the dry tone of old plus vivid and compelling prose (it's probably the best written Bond ever) and a noirish story reminiscent of Casino Royale, From Russia with Love & Dr No. As for the 'strong sensations' Fleming insisted on, the set pieces are less bizarre/ quirky, but the sex and violence are grittier than ever. A great shame the continuations were put on hiatus (until John Gardner's Licence Renewed (James Bond 1), 1981) as this is a class act.
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on 27 July 2008
A very polished continuation of the James Bond series, which is better than the worst of Fleming's offerings, but does not quite live up to the best. In some ways it is rather too good and lacks the cheesy charm of the real stuff, which is absolutely essential for the full Bond experience. Amis lacks that vague homo-erotic admiration of his hero, that is always apparent when Fleming describes James Bond between action sequences. Amis's aphorisms and humour (there is one very good joke) are rather too good, as well. The girl is rather too psychologically complicated for a Bond girl. But the main villain is very good - the torture scene excellent. Recommended.
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on 30 May 2015
Colonel Sun is a novel by Kingsley Amis published in 1968 under the pseudonym "Robert Markham". Markham was intended as an umbrella pseudonym under which different writers would continue the series. Colonel Sun is the first James Bond continuation novel published after Ian Fleming's 1964 death.

The Bond portrayed in Colonel Sun continues on with the way Fleming was developing the character in his final three novels. Events take a toll on Bond: he loses his wife in On Her Majesty's Secret Service; he loses his memory in Japan in You Only Live Twice; and he is brainwashed in Russia, is de-programmed by MI6 and almost dies from Francisco Scaramanga's poisoned bullet in The Man with the Golden Gun.

Amis picks up right where "The Man With The Golden Gun" left off. Bond has the nagging feeling of complacency and boredom. An emotional state as at the start of other books (Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). The action soon kicks off though. Bond ends-up in a realistic Greek setting involved in a scheme rich with more political intrigue than usual. Revenge also features more too: revenge for the death of the Hammonds and M's kidnapping. Bond thus comes across as particularly tough and ruthless.

Amis does a great job at capturing the spirit and soul of Bond. Bond isn’t an imitation of the person we see in the movies. He’s more in keeping with the literary version. The description of the scenes and the distinct lack of gadgets are in line with the way Fleming wrote.

The book flags a little towards the middle which reflects that Amis likes to get the characters talking to each other. He’s not an out and out writer of action scenes. Its also missing the much of the racism (but not all) so prevalent in Flemings novels. Obviously, this is to be welcomed.

In summary, the plot is gripping, the villain inspired and the torture sequence brutal. This is one of the best James Bond books I’ve read. In fact there wouldn't be another one published until John Gardner carried on the series in 1981.
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on 13 July 2012
Colonel Sun is the first James Bond novel written by someone other than Ian Fleming, and Kingsley Amis, writing under the pseudonym of Robert Markham, does a good job of it, though it is noticeably different.

The character of Bond is almost spot on. He's highly opinionated, has the right manner and knows the right things, but has taken up quite a lot more introspection.

The plot, which involves Bond's attempts to rescue a kidnapped M, is well constructed, and much more complex than any that Fleming composed. The guest characters are richly described and more realistic and deep than some of Bond's earlier adversaries. The violence is real and just as graphic as Fleming could have described.

This is probably the best of all the 'continuation' Bond novels, and I'm surprised there weren't more written in a similar vein. Once you've read the originals then this is defiantly a must-read.
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on 10 July 2010
There have been many poor imitators who wrote various James Bond books after Fleming. The only one who did a good job was Kingsley Amis (writing this book under the name of Robert Markham). He ought to know his stuff, having written "The James Bond Dossier" and probably most of "The Man With The Golden Gun".
"Colonel Sun" is comparable to Fleming's books and probably better than some of his. It has an original story except that Colonel Sun has elements of Dr No and perhaps Le Chiffre and his carpet beater. There is probably more sadism and bloodshed in this book than in most of the other Bond books. Still, if you like the original Bond books you should like this one.
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on 11 December 2014
The only continuation novel that comes anywhere near the Fleming originals, and the only one that doesn't read like a film novelization. Richly deserves to be counted among the classics.
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on 23 April 2009
Robert Markham was actually Kingsley Amis, of course. A good attempt at Fleming, by someone who knew him well, and more importantly (Sebastian Faulks take note) someone who understood that the whole Bond Phenomenon was as much a wind-up as anything else. It's as good as a decent Fleming book, better than TMWTGG. It does have some weird 1960s sensibilities in it though - a reference to a cigarette having "life-giving smoke", and the suggestion that a dislike for tobacco is a sign of Psychosis! But then, the series is meant to be dryly funny, after all.
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on 17 March 2013
Anyone looking for Bond beyond the Fleming books start here. The best of the non Fleming Bonds (and I have read all the Gardner / Benson Bonds as well as Devil May Care by Faulks and Carte Blanche by Deaver), although all the Charlie Higson Young Bond novels are excellent.
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on 15 October 2015
I've already rated this novel in the past but this rating and review is for the new VINTAGE release of Amis one and only Bond novel. The story is frankly one of the best in the series (this is a better novel than one or two of Flemings) and is a must-read for a Bond fan. This VINTAGE edition includes an introduction by Kingsley Amis (written in 1991) and gives us a brief but insightful re-telling of how he came to write this novel. The cover for this edition is classy and straightforward (like the plot inside) and I'm so pleased that this novel's long overdue re-publication has finally come about.
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on 30 May 2016
I think this is the best of the Bond books not written by Ian Fleming, and very much in that style. Perhaps this is because it was written so close to the actual time that Fleming had written the Bond books and not written decades later, therefore easier to write and replicate. In any event, it is certainly worth trying for any Bond aficionado.
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