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Colonel Sun; Reviews & Ratings


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Poll: How do you rate 'Colonel Sun'?

How do you rate 'Colonel Sun'?

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#1 Qwerty

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Posted 15 June 2006 - 04:05 PM

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This thread is intended for reviews and ratings of Colonel Sun by members of the The Blades Library Book Club here. Be sure to add your review if you do vote in the poll!

Please do not reply directly to reviews in this thread, rather start a new thread to ask questions or post comments about reviews.

The Blades Library Book Club will be reading Colonel Sun from: 15 June 2006 - 15 August 2006.



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#2 Qwerty

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Posted 08 August 2006 - 06:25 PM

I'll be getting in my own review hopefully pretty soon.

If you've read Colonel Sun before, or currently are, I strongly encourage you all to add in your reviews here. :)

#3 manfromjapan

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Posted 11 August 2006 - 09:17 AM

This book has taken the longest to finish of any Bond novel (including SPY). An interesting book. Amis has managed to ape Fleming's style very well, and it sits easily with the Fleming canon. It is obviously well-written, but far too low-key, dull and political. It isn't FUN, and is too serious. The 'M' kidnapping smacks of the age-old problem of writers taking over a franchise - let's do something unconventional. It is probably a better book than some of the lessr Flemings, but Amis unequivocally lacks the Fleming sweep. I would have read further Amis adventures, but I think COLONEL SUN is an interesting experiment and a nice thank you to Fleming, but ultimately,not Fleming. Whilst many different actors and technicians have handled the film Bond well, it seems only Fleming had the ease, the seductiveness, the playfulness to make one lose themselves in his world.

The torture scene was extremely disturbing and Amis is more explicit about sex (but doesn't mke it sound fun!). The story was good, Amis's detest of Q Branch palpable. I find Amis's prose difficult to read, Fleming, at least in the '50's books, tried to describe things in layman's terms. Amis is obviously a verbose, intellectual writer. And perhaps too serious to write Bond.

So, all in all, a worthwhile book. Probably (I haven't read them all) the best non-Fleming book. But it is not an easy read for many reasons, and i find myself extremely ambivalent about the novel.

Edited by manfromjapan, 11 August 2006 - 02:11 PM.


#4 Qwerty

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Posted 15 August 2006 - 03:36 AM

While the book club has now moved onto Licence Renewed - this Colonel Sun thread will always remain open for reviews (such as my own which I have to eventually add in!).

All members are encouraged to add in their reviews/comments.

#5 bond_girl_double07

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Posted 15 August 2006 - 01:50 PM

I finally finished Colonel Sun (at 12:15 on the 15th.. so I suppose technically still on time for the discussion :) and overall I was really pleased with it. I think manfromjapan had it right in his earlier review; it's an interesting read but overall just isn't as much fun or quite as exciting as the Fleming novels.

I did think the beginning and ending of the novel was very much on par with the other novels. Bond's escape from Quarterdeck, M's capture, and the death of the Hammonds felt very well put together as a scene, and the excellence of Amis' writing style is clear in this opening scene.

The middle of the novel seemed to drag a little in my opinion. The first sex scene was a little ummm shocking. I agree with manfromjapan that it was more graphic but less fun (and much less romantic...not that Bond has to be romantic, but it's nice :P. I kind of got that "eek, I shouldn't be watching this" feeling from the sex scenes in this book :P.

Overall, I didn't think the violence was quite as bad as everybody had hinted.. I was surprised that Bond beats himself up for killing so much in this novel. I know he has reservations in the Fleming novels and does feel bad, but since M was in danger, I'd kind of expected him to rack up everything he had to do as a necessary evil.

I think that was actually another problem I had with the novel (I'm just being picky btw.. I really liked the book very much, these are just the little issues). In the middle of the book, Amis seems to kind of forget about M for a while.. Bond has this whole relationship with Ariadne, hangs out on a boat for a while, etc. I know he was moving toward his goal, but I think the middle lacked that sense of urgency from Bond that I would have expected with M at risk.

