William Boyd will be pleased to have the successful launch of Solo behind him.
SOLO by William Boyd
William Boyd will be pleased to have the successful launch of Solo behind him. Few of 007's missions against those sinister megacrooks – Dr No, Goldfinger, et al – could be as fraught with jeopardy as the invitation to pick up the dangerous mantle of Ian Fleming.
As in the best classical quests, the rewards are mouth-watering but the penalties for failure excruciating.
Consider the perils he faces: we know Bond was born in 1924, which would have him pushing 90. Contemporary writers need to put him back into his prime – but do that, and you encounter another set of snares.
Fleming and Bond are inextricably linked in many ways – xenophobia, male chauvinism, a taste for sadomasochism – that may give the contemporary reader pause, while Bond's world – the late imperial Britain of the 1950s – is now irrelevant and irretrievably lost.
So it's good to report that Boyd has immersed himself in the character, the author and his oeuvre and come up with an Afro-American adventure that's triumphantly the equal of the great Bond adventures, Casino Royale and From Russia, with Love.
In Boyd's novel, Bond is dispatched to a fictional West African state to track down its warlord, the Scorpion, nearly dies, and then pursues a score-settling mission to the United States where he reconnects with his old chum and CIA man, Felix Leiter.
It's not the real thing –how could it be? – but, dare one say, a brilliant imitation that's occasionally superior to the prototype. Boyd IS Bond. – © Guardian News & Media 2013