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CBner's 'Solo' reviews - spoilers ahead!

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Poll: CBner's 'Solo' reviews - spoilers ahead!

So - having read it my spirits are now...

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Out of ten, ten being really splendid and zero being pretty bloody awful, it's...

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Would another Boyd Bond be welcome?

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Assuming William Boyd doesn't do another, my advice to IFP would be...[MULTIPLE CHOICE]

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#1 Dustin

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 02:06 PM

The wait is nearly over, tomorrow readers will finally be able to get their hands on the real thing and judge for themselves. Might be a good idea to have one single place to pool CBner's reviews. Please share your thoughts, anger or bliss about SOLO here. If you are left utterly speechless - by all means say so. If it's the best thing since sliced bread - tell us why you think that. If you found it so-so, let us know what's so and what's so.

 

Those not wanting to be spoiled: be warned! Those reviewing SOLO: please make use of spoiler-tags anyway. 



#2 glidrose

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 10:45 PM

Not a CBner, but Ajay Chowdhury of the JB International Fan Club has read the book. "It's exciting, it's entertaining, it's fun, it's sexy, it's spectacular. He's written more than just a James Bond novel. He's written a good, modern political thriller."

 

http://bostonherald...._new_novel_solo



#3 ACE

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 08:16 AM

The 25th original adult Bond continuation novel, "Solo" is the best Bond novel in years. Set in 1969, it is a reality-based, thriller centered around the factional conflict in fictional Central African state, Zanzarim and the breakaway Repulic of Dahum. Bond is sent to on a Conrad-esque quest to track down warlord Brigadier Solomon “The Scorpion” Adeka. However, things are not all they seem as Bond and his local translator, Blessing get caught up in a full-scale civil war over the nation's newly discovered oil reserves. 
 
The action moves from London to Zanzarim to Washington, and Bond moves around in a Jensen Interceptor FF (the Bentley is being repaired). M, Moneypenny, May and Felix Leiter return but May's niece, Donalda, Felix's nephew Brigham also turn up for the ride. Bond has a new secretary, Araminta Beauchamp, a young new Q Branch quartermaster, Quentin Dale and a brand new heavy in the form of Rhodesian mercenary Jakobus Creed.
 
Born and raised in Africa, Boyd writes a superb spy thriller with shades of late period Le Carre. Densely plotted and political, rather like Colonel Sun, Boyd writes sparingly but well, capturing location and character and period and most importantly, the spirit and essence of Ian Fleming's James Bond. Those in Pseud's Corner might find allusions to contemporary civil strife in exotic lands but that's just gravy. Those new to the literary Bond world can have no better introduction and even the most jaded literary Bond fan might, just might, enjoy Solo. 


#4 Grard Bond

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 12:53 PM

Got it today from Amazon.co.uk. and it looks very, very nice. A question though: my copie has a lot of  smal little spots and chips on the dusk jacket, is that normal or a default?



#5 Simon

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 01:52 PM

I think normal - mine is the same.



#6 the man with the BB gun

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 02:11 PM

and mine http://instagram.com/p/evTEU2mh8w/



#7 Loomis

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Posted 30 September 2013 - 03:03 PM



 


The 25th original adult Bond continuation novel, "Solo" is the best Bond novel in years. Set in 1969, it is a reality-based, thriller centered around the factional conflict in fictional Central African state, Zanzarim and the breakaway Repulic of Dahum. Bond is sent to on a Conrad-esque quest to track down warlord Brigadier Solomon “The Scorpion” Adeka. However, things are not all they seem as Bond and his local translator, Blessing get caught up in a full-scale civil war over the nation's newly discovered oil reserves. 
 
The action moves from London to Zanzarim to Washington, and Bond moves around in a Jensen Interceptor FF (the Bentley is being repaired). M, Moneypenny, May and Felix Leiter return but May's niece, Donalda, Felix's nephew Brigham also turn up for the ride. Bond has a new secretary, Araminta Beauchamp, a young new Q Branch quartermaster, Quentin Dale and a brand new heavy in the form of Rhodesian mercenary Jakobus Creed.
 
