Colonel Sun (1968) – Kingsley Amis

Kingsley Amis writing as Robert Markham pens his only 007 novel following the death of James Bond creator, Ian Fleming. What he delivers us is a fairly standard adventure for the literary Bond, always smaller in scale when compared to the secret agent’s big screen adventures, that seems to be a little cruder in its sexual references, but for the most part has gotten away from some of the more racist phrases used in Fleming’s novels.

Things get underway pretty quickly when M is abducted by a group of men who also attempt to grab 007 who eludes them despite being drugged. Shortly afterwards, Bond is off to Greece in pursuit of his boss, and finds himself working with a Russian agent of Greek birth, the lovely Ariadne.

The set off to a remote island that is home to not one, but two different secret bases, one the headquarters of the KGB in Greece, and the site of a gathering of intelligence agencies across the globe, which in turn is the target of the other base, that of Colonel Sun, working for the Chinese Secret Service.

Sun’s plan is to attack the Russian base, destroying it, and the gathered foreign intelligence representatives, and then frame the captured M, and possibly 007, for the attack.

Amis has Fleming’s punchy, detail driven narrative down, and for the most part the story works, but where Fleming may have intimated at sexual predilections, Amis shines a bit more light on them, but doesn’t drag them fully into the sun, after all, we’re British.

Amis ties his take on Bond with the events of Fleming’s picking up where the author left off, referring to both his encounter with Scaramanga, and his execution of Blofeld. He hints at some of the (useless) equipment Q Branch assigns him, and makes sure that Bond survives on his wits, and skills alone.

Like in Fleming’s tales, 007 in this story is not a super agent, he’s just a man, and he doesn’t always have control over situations, and can be injured, or tortured as Sun does to him in a particularly well written sequence that lets the reader imagine the pain Bond is going through.

The action sequences are on a smaller scale, but very much in line with the spy version of the character created for the books, and should not be misconstrued for his big-screen persona.

It’s not an overly memorable tale, and is a fairly basic adventure, but with this novel, we were given the first hint that the literary James Bond would survive his creator’s death.

James Bond Will Return in James Bond and The Spy Who Loved Me.

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