I thought the end of the book was as quickly-moving and exciting as the beginning. Sun is a legitimately terrifying character and Amis did an amazing job making him multi-faceted and interesting. I wish he'd spent more time exploring his character, though.. I think a little history of the man would have been really interesting and I would have liked him to talk with Bond a little more (not at the end of a meat skewer!).

The torture scene was as bad as everybody had hinted.. ummm septum, that's all I have to say. Amis definitely had me wondering how Bond would survive and win over Sun. You all might have noticed I'm errr passionate about these books.. That scene when Amis describes "an impossibly thick blanket... Oozing up round [Bond] like the cold slime of the sea bed" and Bond really believes he's going to die, I was freaking out! I had to take a water break and come back to it :)

Did anyone else think M and Bond were a little less affectionate toward each other than in the other novels? I'd expected their reunion to be a little more emotional. I know Fleming kept their respect and affection for each other very understated, but I'd really expected one of the Fleming-esque "the man that Bond had grown to respect so much" lines. I'd also wanted a nice dry, British man-hug, but I kind of figured that wasn't going to happen [censored].

Overall, I very much enjoyed the novel. It kept my interest and I absolutely respect Amis for his writing abilities and the way that he managed to kept the plot together throughout. Cleary, Amis loves the Fleming Bond as much as the reader does, and he managed to create a novel that adds his own unique touch but also remains true to Fleming's vision.

#6 manfromjapan

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 08:38 AM

Nice review!! I agree - Amis seems to forget about 'M' for a bit. And there is too much faffing around in the boat! Does Amis like boats or something?? LOL. The torture scene is too serious and disturbing IMO for Bond. Amis wrote an impressive book, but is it really escapist at all?

BTW Have you read Raymond Benson's novelisations of Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is Not Enough? I was very impressed with them, particularly the former as it made me look at the film even more favourably.

#7 bond_girl_double07

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Posted 22 August 2006 - 01:55 PM

I'm sure most of you have already seen it, but there are a few interesting reviews by Kingsley Amis posted on ajb007.co.uk today:

http://www.ajb007.co...php?topic=26419


After reading Colonel Sun, it's interesting to see the ways in which Amis is critical of other Bond authors and apply that criticism to his novel :)

#8 spynovelfan

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Posted 22 August 2006 - 02:19 PM

I'm sure most of you have already seen it, but there are a few interesting reviews by Kingsley Amis posted on ajb007.co.uk today:

http://www.ajb007.co...php?topic=26419


Laz880 has his priorities right, as he posted that here back in June. :)

http://debrief.comma...x.php...6&st=0

After reading Colonel Sun, it's interesting to see the ways in which Amis is critical of other Bond authors and apply that criticism to his novel :P


Indeed:

'Does he still drink champagne with scrambled eggs and sausages. Wear a lightweight black-and-white dog-tooth check suit in the country? Do twenty slow press-ups each morning? Read Country Life? Ski, play baccarat and golf for high stakes, dive in scuba gear?'

Well, does he in COLONEL SUN? He plays golf and has a cigarette, but that's about it.

#9 bond_girl_double07

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Posted 22 August 2006 - 03:08 PM

Laz880 has his priorities right, as he posted that here back in June. :)


Here I thought I found something original :P


Indeed:

'Does he still drink champagne with scrambled eggs and sausages. Wear a lightweight black-and-white dog-tooth check suit in the country? Do twenty slow press-ups each morning? Read Country Life? Ski, play baccarat and golf for high stakes, dive in scuba gear?'

Well, does he in COLONEL SUN? He plays golf and has a cigarette, but that's about it.



Bond drinks a Rose' in Colonel Sun... Lets let that sink in a little :P
I really did like the rest of the novel, but a Rose'?!?

#10 spynovelfan

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Posted 22 August 2006 - 03:48 PM

He also wears a green tweed jacket, but let's not even mention that as it makes me feel like vomiting.