Born and raised in Africa, Boyd writes a superb spy thriller with shades of late period Le Carre. Densely plotted and political, rather like Colonel Sun, Boyd writes sparingly but well, capturing location and character and period and most importantly, the spirit and essence of Ian Fleming's James Bond. Those in Pseud's Corner might find allusions to contemporary civil strife in exotic lands but that's just gravy. Those new to the literary Bond world can have no better introduction and even the most jaded literary Bond fan might, just might, enjoy Solo. 

 

Nice one.

 

I picked up a copy of SOLO last Friday and am now about two-thirds of the way through it.

 

While there are (as expected) some odd and unFlemingian notes (for instance, was "douche-bag" really a common insult in 1969? Fair enough if it was, but it seems a curious epithet to find in a period Bond novel - also, would Fleming have felt the need to point out that the surname "Beauchamp" is pronounced "Beecham"?), the first thing to say about SOLO (or at any rate the first thing that I would say about SOLO) is that LITBOND IS BACK!!!!

 

There have been better continuation Bond novels (a couple, anyway), and there have been better Boyd novels, but this is still a big step in the right direction and a huge improvement over the underwhelming DEVIL MAY CARE and CARTE BLANCHE. Fortunately, SOLO feels less like "a James Bond novel" than "a novel that happens to feature a protagonist called James Bond". It seems relatively unshackled to formula.

 

Along with a fair old dollop of dry humour, there's an atmospheric and rather poignant WILD GEESE-ish quality to the story (I refer not to the film but to Daniel Carney's excellent novel). The 1960s setting is generally evoked deftly and effectively as opposed to rammed into the ground via on-the-nose observations like "Bond didn't care for Mick Jagger and his ilk". Indeed, there's something pleasingly low-key about this book and its characters, backdrops and action. Like YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE and THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, it has something of a (bad) dreamlike flavour. And Fleming would surely have approved of moments like the witch doctor's benediction. 

 

Best of all, there is at least an attempt to bring Bond to some kind of life as a human being with emotions, opinions and so on. True, he still remains very much within the ballpark and confines of Fleming's "cardboard booby", but perhaps he's just a little more developed than usual here (as indeed he is in some of Fleming's own novels).

 

Now, none of that is to say that there isn't a feeling that SOLO might have been even better with a bit more time and effort, more polishing of the prose, more detail concerning locations and more fleshing out of supporting characters. Still, I'm impressed so far. Not a life-changing book by any means, or even a classic of its kind, but certainly one of the best of the continuation novels. I sincerely hope that the folks behind SOLO will make Boyd their Mendes and get him back for (at least) one more. SOLO strikes me as a good start for a new series of literary Bond outings and I'd like Boyd to build on it. 



#8 SecretAgentFan

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Posted 02 October 2013 - 04:33 AM

Looking forward to it!  Decided to listen to Dominic West´s reading in the audio book version (funny if one considers West had been auditioning for "Casino Royale" and famously blew it).



#9 saint mark

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Posted 02 October 2013 - 01:01 PM

I did read the book and this is my review, without any spoilers I believe. I gave it a two-star rating on Goodreads.

The book opens with a chapter where Bond looks back on the first time where he as a young soldier in the aftermath of the invasion in Normandy (1944)for the first time faces death. And is actually fine reading and shows a promise for the book.
Then 007 gets shipped of the Africa where he is supposed to end a civil war by taking out the leader of one of the parties involved. It all goes of course horrible wrong and Bond ends up being terrible hurt. The 2nd part of the book is Bond going "solo" on a one man mission to avenge his wounds and the awefull behaviour of a mercenary and his boss.

I really wanted to like this book due to some of the extreme critism I did read on some Bondfora, and re-adress the attitude that Fleming never did write as bad as Boyd did. And perhaps it would be honest to admit that while Boyd is a good writer he has shown with this novel that he lacks the writing skills to write a convincing 007 novel.

Knowing that mr. Boyds roots were in Africa I expected some of the brutality that would reign there in a civil conflict in an oil rich country. We get a rather boring travel through an African country in conflict. Having read the writings of the French novelist Gérard de Villiers I always admired his skill of writing about the geopolitical authenticity of conflicted and exotic places. And the post-colonial Africa would be the place to show us some insight. And while his stories of a Austrian prince hired by the CIA does often showcase ond-dimensional characters and gratious sexscenes they offer a lot of excitement as well. With Boyds vision of Africa we get some polished in my view political correct version of the place. It never gets very authentic or even exciting, and even the plot does not offer any clarity.

