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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 1 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: Solo: A James Bond Novel (Kindle Edition)
Enjoyable continuation novel. Not quite Fleming, but not far off. On a par with Devil May Care at least.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Off Target, 29 Jan. 2014
By 
Stevos (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
I haven't read a James Bond book since I bought Casino Royale in 2006, several months before the film came out. It was one of the few Bond books that I hadn't read.

In my teens I went through the John Gardner novels, and of course I remain a great fan of the films.

So why was I approaching Solo - William Boyd's Bond book - with some trepidation? Boyd is a well-known, respected author, who no doubt has a passion and understanding of Bond and his faithful readership.

In part, because I haven't really got on with other Boyd books. Ordinary Thunderstorms and Restless left me underwhelmed. And so it proved with Solo. I liked it, but it didn't rock my world, or even slightly sway it.

I will start off with what I liked.The overall plot is good. It's 1969 and Bond is sent to the African country Zanzarim where civil war is raging. The southern part of the country, Dahum, have declared independence and it's rebel militia are having unlikely success in fending off Zanzarim troops.

Bond's orders are to destabilize Dahum and end the rebellion in order for Zanzarim troops to reclaim the land.

The rights of the `rebels' to their independence is never really questioned - as is consistent with Bond's character. He's a `blunt instrument' working in Her Majesty's interests after all. So we get what we might expect from a Bond book - the goodies against the perceived baddies.

The period setting works well (amusingly, at one point Bond has to return all the way back to his Chelsea flat from Scotland just to get his contacts book. No handy computers/cloud storage to speed the plot up here!), and the African setting is painted convincingly. There's a real sense of place, and with it, the bare jeopardy of that harsh terrain.

There's also an interesting Bond girl in the form of Blessing Ogilvy Grant.

So what you get is a quick, easy read, and a fun Bond adventure.

Now for what disappointed me.

Am I being unfair, or is the writing slightly lacklustre? Bond's characterization, for example. Obviously, we get to hear Bond's inner monologue, but I don't think we need it punctuated with "Bond thought" after every sentence.

Within the opening chapter, you get:
"It was like opening a door to his childhood - so much of his past crowding in on him today, Bond thought..."
Then a few lines down:
"'How do you know it's my birthday?' Bond just managed to keep the surprise from his voice, he thought."

Yes, we know Bond is thinking that. If this type of reference were few and far between, then I wouldn't have noticed it. But by the time I was 50 pages in, it was leaping off the page.

If Bond isn't thinking something, he's telling himself.
When Bond meets Blessing, obviously he's attracted to her (Bond thought). But no, he must stick to the mission, he told himself.

And should Bond forget the things he's thought, and told himself, he has to remind himself! He reminds himself he's a secret agent at one point. Perhaps Boyd is aiming for additional realism and Bond is getting forgetful now he's age 45! Maybe he should write reminders at the back of his contacts book. Just don't let him anywhere near Q's gadgets.

The other problem for me is that I find it hard to write about Bond without drawing parallels to Lee Child's literary creation - and rival to Bond as the man other men want to be, and women want to posses - Jack Reacher. JR is arguably a more interesting (or at least written more interestingly) protagonist. And it pains me to say that. As it also pains me to say that in a straight fight between the two, Reacher would win hands down. After reading numerous Child books, Bond seems a bit feeble by comparison. Although to be fair, Reacher does possess mental agility bordering on clairvoyance, combined with such incredible physical strength that I often wonder if he's actually one of the X-Men. So maybe that is not a fair comparison to draw.

Then there's the villain, Kobus Breed. Even for a Bond book, this villain is painted so caricature-evilly that its hard to take him seriously. In terms of threat, scale, charm and villainy, he is not in the same class as Scaramanga or Goldfinger. It is because he is so obviously `the evil villain', that the possibility of questioning the rights and wrongs of sabotaging the revolution does not exist. He is bad, therefore Bond must defeat him. The consequences of breaking the rebellion are never addressed. As I said, it's simply goodies vs baddies.

There's also a side... well, not plot, but side interest. At the beginning of Solo, Bond meets a woman called Bryce Fitzjohn; fancies her; thinks about her a lot and tells himself a lot of things about her; reminds himself things about her; has his way with her; and then disappears. You're left wondering how she'll be woven into the overall plot. Well, I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that she isn't, and that's just frustrating.