#11 Lazenby880

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Posted 22 August 2006 - 04:00 PM

He also wears a green tweed jacket, but let's not even mention that as it makes me feel like vomiting.

Do you mean to say that all this time I have been shooting pheasant in my green tweed jacket my companions have been laughing at me? :)

Here was I thinking I looked distinctly fashionable...

#12 bond_girl_double07

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Posted 22 August 2006 - 04:04 PM

Do you mean to say that all this time I have been shooting pheasant in my green tweed jacket my companions have been laughing at me? :)

Here was I thinking I looked distinctly fashionable...


Were you shooting with one hand and swilling down a foul mix of beef and rose' with the other (rose' doesn't even go with beef! errr, does rose' go with anything?)?

#13 Bond Maniac

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 05:04 AM

Colonel Sun was a nice dig i found at my library here in Brasil. The book had never been rented so i did it andto my surprise, it was the first edition so i managed to buy it. :)
On to the review then. Colonel Sun is a great Bond book but it suffers a little from the lack of Mr.Fleming and it shows. Sure, the style is very close to his but i can

#14 1q2w3e4r

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 08:50 AM

Good book, defiantly the strongest of the continuation novels.

Bond here seems very much in the same spirit of that in Fleming's novels. This could partly be due to it being writting in the same era as Fleming's.

The climax does read a little comical though I feel. Colonel Sun seems to have a major break down quiet quickly and it's niave to think that the security wouldn't have thought to check for motar attacks.

The scenes are well drawn out and so are the small things such as the conversations and meals, and Bond's fondness for the Lee Enfield has a nice touch to it.

#15 Double-O Eleven

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Posted 15 September 2006 - 05:17 PM

Colonel Sun is one of the better non-Fleming novels: exciting, violent, excellently written, and with a version of 007 closer to the original than any of the follow-up books. The latter shouldn't be much of a surprise, since Colonel Sun was written only a few years after Fleming's death, and Amis was one of the first people in the British literary scene to take the Bond novels seriously. This book was written in a substantially different era than the later Gardner and Benson tales, one where Fleming's shadow and influence were much more immediate. Colonel Sun in some cases seems purposely written in opposition to the Eon film series, which had just made their first leap into outrageous science fiction (and away from a Fleming story) with You Only Live Twice. Colonel Sun is primarily a realistic and often violent tale with an lack of gadgetry. Amis even writes a dismissal of high-tech gadgets at the conclusion when Bond thinks about how useless all of Q Branch's additions to his clothing actually were.

Amis is definitely the most skilled writer on the technical level to undertake a Bond story in Fleming's wake, and it shows. Although a member of the literary establishment because of his novel Lucky Jim, Amis still makes his story essentially a thriller, and a fairly good one at that. His descriptions have some of the exotic thrill of Fleming's, and I can hardly fault his style; nothing seems forced or clumsy, which is a complaint I sometimes have about Gardner and frequently have about Benson. (I haven't yet decided about Higson, although so far I'm positive.)

Colonel Sun moves at a better pace than most of the latter-day Bonds and it held my interest most of the way, despite a slow late middle section. The novel gets off to a running start with the daring scene at Quarterdeck and the abduction of M--a nice sequel to the shocker opening of The Man with the Golden Gun. Amis shows immediately that he isn't afraid to smash Bond around and really put the screws to him (or the metal skewers, heh heh). The book keeps up the pace for a good while before it starts to falter as Bond and Co. near the island of Vrakonisi. After the exciting underwater assault on the boat, the novel starts to slow down and get a touch dull. When Sun finally lays his mitts on Bond at the end, it's back to the thrill factor for the climax. Amis again lays down the hurt, and it's exciting. My only problem with the finale is that Colonel Sun is one incredibly talkative bad guy when he builds up to the torture. We expect the villain to give speeches in a 007 novel--it's a classic part of the formula. But Sun seems not to stop, and Bond's vituperative demands that he "get on with it" were ones with which I was readily agreeing. It is one nasty torture though, and thank you Kingsley for not going into too much detail on it. Appreciate it.