The villain is some former Rhodesian mercenary that has some nasty way of hanging dead soldiers on tree-branches like dead fish. ANd of course he has his facial handicap. So far Boyd ticks all the Fleming boxes, but he never gives the man any feeling of threathening menace. Jakobus Breed feels like a man who enjoys his sadist kicks but is a mer man that can be easily taken out. And Bond does eventually do just that. The big financier is a one dimensional character that comes nowhere to his right.

The Bond women are fine in this novel but fail to impress at any level, and nowhere you feel that Bond has any attachment with them. Even if the voyeuristic episode concerning one of them is easily the most exciting part written in the book.

This book is about Bond doing a job in post-colonial Africa where the big cooperations after all those declarations of independencies were scrambling like mad to get some lucreative contracts. And James Bond goes into that situation without any idea of view it is only in the aftermath you get an opinion on that matter in a talk between Leiter & Bond. For me Bond never walked so shallow into any affair/mission written by Fleming, Amis, Gardner, Benson, Faulks or Deaver. And in the aftermath it felt out of place and as some conservative fans said that it was amazing that the British paper "the Guardian" had a positive review so something must be wrong. The only questions Bond asked himself were not so much about the situation he was placed in and what his purpose might be, but about the attractiveness of his female companions. And untill the end of the book where Leiter pops us I kind of missed the male bonding Bond seems to have with male characters. these last Bondbooks written and are already called the celebrity trilogy are more interested in placing women in important roles based upon a certain equality. WHich is something that would be frowned upon by most in 1969 where this tale does plays, and it annoyed me for some time in thsi book.

William Boyd commented on Fleming that he has written some sexist and racist aspects in his books. Which is a fair thing to say if one is fameliar with Flemings books. But perhaps Boyd should have used some more edgier approuch to actually spice up this 007 story. It falls kind of flat and is sometimes a boring story that makes the reader frustrated with the lack of action. Instead we get another foodpornish episode which Boyd writes very well but are to much put in the novel instead of some straitgh action with some sadistic overtones.

As Bondnovel a failure for me, although it is quite an easy read. But of the celebrity trilogy it is sadly the worst of the three.

Perhaps the inheritors of the 007 literary could look into mr. Gérard de Villiers service to write a perhaps less PC version of 007. And the man has the skills and knowledge to make it more fun and real.
 



#10 Jim

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Posted 03 October 2013 - 02:09 PM

Poll added



#11 Loomis

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Posted 03 October 2013 - 02:32 PM

My spirits are "So So" and I give SOLO six out of ten.

 

Another Boyd would be welcome, but failing that I'd like a series of five books or so by someone not that well-known (but an established author).



#12 FOX MULDER

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Posted 03 October 2013 - 04:58 PM

SOLO was mediocre at best. Readable, enjoyable sometimes, but overall quaint, timid and flat.

 

The main villain was pathetic, frankly. All he seems to be good at is hanging dead bodies up on fish hooks, being totally incompetent at everything else. In one highly implausible chapter he practically begs for Bond's help to retake a village lost in the war (Bond being an undercover reporter at this point). The demise of this character (or was it?) later on in the novel was equally lame. As a hero is only as good as his enemy is bad it's all baffling stuff...

 

The plot itself is very odd. Bond is sent to Africa on a mission which begins as something extremely vague and end up being quite pointless. He then goes on a totally unprofessional 'revenge' mission which is just impossible to believe. The book has no authenticity whatsoever, let alone anything near the level of Fleming's work. It reads like decent fan fiction written by an armchair adventurer.

 

On a more positive note, the prose is good, the character names are great, there's a few interesting twists, and there's a Jensen FF.

 

Overall, it's 5 out of 10. Not a bad light read, but still quite disappointing. My advice would be: employ someone with experience of real espionage to write the next Bond novel. Make it modern, sharp, topical. Take Bond into the Arab Spring or something. SOLO is not the right direction for the franchise.



#13 Loomis

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Posted 03 October 2013 - 11:09 PM

The main villain was pathetic, frankly. All he seems to be good at is hanging dead bodies up on fish hooks, being totally incompetent at everything else. In one highly implausible chapter he practically begs for Bond's help to retake a village lost in the war (Bond being an undercover reporter at this point). The demise of this character (or was it?) later on in the novel was equally lame.