Overall then, it's enjoyable, but nothing to get too excited about [Steve told himself, firmly].
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars waste of time, 24 Jan. 2014
James Bond wakes up with a hangover after celebrating his 45th birthday alone in a hotel room. In the office M gives Bond a new job. Agent 007 must stop the civil war in the fictional country in West Africa called Zanzarim. Due to the civil war, the population suffers from hunger, tens of thousands are dying. Former colony, Zanzarim gained independence in 1964, and later on its territory, oil was discovered. Deposits have been found on the part of the country that are controlled by Fakassa tribe. Capital and the government of the state are located in the opposite part of the country, controlled by another tribe, Lowele. Two tribes, of course, clashed because of oil, conflict initially was expressed in the protests and then completely escalated into armed confrontation, which culminated in a war. Fakassa tribe withdrew from Zanzarim and proclaimed itself a democratic republic Dahum. The war was supposed to end quickly, but because of the skill of one commander of Dahumian army, Brigadier Adeka, all military attacks of Zanzarim army end without success.

Bond's task is to eliminate Adeka, which should stop the civil war - and benefit the British, who supported Zanzarim army, for the sake of oil. Bond flies to Africa as a journalist of a French news agency.

Solo by William Boyd is James Bond novel in name only. Give the agent a different name, put M and Moneypenny away, and you get a story that will have no resemblance with the Bond adventures. Bond of this novel is not a professional assassin working for the government, but a weary civil servant, a specialist in international relations. This Bond do without modern and deadly gadgets and practically does not use weapons, doesn't seduces women, and if he turns out in bed with a girl, it is because of the insistence of a girl rather than on his own. Sex for Bond (and author) is as a burden, even the sex scenes Boyd reduces to two sentenses.

Solo in volume is larger than any Fleming novel that is difficult to attribute to the qualities of the book. The plot is slow, tired and devoid of surprises.

Trying to go "solo", that is, do his own business and stay without the support of the department, does not seem quite logical for Bond, especially Boyd's Bond. Desire for revenge for people that left him for dead would suit more person of other profession. Bond here fulfills his original mission in Africa almost by accident, doesn't kill anyone, and even sympathize with the starving children. He's not a killer, what kind of cold revenge then we are talking about? He does not even look like a pro: Bond hardly applies his skills, do not use his wit and knowledge of spy stuff.

The plot as a whole is far from ingenuity. Solo have some tense scenes and a couple of twists, but, in my opinion, in the 20s of the last century spy novels had more intricate plots. Even the final denouement, where Bond explains to CIA colleagues what is what, is far from convincing. Bond did not collect any information - and here you are, he easily reveals a global conspiracy.

Boyd showed us his vision of the Bond mythology, completely redone. I can not say that the result is in any way successful.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh-oh-no!, 13 Oct. 2013
By 
R. Nicholson-morton "Nik Morton" (Alicante, Spain) - See all my reviews
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The first part is uneventful and is unlikely to hook modern-day thriller readers. The tone and style are leisurely, like some of the Bond works, but they held the attention, this barely does that. Apart from a bloody dream/risen memory of D-Day events in France, Bond is not involved in any action. He meets an attractive woman and inadvertently becomes a voyeur. Boyd's writing a novel, it would seem, not a thriller. I've read Boyd's books and they're good. This is a disappointment, in contrast.

The next part of Solo quickly sets up Bond to go on a mission to West Africa, to stop a war. Not strictly true, as a civil conflict has been going on for two years, but now it's dragging on, the military genius in Dahum unexpectedly holding off superior numbers of Zanzarim forces. Bond was to neutralise the military man, Adeka. The background is provided in one of those page-long paragraphs beloved of Fleming.

Bond's journey into the dark heart of (fictitious) Zanzarim is well told, with plenty of atmosphere and feel for the country (as one would expect from the author of The Ice Cream War). A potential villain materialises about a third of the way into the book - Kobus Breed, the man with two faces; he has an unpleasant method of dealing with dead enemies, but he's a poor kind of villain for James Bond. There may be other villains, but they're shadowy figures. The women aren't as striking as Fleming's, and not as memorable. Some aspects of the Bond character have been captured well, yet others not so: `Peering through the (gun)-sight... made him feel like an assassin.' Odd that, being a Double-O agent.

There are double crosses, deaths, close shaves and yet the flavour of the originals is not there. Maybe it's Fleming's cold sadism, putting his hero through the mill. Yes, Bond gets mauled but it lacks emotional involvement from the reader. `Bond felt that weary heart-sink, that heaviness of loss.' As far as emotion goes, this is tell, not show. Bond was a world-weary traveller and in this book we only travel from the exotic continent of Africa to Washington DC, from one kind of jungle to another. Maybe the world has shrunk so that there are no longer any places he hasn't been to (even in 1969)?

