Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Solo: A James Bond Novel by Willilam Boyd

 Solo  As Solo opens James Bond is turning 45.  He is soon off to a made up country in Africa that is in the middle of a civil war with the vague mission to make the person leading the civil war a less effective leader.  Oh yeah, oil has recently been discovered in this African country, which in one reason for the civil war.

I have seen a few of the James Bond movies but have only read one of the books, so I cannot compare this to the books that make up the James Bond canon.  Just taking this on its own, I have to admit I like the movies better.  It wasn't necessarily a bad book, it just didn't quite rise to the level of action and excitement I have come to expect from James Bond.  That is probably largely because being primarily acquainted with the films, I expect a combination of death defying action and funny one-liners.  The Bond I am used to is suave and sexy, downing martinis and bedding nearly woman he comes into contact with and it's all in good fun.  Of course in real life that would make him an alcoholic womanizer but that part usually fades from my mind when I watching Bond wrestle a gun from a bad guy.

In Solo there is some action but little glamour.  Bond falls "in love" with every woman he meets, which just doesn't seem like the Bond I know, and his drinking and smoking seems a bit out of control.  In fact, for the first few chapters he has a seriously sore throat, most likely from smoking so much.  I kept expecting to him to take to bed what with how much he complained about feeling ill.  Compared to the visual spectacle that are the Bond movies, this was a bit of let down. 

The writing style bugged me a little too, specifically the point of view.  It kept switching between third person and Bond's first person point of view.  The constant switching was jarring and not at all subtle.  I also couldn't understand why Bond has so much trouble figuring out why the United Kingdom, United States or any other country might be so interested in a civil war in a country where vast amounts of oil have only recently been discovered.  But maybe that's not fair as I am reading this in 2014 - maybe in 1969 an oil rich country would have attracted less worldwide interest?

I may try reading one of Ian Fleming's books sometime in the future but for now I'll stick to the movies.

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