One significant difference between Colonel Sun and Fleming's books is the amount of time Amis dedicates to political discussions and allegiances. Although Fleming casts his stories against the backdrop of the Cold War and frequently pitted 007 against the Soviets, his novels have little interest in the "whys" of the conflict. James Bond doesn't fight against communists, he fights against the Russians. He works for the forces of good, his opponents for evil, and that is that. It's an unexcused fantasy setting: an organization like SMERSH seems more comfortable in a pulp adventure than in real world espionage. On the other hand, Amis's version of James Bond's world places political affiliations on the front lines. The scene between Ariadne and the Russian general just gets too mired in political philosophy speech-making, and for me it slowed the pace down. Such additions might have made Colonel Sun timely and realistic when it was published, but I find it much more dated than Fleming's fantasy environment.

Another strange thing that Amis does is include a chapter about George Ionides, the sailor who serves as an unwitting decoy for Bond and Niko Litsas. It doesn't add much to story. The text could have just made mention of it when Bond and Litsas sneak onto Vrakonisi in a new boat, much the same way he mentioned the decoys in the car in Doctor No. It doesn't help the pace at all in the slowest section of the novel.

The characterizations are also a strong part of the book. I've already mentioned how well Bond is done. Litsas is an excellent ally (although, again, lots of political chat) with his own vengeance quest reasons for getting involved, and Ariadne is a vibrant, action-oriented Bond girl very much in keeping with the times. Colonel Sun is a bit reminiscent of Doctor No, but aside from his lengthy chatter pre-torture, he's a deviously successful villain and comes to a good end.

Colonel Sun definitely ranks among my favorites of the post-Fleming Bond novels, and it's unfortunate that Kingsley didn't have the opportunity to publish any further 007 adventures.

Edited by Double-O Eleven, 16 September 2006 - 04:13 AM.


#16 bond_girl_double07

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Posted 15 September 2006 - 06:13 PM

Excellent review, double-o eleven! I kind of liked Colonel Sun's idle chatter before the torture scene (although there were some pacing problems throughout the rest of the book).. You know when you go to the doctor to get blood drawn and your skin tenses knowing the pain's coming? The worst part of the entire visit is that anticipation, and I think Amis captures that feeling to a crazy extreme by making Bond (and the reader) wait to figure out what kind of torture device Sun will be usuing. I thought the tension in that scene was absolutely amazing and I loved the cramped cellar with everybody watching Bond's response..

that boat scene when the imposters get killed? THAT was a scene I wish Amis would have hurried along :)

#17 Double-O Eleven

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Posted 16 September 2006 - 02:45 AM

If anyone is interested in more of my ramblings on Colonel Sun, I've written a longer review of the book that is posted on my website here. There's also a few other Bond reviews there as well--I'm starting up a collection of non-Fleming reviews and hope to have them all there, someday.

#18 Qwerty

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Posted 16 September 2006 - 04:17 AM

If anyone is interested in more of my ramblings on Colonel Sun, I've written a longer review of the book that is posted on my website here. There's also a few other Bond reviews there as well--I'm starting up a collection of non-Fleming reviews and hope to have them all there, someday.


Some great reviews you have there, Double-O Eleven (as well as this Colonel Sun on here)! I'm looking forward to seeing all of your Fleming and non-Fleming reviews in this book club. :)

#19 Lazenby880

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Posted 16 September 2006 - 03:59 PM

If anyone is interested in more of my ramblings on Colonel Sun, I've written a longer review of the book that is posted on my website here. There's also a few other Bond reviews there as well--I'm starting up a collection of non-Fleming reviews and hope to have them all there, someday.

Very nice website you have there. :)

I agree with bond_girl_double07, this is another engaging review with which I mostly concur. I posted my inane thoughts on Colonel Sun a while back in this topic, after which there was a rather spirited debate on the novel.

