Friday, February 21, 2014

Solo -- A James Bond Novel by William Boyd

Can 007 Only Live Twice?

Since the death of Ian Fleming 50 years ago, there  have be attempts to continue the James Bond legacy by various authors. Until now, according to a recent review I read in the Week, no one have been able to breathe life into 007.  Until now. 

Now finally, William Boyd, a Brit writer, have come remarkably close to creating a legitimate successor to Fleming’s novels. Being a dormant Bond aficionado for some 50 years, I had to buy the book.

Bond is, once again, on her majesty’s secret service.  The writer has constructed timeline of events for Mr Bond and determines it is James’ 45th birthday at the onset of this story.  

Every Bond story by Fleming always had common elements.  Here are a few that Boyd continues in this book.
  • Bond always meets beautiful women willing to “share” almost immediately,
  • Bond consumes hard liquor aplenty, wherever and whenever. His weakness here is bourbon by the bottle, not the glass.  
  • Bond is continually prissy about the details of what he is to eat, how it is to be prepared, and how it is to be served.
  • Bond always must have the top of the line auto wherever he goes. Even when he is undercover, he still rents the most powerful, fastest, most obvious car..  
  • Bond is also finicky by what he smokes and a big deal about the brand he chooses. 
  • Bond has a penchant for meeting people with unusual names. In this book we meet Christmas and Blessing.  
  • Bond’s missions always involve taking super organizations down. In this book, it’s a country that this single agent must beat!
  • Bond encounters a truly horrible bad guy that cannot be defeated. 
  • Bond finds himself facing inescapable, imminent death. 
  • Luckily, the bad guys leave the room as James is within seconds of dying.  Don’t they ever learn?
As you can see, all the elements are in place and this should be a book that carries on a great tradition.  For me, it doesn’t. For one thing, many of the Bondisms that I admired as a youth seem like unsavory excesses to me now.  Such as indiscriminant liaisons with so many women. Who goes into a bar for a drink and orders a whole bottle of bourbon? Smoking constantly. A tux for dinner?  A car that can go 200 mph in a city like DC?   All of this sounded super appealing to me in my 20's. Or maybe even 30's. Now,enough, Bond. Settle down a bit..
Also, I find the story itself to be choppy and in some regards, hard to make sense. The segues sre tough to follow at tines. I didn't "get" some of it because the story was a bit over the top. I should read the book twice to clarify some of these puzzles but the book doesn’t warrant a second reading, as far as I am concerned.  

The bottom line: Author Boyd churned up a good bit of nostalgia for me, when I wanted to be like a Bond myself.  But at 67, I believe that anyone who lived like Bond would be long dead now from too many cigarettes, whiskey, women, fast cars or super rich food.  I can only live this once.  Read it for old times sake. Skip it if your old times don't need summoning.   

BTW, the Bond movies still carry the legend on for me.  They have always been entertaining.  Daniel Craig is the best Bond ever.

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