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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bond Reinvented
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...
Published 2 months ago by The Outsider

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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I really wanted to like this book. And for the first third I think I did.

I bought it on release day for my Kindle while on holiday in France and I very rarely buy books on release - the price usually falls within a few weeks so I wait.

The idea of setting the story back in the 1960's seemed to be a fantastic one.

I liked the simplicity...
Published 9 months ago by Weevil


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10 of 11 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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49 of 58 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Different, 30 Sep 2013
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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 True Bond, 13 July 2014
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As others have said the style is quite true to Fleming. It is an interesting tale though I found the first half more interesting than the second. I would like to see the author write more of these books.
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 4 Oct 2013
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I really wanted to like this book. And for the first third I think I did.

I bought it on release day for my Kindle while on holiday in France and I very rarely buy books on release - the price usually falls within a few weeks so I wait.

The idea of setting the story back in the 1960's seemed to be a fantastic one.

I liked the simplicity of the first part of the book and I liked the pace - as I remember them Fleming's books were fairly slow so this book seemed to me to be following in those traditions. But on top of that I liked the idea that Bond's character was changing gradually with age.

The problems were mainly with the later parts of the book.

The plot is weak and the other characters are unbelievably dull and uninspiring. It might have been enough material for a short story. I certainly wasn't enough for a full length novel.

I particularly didn't like the attempt to overlay modern political views on characters from the 50's and 60's. I can't say too much as I don't want to spoil the book for others but to me it felt incongruous to say the least. The Bond character is entitled to change and develop with age and attitudes in the 1960's were changing rapidly - but I couldn't believe that a man with the background of James Bond would reflect on some of the events in the book the way he did.

The attitudes and politics that were acceptable in the 1950's are not acceptable for the "hero" of a book in the present day so we end up with a strange hybrid of a character who seems to be out of time with both then and now.

I think I'll be ignoring any future attempts to write new Bond books - they can't seem to live up to my expectations.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Deboyd of pleasure, 2 Oct 2013
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I'm uncertain as to why so many continuation authors have failed so miserably to produce a work that is at least on par with Fleming's lesser Bond novels, but it's fair to say that the concept of handing the holster over to best-selling authors who make self-aggrandising remarks in interviews, such as Faulks and Boyd, hasn't worked. Solo paints a vague shadow of Fleming's cold war hero, therefore failing in the same department as Carte Blanche (although I found it one of the more engrossing Bond adventures), exemplifying overtly political themes that don't quite belong in the fantasy world of Bond (a flaw in the otherwise rather good and certainly Flemingian Colonel Sun), and somehow, with its convoluted plot and half-arsed musings, being less memorable than the awful Devil May Care. Boyd stated that his sex scenes would be better written than Fleming's - well, they're not. Fleming's passages were memorable, while Boyd clearly inserts (no pun intended) a bit of hanky-panky out of obligation, whilst reading like a man who wouldn't know sadomasochism if Sade and Sacher-Masoch slapped him in the face. Solo is incredibly dull, hastily edited, lacks the adroit handling of imagery and syntax and sensuality and rawness and escapism of Fleming's works, and can only be compared to Gardner's lesser efforts with regards to quality; it is devoid of pleasure, memorable villains or sexy females. Give a true fan an opportunity to write a Bond novel - an individual who doesn't claim to better the creator. This is simply another pretentious disappointment for fans of the literary 007.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flemingesque, 21 May 2014
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A great first effort. Back to basics Bond , set in a small African country for the most part leaves him relying on his own skills rather than the gadgets of the modern era. Not knowing who to trust leaves Bond literally Solo.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a celebration of the original Bond, 11 May 2014
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M. O. HAYNES "couch magpie" (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
William Boyd’s ‘Solo’ depicts Bond as envisioned by Ian Fleming and is therefore set in the late 1960’s with everyone’s favourite spy a veteran of WWII. Boyd does an excellent job of capturing the spirit and the style of Fleming’s work and is as close to the ‘real thing’ as I have read.

Bond as usual falls for the charms of more than one woman in the story – one a English cougar film star and the other a young lithe African spy. Both are creations of fantasy akin to those that came before them.

Bond is as easily fallible as previous incarnations, is prone to outrageous violence with a smidge of guilt attached and in this story of vengeance becomes embroiled in the fate of an African nation that has recently found massive oil reserves.

The fight for control of the oil reserves by the resident factions of the country, international governments and oil companies is realistic and the descriptions of the African nation’s politics and everyday sights and sounds benefit from Boyd’s experience in these areas.

The action is old-school Bond – no gadgets here (beyond a false shoe heel) – and has that sadistic twist that was typical of Fleming.

I would recommend this book to anyone who liked the previous literary Bond reboots, but don’t expect any great reinventions – this is a celebration of the original Bond and as such there is no need for anything more. I could see this being the basis for a film - with a little Hollywood tweaking it has all the elements of a solid piece of cinema entertainment.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Book, 6 May 2014
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As good as any of Ian Fleming's books. Hope he will write some more on the bond theme, I will look out for them.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Fleming, 15 July 2014
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Captured the true essence of the original Fleming novels, with subtle historical framing and delightful mix of intrigue and violence - really transported you back to the world of James Bond as the story effortlessly flowed from London, Africa and Washington - recommend it
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4.0 out of 5 stars Set in the time that Fleming originally wrote Bond in ..., 14 July 2014
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Set in the time that Fleming originally wrote Bond in, it moves along well and reflects much of the establish Bond persona and action but with a slightly weak story line and a "you need to read the next book ending" which makes it incomplete.
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Solo: A James Bond Novel
Solo: A James Bond Novel by William Boyd (Audio CD - 26 Sep 2013)
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