Rather than pop myself down and research all kinds of Bond facts and figures before writing this review, I’ve chosen to use my personal frame of reference for Bond; the films and the one non-Fleming book I’ve previously read.
That book, Devil May Care, didn’t wow me but I was willing to give another author a chance. As the Fleming estate are passing each book to a new author perhaps this one would be more interesting. Pages and pages describing a tennis match didn’t get the juices flowing last time!
As per my own experience of Bond, this book is a success. If you’re expecting an invincible wise cracker with a gadget for every occasion (Q Branch hold back this time around) you’ll be disappointed. But if you want a concise and interesting story then you’re in luck.
Whilst doing the press rounds author Boyd explained how he has read Fleming’s books and uses them as reference whilst adding his own spin to it. Without this it could have easily become good fan-fiction at best. He also uses his knowledge of Africa to great effect, painting a vivid picture of the world Bond traverses.
The cinematic Bond is rarely as emotional or open as he is here, with Bond not only surprised at his own savagery, but always open to doubt
It’s 1969 and Bond is celebrating his 45th birthday, alone. Soon enough he is tasked with the assassination of small African nation’s leader. Relatively simple, until Bond is shot and left for dead. He puts his recovery time to good use, striking out alone without the backup of his Majesty’s Secret Service as he seeks revenge.
Boyd takes us into Bond’s past as he relives events from WW2, which brings with it restless nights and troublesome thoughts. We also see what could be Bond’s future, as he appears happy to let women take the lead and wonders if he should change his hairstyle. The cinematic Bond is rarely as emotional or open as he is here, with Bond not only surprised at his own savagery, but always open to doubt.
Fret not though! This Bond still drinks his weight in alcohol and loves cars, as well as the female form, to balance out this more emotional side.
The level of humanity seen here in a character who most see as a quip spewing killing machine was the biggest surprise, and a most welcome one. On the negative side, if you were to judge this tale on the quality of it’s villain, it’s a let down. A fairly generic bad guy with a disfigurement and a trademark, Kobus Breed doesn’t stick in the memory in the same Blofeld or Oddjob do. He ultimately just strikes me as a glorified henchman with an incredible pain threshold.
Solo didn’t blow me away, but it did make for a entertaining read by the pool on my honeymoon. It’s at least made me interested in giving the Fleming novels a try.