Solo by William Boyd

IMG_1201Come in, 007. No, don’t sit down. We’d like you to go to Zanzarim, a country in Africa which is probably standing in for Nigeria. As you know, it’s 1969 and there’s a civil war on. Rather like the Biafran war in fact. Anyway, we want you to find the rebels and stop them being so damned effective. Better for everyone if government forces win. No, don’t ask why. You can visit Q branch before you go but it’s barely worth it. They’ll only give you some talcum powder. But before all that, we’d like you to accidentally – or is it? – run into the woman who plays one of Dracula’s victims in the Hammer-style films which are all the rage at present. You might find her useful later on. Also, by all means hang out in the King’s Road and tut a bit at the music and those Afghan coats. Your old chum Felix Leiter of the CIA will also turn up, which is good news. Always nice for the reader to see a friendly face. That’s it. Don’t forget we’re just civil servants and shouldn’t really worry about the geopolitics of it all – although that shouldn’t stop you reflecting a little bit about your place in the world. Evil that men do, pragmatism, dirty tricks, etc. Bond is rather brutal in Solo. It’s probably the Daniel Craig effect. This has happened throughout Bondage: in the latter years of his reign, Fleming himself was not immune to the influence of the movies starring Sean Connery – particularly when it came to gadgets. That’s probably why you have the silly glass screen in M’s office at the beginning of The Man With The Golden Gun novel. There’s no other reason I can think of. It makes no sense other than to make things a bit more Hollywood. Solo has a good villain, with a good villainy name – Kobus Breed – who really does need sorting out. And, apart from the Dracula lady, there’s another attractive love interest. There are also four or five really nice twists – which is four or five more than William Boyd managed in his disappointing Ordinary Thunderstorms. We should be grateful. Solo really is rather good.

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