A sampling of Solo reviews

William Boyd

William Boyd

Solo, the James Bond continuation novel by William Boyd, has been out for a couple of weeks in the U.K. and went on sale in the U.S. this past week.

Reviewers have come forward with their evaluations and here’s a sample of a few that caught this blog’s eye.

The Rap Sheet’s J. Kingston Pierce thought highly of the novel, set in 1969 and featuring a 45-year-old Bond.

“Solo is a consuming work, and William Boyd has made Bond his own,” Pierce writes. “I wouldn’t be at all disappointed if Ian Fleming Publications begged him for a sequel.” Among the novel’s strengths: “It doesn’t seek to imitate Fleming’s voice or to play it too safe with his protagonist. Neither, though, does it ignore the tropes and traditions of the famous espionage series.”

The Book Bond’s John Cox calls Boyd’s version of Bond “the thinking man’s 007.”

Boyd “goes solo into the juggernaut that is ‘James Bond OO7’ and fearlessly does his own thing. Not since the very first continuation novel, Colonel Sun, has there been a Bond book less concerned with the industry that is James Bond. Boyd simply tells a riveting story of espionage, geopolitics, and a British secret agent in 1969.”

Bakewell Today’s Martin Hutchinson proclaims that “Boyd has picked up the Bond baton very well; his attention to detail is very like Ian Fleming, who revelled in such fine detail.”

The review, though, isn’t as strong on detail. Hutchinson writes that, “Up until now, all the novels featuring James Bond have been set in the present day.” Actually, Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks was a period piece set in 1967.

Olen Steinhauer in The New York Times’ Sunday Book Review writes a review that doubles as an essay on the Bond novels, both by Ian Fleming and the various continuation novels.

“In the beginning, his appeal in the postwar world of rations, gray English skies and declining empire was easy to determine: he offered Britons a glimpse into a privileged world beyond their means, a world of first-class flights to foreign casinos and sybaritic holidays at exclusive Caribbean retreats,” novelist Steinhauer wrties. “Bond also told them, again and again, that Britain still mattered. Yet 60 years have passed, and people all over the world are still buying into the James Bond fantasy. Perhaps the reason can be gleaned from William Boyd’s ‘Solo,’ the latest official Bond novel.”

Steinhauer suggests Boyd’s 007 surpasses Fleming’s original. “The truth is that Fleming’s Bond was only rarely a fully fleshed character. More often, he was a catalog of likes and dislikes, and it’s this very hollowness that has allowed later generations to imbue him with their own sensibilities.

“Boyd has, by the novel’s close, injected a weary disgust into his central character as the full ramifications of realpolitik — the policies that can lead to starved children hiding from the light — become clearer and clearer…I doubt his creator could have done it better.”

Richard Williams in The Guardian writes, “all things considered, Boyd’s attempt entertains far more than it exasperates. His approach, he has said, was to write his own novel using Fleming’s characters, and his gift for sustaining narrative momentum is the key to its success.” Meanwhile, he lists the continuation authors, yet omits Raymond Benson.

British GQ’s Olivia Cole is also high on the book.

“Boyd’s great skill in Solo is to have written a compulsively readable thriller, replicating the cocktail of ingredients that got Fleming’s readers hooked – from the women to the clothes and the cars (in this case an extremely good looking Jenson Interceptor) and yet to let the cracks in the fantasy figure show through. Whether you go to Solo for Boyd or for Bond, you are in for a thoroughly rewarding, entertaining and ultimately thought provoking fix.”

Meanwhile, Cole mentions some of Fleming’s novels and lists On His Majesty’s Secret Service.

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