Following Jeffrey Deaver's Carte Blanche which saw 007 rebooted into a 21st century spy, you could be forgiven for thinking that Bond is something of a Timelord, as he's now hopped into his Q Branch Tardis and is now back in 1969 - in Solo by William Boyd.
I have just finished this novel and all I can say is "Wow!" but that wouldn't much of a review, so let me elaborate
The Bond of Solo is very much a human Bond. This is a man who worries about money and that is life is in jeopardy. Who takes voyeuristic pleasure in spying on a woman who undresses, and who smokes and drinks in large amounts. He also has a lot of sex in this book - no political correctness there - this 007 spends a lot of time between the sheets with a beautiful woman.
There is no count down to the plans of world domination in the book but it takes you on a journey through Bond's world which although glamorous and eventful never strays too far into the fictitious. Having said that the book is gripping and keeps you turning the pages as you are drawn into the web of intrigue - Solo is anything but boring.
Bond is sent by 'M' to be a blunt instrument with a simple task - to bring to a stop a war in the South African country of Zanzarim. 007 is assisted by fellow agent Efua Blessing Ogilvy-Grant. They travel the length of Zanzarim together in the hope that Bond can meet rebel leader Solomon Adeka - but they are intercepted by a group of rebels led by sadistic mercenary Kobius Breed - and Blessing is believed dead. Later, having met Adeka things go wrong and Bond is Bond is left for dead, betrayed it is only by a stroke of luck that 007 lives to see another day. He then takes the audacious move to 'go solo' on an act of vengeance without the backing of his superiors, an act that takes him to America as he seeks to get payback on those who left him for dead. He then realises there is more at stake than his vendetta.
Now as the book is set in 1969 I can't help but try and picture the fashion, cars and scenery from George Lazenby's solo Bond outing On Her Majesty's Secret Service to try and picture the style of the times in which the book is set.
Now lets talk about the cars that feature in the book. I am very happy that Boyd chose a Jensen Interceptor FF for Bonds personal ride in the book. Why? Well I've always liked them since seeing Simon Dutton driving one in the The Saint back in the 80's. It's sleek, stylish, fast and British - all the things that a good Bond car should be. But I couldn't help but notice there were a couple of links to the Bond cars in the films - Bond drives a Ford Mustang Mach 1 around Washington DC - as he drove one in the cinematic Diamonds Are Forever, and Kobius Breed drives a Chevrolet Impala - as does Bond when he's 'taking' Rosie "up in the hills down there" in Live and Let Die. Is this coincidence, or Mr Boyd being a clever so-and-so?
In Solo we see an inside the world of Bond the human - not Bond The Super Secret Agent. One of the things that the films were guilty of was turning Bond into a super-type who can do everything - disarming a nuclear bomb whilst dressed as a clown to being knowing the Latin name of an exotic fish! Whilst this makes for great cinema it is refreshing that Boyd has gone back to the Bondian basics. He bleeds, has deep emotions about the women in his life, and worries about the consequences of a more permanent relationship for all involved.
I read in a review somewhere that Solo was Boyd's reworking of 007. I think it just the opposite - I think it's a return to Ian Fleming's Bond - and welcome back Mr Bond - we've been expecting you!