Usually, Boyd is good at capturing the feel of a period. Sadly, I didn't get such a strong feel for 1969. Two concessions: an aside about man landing on the moon and also Bond went to view the September 1969 film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice; but he left before the end - as if the bed-hopping it concerned palled! This is the year when the UK and Rhodesia severed diplomatic ties (June), a Kenyan minister is assassinated (July), the Prague Spring crushed (August), My Lai massacre arrests (September), Washington protests against Vietnam War (November), all events that would create political and news waves.

The writing was accomplished in parts, and the narrative kept me turning the pages, but I couldn't shake a feeling of anti-climax, because I wasn't emotionally involved. And I felt the ending was rushed and we were left in the air for the next adventure from Boyd. But, sadly on this offering, I hope not.

Editing comments. No book, mine included, is without error. However, considering the known anticipation and expectation this book engendered, I'd have thought the editors would have tried harder.
(This is not the place to enumerate poor editing etc, but I have done so in my blog).
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I really wanted to like this, but..., 9 Nov. 2013
I'm a big fan of William Boyd and also of the whole James Bond concept. I also like the idea that even after the death of Ian Fleming, other authors should seek to write adventures for James Bond, and I admire the courage of anyone who does. However...

I was pretty disappointed by Solo. As usual, William Boyd writes beautifully. However, for me there were two things that didn't really work. Firstly, Boyd is too keen right from the start to establish the "authenticity" of the character, whether it be in terms of what he is drinking, the brands he loves, etc. That is all well and good, but it is a bit too obvious. I also think that it makes Bond a rather more deep (I should probably say less superficial) character than I think he really is. The second thing, and I think it comes inevitably from the first is that there just isn't enough narrative drive, not enough bush bash bosh, and that at times the book becomes a bit boring as a result. It certainly is not a failure as a book. As I said, the writing is out of the top drawer, and I liked Bond's relationships with the two girls he gets involved with.

On the whole, however, I prefer the raffish devil-may-care Bond from the very early Fleming novels who spends all his time drinking, seducing women, escaping from baddies and saving the world.
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23 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 4 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Solo: A James Bond Novel (Kindle Edition)
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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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars So-so Solo, 25 Jan. 2014
I love William Boys writing on very level, and devoured the whole Fleming canon years ago when I was supposed to be revising for my O levels, so had high expectations of "Solo". After a few chapters I started to get a distinct sense of unease that it just wasn't going to live up to either it's own hype or my expectations, and by the end I knew I was right. There are some nice Bond-esque touches - the specific details of food and wine consumed, the "lessons" in how to be a suave man about town which no doubt hooked many a teenage boy when the novels first came out. But it really lacked pace, and changes of pace. I found while reading it that I would sometimes leave it for a couple of days before resuming, something which would never happen in a true thriller. The villains were merely trying to get their hands on oil licenses, which isn't exactly in the same league as threatening to incinerate London and New York with some vast atomic weapon up in space. I also found the ending, with it's unfinished business, deeply unsatisfactory. If, as it might seem, Boyd is paving the way for a sequel! I just hope it's tighter and punchier than this attempt.
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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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This review is from: Solo: A James Bond Novel (Kindle Edition)
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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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard to get excited, 24 Oct. 2013
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I am mainly reviewing this compared to Boyd's other books rather than other Bonds.

Firstly, I am a huge fan of Boyd. Have been since the very start when he and I were the only ones at a booksigning he did in Oxford Street. Okay, so some of his novels are a bit disappointing - they used to alternate to an extent - but only in comparison to the great ones.

But this book is... meh. Well written, but plotwise it is very tame. I am not even sure it is credible. And what really happens? A minor bush war and a bit of West African skullduggery.

Making a difficult trek through an African forest one of the highlights is not the stuff of Bond movies, but perhaps a nod to the novels.

He does drink a lot, and most of his meals and clothes are described.

As others have commented, this is not a Bond screenplay, it is a Bond novel. But if they make the film, it will be worse than Skyfall (and that is saying a lot).
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19 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Deboyd of pleasure, 2 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Solo: A James Bond Novel (Kindle Edition)
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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Solo: A James Bond Novel
Solo: A James Bond Novel by William Boyd
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