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Monday, July 14, 2014

Book Review : ‘Solo' by William Boyd

William Boyd’s Bond, in the novel Solo is not James Bond of Ian Fleming’s fame. Yet, he has his own bit of reputation and notoriety. It is the year, 1969. Bond, all of 45, is still the same heavy drinker and smoker and still the ladies’ man. Bryce Fitzjohn is the heroine of this book. 

Bond has a new task at hand. Bond, who cannot quell the trauma of WWII, is put right in the middle by M. He has to single-handedly stop a civil war in the West African state of Zanzarim. Zanzarim is a tribal area, and though it is full of oil, it remains an impoverished zone. The war is between the southern and northern tribes, the Fakassa and the Lowele for the spoils of the oil. 

The British government is on the side of the official government. Bond, who is pretending to be a French journalist, sets out to find warlord, Solomon Adekawhom he has to neutralise.

Bond’s job is to stop the war, and he finds that he has to stop Adeka to get the job done. He has the usual ingredients in the form of women and vicious villains. The station’s chief at Zanzarim is a young Harvard educated woman called Blessing is on his side or so he thinks.

Joined by her, he travels into the interiors of Zanzarim, where he meets with mercenaries, the press and is introduced to the fate of hungry and war torn children. You soon find that Bond seems to have accomplished his mission, and finds himself back at MI6, but he is betrayed. But this is not the end, as I thought.

Deciding to have his personal revenge, he sets out, ‘solo’ to Washington DC and here he is surrounded by Blessing, African villains, Simon Adeka again? along with the usual, guns and cars.

Okay, first things first. He is not the same Bond, but only a similar kind of Bond. We have the usual at MI6, pipe smoking M, a much younger Q, Miss Moneypenny and of course, the Cold War scenario in Bond’s dreams.

One thing, which struck me, was the character of James Bond. Though ruthless and bold, he is also a little sad, and misery seems to strike him right at the start. He is not so full of himself, and the women’s names take a backseat too.

I do not really have an opinion of this book. I thought Bond’s character has a very different variation, and does not seem very close to Fleming’s Bond. If we are talking of Hollywood version, then we do not at all have any similarities. It is probably unfair to call it a James Bond novel, though otherwise it would do alright. Maybe, an all-new character?

Author: William Boyd
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Random House India
ISBN: 9780224097475
Price: Rs 599 /-

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