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Case Name: Colonel Sun|
Author: Kingsley Amis
Villain(s): Colonel Sun
Organization: Red China
Bond Girl(s): Ariadne Alexandrou
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Kingsley Amis, writing under the pen-name of Robert Markham, was the George Lazenby of Bond literature. The official Bond novel after the death of Ian Fleming, Amis' Colonel Sun is a throwback to classic Fleming storytelling. In a 1991 introduction to the book, Amis said that the movies had become too campy and that, especially in Goldfinger and Thunderball, Bond relied too much on Q's gadgets than his own training. With that in mind, Colonel Sun found 007 completely on his own with no help from Britain, Q or anyone else other than a few Greek Locals.
The novel itself begins with Bond and Bill Tanner playing gold while Bond laments oh his going soft and how he needs something to break up his predictable everyday routine. His wish is quickly granted that night when he goes to visit M at his Quarterdeck home and finds a kidnapping taking place. After an intense battle, Bond finds himself in police custody with M missing. The trail heats up in Greece where Bond learns M's kidnapper, Colonel Sun, is plotting to sabotage a USSR summit and make it seem as if Bond and M are responsible. Teaming up with the most unlikely of allies, Bond and Greek locals Ariadne Alexandrou and Niko Litsas, go after Colonel Sun and save the day.
Following Ian Fleming was no easy task, but Kingsley Amis managed to add a decent entry to the Bond literary cannon. The story is simple enough to follow yet still intriguing. The surroundings are well described and the reader gets a feel for what Bond is looking at and experiencing. Where the novel fails, however, is in Amis' neglect of the most interesting part of his story: M's kidnapping.
The starting of a war and blaming it on innocent parties is a common Bondian and literary device. However, M's kidnapping, which was simply a subplot in Colonel Sun, could have been much better flushed out. Over the years the relationship between these two men has been grown and fostered into one of mutual respect and caring. They are truly old friends and other novels offer a glimpse into that world. However, this book does not even take the time to dive into much of Bond's emotional torment and feelings on his boss' capture. While it was wise to make the kidnapping a subplot rather than the focal point of the novel, the reader is left feeling like there should have been something more.
Another issue with the book is that the sweeping grenadier often felt in Fleming's books was missing. Perhaps it was the fact that most of the book took place in Greece or that it was a much darker book than most of Flemings. Regardless, of the cause, it does effect the overall impact of the book.
Criticisms aside, Colonel Sun is still quite a good book. The scene where M is being kidnapped is superbly written and executed. Even more gripping is Colonel Sun's torture of Bond in Greece. There were some points where I grimaced at the description of what Sun was physically doing. This segment is up there with Bond's torture by LeChiffre in Casino Royale. Finally, written as almost a side-note, the novel ends with Bond taking note of the Q gadgets he was supplied with in the beginning of his mission, none of which he needed or could help him when push came to shove. Much like Lazenby, one can only wonder what Amis could have done if he wrote more than one book.