As the latest continuation novel of secret agent 007 is released in book stores, many papers have got their hands on it and have published their thoughts...
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 US 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. For the moment, the predators in the shark/alligator pool can stop circling. Dr No, Goldfinger et al. have met their match. Boyd IS Bond.
The poised, lyrical writing is a pleasure to read, the prose sprinkled with apt similes ('He was incredibly thin, his arms and legs like vanilla pods'). But it's also where the book gets bogged down in an increasingly convoluted plot. Boyd's Bond works on the streets of Chelsea but in Africa he abandons his journalist cover and morphs into a pseudo-mercenary, at one point orchestrating the military recapture of an entire village. Quite what the Fleming estate made of the endless battle scenes is anyone's guess. We do know that it had misgivings about the final part of the book, set in America, when a vengeful Bond goes rogue - or, solo. Plotwise, it's fine, but the psychological justification for it is overstated, with too much telling of motive, and not enough showing. 'There was only one objective now,' Boyd writes. 'James Bond would kill Kobus Breed.' Really? It reads more like a note to self.
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