Boyd’s Bond is better than the original
Solo, William Boyd’s James Bond novel, opens at the Dorchester hotel in London, where 007 is celebrating his 45th birthday on his own and in style.
It is 1969, and the premonition of a midlife crisis is sniffing at Bond. Back at work after his birthday, he is apprised of his new mission: to stop the civil war in a tiny West African country that is sitting on enough oil to be able to satisfy the world’s – or the West’s – demand for oil forever.
Bond succeeds in his mission – but not quite in the way he would have liked. And so, while supposedly on a month-long holiday from the office, he goes back to Africa, on his own, without the support of his employers (hence the novel’s title), to find out more, confirm a few hunches and settle a few scores.
It is thrilling stuff, all right. But while Ian Fleming’s Bond was two-dimensional and predictable, nearly always infallible and pretty much indestructible, the Bond of Solo is a well-drawn character: insecure, full of doubts, egotistical, wary and vulnerable. Boyd breathes ambiguity and life into Bond; that is his biggest triumph.
Just as the film, Skyfall, showed us a Bond who was more complex and conflicted than we have known him in his previous appearances, Solo offers us a Bond who, while being super human, is never less than human.
Besides, sentence for sentence, Solo reads better than the original Bond books. Boyd was an inspired choice for 007’s resurrection.
Now for some more stuff that you can enjoy.