Solo, by William Boyd (Random House, RRP $38):
For the James Bond fans out there, the news that William Boyd was planning to pen a followup Bond novel was probably pretty exciting and, for the most part, he has delivered something that stacks up quite favourably against Ian Fleming’s original books.
This story takes place in 1969 and, while it spans three continents, the main storyline features Bond’s mission to the fictional country of Zanzarim, which appears to be based on Biafra during the Nigerian Civil War.
The seasoned 45-year-old veteran agent is sent to stop a civil war erupting and, with the help of a beautiful woman (no surprises there), he ends up ignoring M’s orders and going solo in his quest for justice.
If you’ve read Fleming’s Bond novels rather than simply watched the blockbuster movies, you’ll appreciate just how well Boyd has managed to match the style, flow and pace of the originals while still injecting a fresh angle or two.
It was refreshing to see Bond as a little more jaded and world weary, as you would expect from an agent of his experience. He was also a little more fallible, which made this normally larger-than-life character seem a tad more real.
Sure, the plot was a little out there at times but it’s Bond, he’s allowed to be outrageous, sexist, violent and suave all at the same time: we expect nothing less.
Tying 007’s wartime experiences with 30 Assault Unit – a British Commando unit developed by Fleming – was a nice touch and, all- in-all, I reckon the Bond fans out there should be pretty happy with this tale of derring-do.