I'm glad that you have taken account of the substantial differences between Fleming and Amis as too often I read that the two had pretty similar styles. Where Fleming was wild, bizarre and fantastic Amis was more realistic, gritty and political. It works, in my view, because Amis does not alter the Bond character; while Colonel Sun is a very different type of thriller from any of the Fleming originals the character is still recognisably 007. Amis' novel is a daring and exciting departure from the norm, and I enjoy that James Bond is placed into a more violent and grounded story.

Double-O-Eleven I like your website and I like your Bond reviews. Keep up the good work. :P

#20 Willowhugger

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Posted 16 May 2016 - 08:00 PM


http://unitedfederat...sun-review.html


When Ian Fleming died, his publishers wished to continue producing Bond novels. I'm not sure of the exact copyright issues but they commissioned a new novel which would secure their control of the literary portion of the franchise for decades to come. Crass commercial move or not, they chose someone who had a genuine love of the franchise as well as tremendous skill.

Ian's widow, Ann, was less than pleased with their choice of author. Kingsley Amis was a huge Bond fan, no one could doubt it, with a number of books written on the franchise. No, the problem Ann Fleming had with him was his politics. Err, not to put too fine a point on it, but Kingsley Amis was a communist. This is rather noticeable as the literary Bond was all about murdering SMERSH before he ever heard of SPECTRE. Either way, Kingsley Amis typed out a book which I think is probably one of the best Bond books.

But kinda racist.

The premise for the novel is the demented Colonel Sun, a Maoist Chinese operative with a pain obsession (because literary Bond villains are crazy like that), has kidnapped M. This is part of a larger plan to sew discord between the West and Soviet Union in order to benefit Red China. The book was written in 1968 so it was still four years before Richard Nixon went to China and utterly upended how everyone assumed the Cold War was going to.

Kingsley Amis' politics are on full display here, much as Ana feared, but are more amusing in retrospect than offensive. Kingsley has Bond willing to team up with the Soviets against the Red Chinese because the author clearly believes the Maoists will be the enemy in the future. You know, instead of America and China becoming friendly rivals while the USSR's relationship sours even further.

In any case, Bond isn't going to let M's kidnapping slide so he heads off to Greece and hooks up with GRU operative Ariadne Alexandrou in order to stop Colonel Sun's nefarious plan. They visit some beautiful locations, have a romance, and get involved with some ex-WW2 resistance fighters who are less than pleased by Ariadne's communist sympathies. It's all extremely entertaining but the book is quite short at a mere 224 pages.

Ariadne is probably one of my favorite Bond girls and quite entertaining. Part of what makes her so appealing is the ash-blonde Greek is portrayed as a very well-rounded character. She's politically naive both in-story and out, believing in communism but clearly underestimating her superiors' darker side (one is actually a pedophile). She's also both a patriot as well as someone working for a foreign government. Lots of interesting contradictions which make her a character I would have liked to have seen more of.

Colonel Sun is an inscrutable oriental Yellow Peril villain who is basically military Fu Manchu. He's not the kind of character who could fly in today's climate and probably just barely worked in the 1960s. The best moment of the character is when he breaks down and admits he thought being a monster would make him feel stronger but instead just made him feel vile. It's a bit of humanization which Fleming never afforded his villains even if Bond isn't the kind of guy interested in showing mercy to his foes.

Greece is a perfect location for a Bond novel with the oceans, ruins, and local culture all being lovingly detailed. It comes alive off the page and I can't think of many places I've "visited" in books which have been as realistic. The fact it feels so authentic with just a comparatively small page count is also to the author's credit.

I've read Colonel Sun, listened to it on audiobook, and purchased the B&W comic book version so I must like it a great deal. Even so, I admit the book has flaws and can't help but suspect some readers might prefer the later movie-influenced pastiches to this one. Still, I'm going to give this a recommendation for all fans of spy fiction as well as the literary Bond.

9.5/10

 






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