I actually quite liked Breed (I kept picturing Sharlto Copley in the movie that unfolded in my head as I read), although Boyd could certainly have fleshed him out rather more. I longed for some Donovan Grant-style backstory on him.

 

I enjoyed the suggestion that he might have survived Bond's (rather shockingly sadistic) handiwork and might still be out there somewhere. Reminded me of Baron Samedi, although whether Boyd intended this as a veiled reference to Eon's LIVE AND LET DIE I have no idea. 

 

I like the idea of Bond going up against a white South African mercenary, although the adversary I have in mind would perhaps be less Breed and closer to THE WILD GEESE's Colonel Faulkner - a character in some ways not too far removed from 007 himself.

 

I also enjoyed Bond being accosted by an old schoolfriend who has no idea of what Bond does for a living - the Bumper McTharg chap or whatever his name is. I've been waiting for this moment in a Bond film or book for years, and as far as I know SOLO marks the first occasion that this plot device has been used (although I suspect someone will point out that it was actually used by Fleming).

 

The drunken journalist is also a memorable character, although, again, I wish Boyd had done a bit more work on him.



#14 Sir Godfrey

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Posted 04 October 2013 - 09:22 AM

Pfff... French people have to wait Springer 2014 for reading "Solo". I can't wait !!!!



#15 Dustin

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Posted 04 October 2013 - 09:50 AM

Just order the UK edition then, Sir Godfrey. It's not at all difficult, you will certainly be able to 'get' SOLO.

#16 Sir Godfrey

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Posted 04 October 2013 - 12:40 PM

Why not ? My English comprehension would be better...

I will ask to my bookseller if he can order it for me.



#17 Dustin

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Posted 04 October 2013 - 02:41 PM

You manage to get by here pretty well, reading an original English novel won't be beyond your comprehension. As most things it gets easier with practice.

#18 SecretAgentFan

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Posted 04 October 2013 - 03:32 PM

I can also suggest downloading the audiobook via iTunes.  Dominic West reads this version very well.



#19 Sir Godfrey

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Posted 05 October 2013 - 01:53 PM

Done.
My bookseller has just ordered it.



#20 Jim

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Posted 06 October 2013 - 05:08 PM

It was sound enough but the relentless exposition in the last twenty pages or so was pretty leaden. Became a bit Scooby-Doo at several points. Not totally convinced the swearing added very much.



#21 Glenn

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Posted 07 October 2013 - 02:35 PM

Is this the first 007 novel where Bond doesn't actually kill someone?

 

I liked it and I didn't like it.  The whole African setting I enjoyed (although I usually detest fictional African countries) although I would have liked a little more time spent with Bond surviving in the jungle.  I was expecting something to happen with the MiGs  but that failed to materialise.  Also when Bond assisted with the recapture of the village felt a little flat as though Boyd couldn't come up with a clever tactic so resorted to the old Battle of Hastings trap.  But I enjoyed Africa and the build up to it (I don't think the term "special forces" was used back then, and the SAS was also a super secret organisation and not known to all and sundry).

 

But when Bond went 'Solo' and jetted off to Washington the story fell through for ne.  It felt so contrived, and the villain's plot at the end was just flimsy and weak. 

 

I disliked the ending.  Immensely.   Bond drops his girlfriend because Kobus Creed may still be out there.  What?  You are a 00.  Use it.  How hard could it be to use the intelligence services and the police to track down a disfigured war criminal?   Creed must have entered the country somehow.  Put out an alert for him.  Or alternatively use the coward's approach and leave a note for the girl and slip out into the dark never to return.   Very poor plotting for somebody of Boyd's experience.

 

To my mind it was as if the deadline was looming.  William Boyd spent a lot of time getting his African country to sound right, developing locations and tribes, but towards the end had to hurry.  Thus we get the info dump from Felix and Bond about how the big oil companies like to take over countries.  It felt too rushed.

 

But I gave it an 8 for the African section.  Of the big three names so far I feel that this is the best, far better than Faulks'  plotless novel and better than Deaver's alternative timeline entry.



#22 sharpshooter

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 04:30 AM

Is this the first 007 novel where Bond doesn't actually kill someone?

I know for one Bond didn't kill anyone in Casino Royale (1953).



#23 Bryce (003)

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Posted 10 October 2013 - 06:06 AM

Well...New literary Bond is always a treat.

 

But, like any good meal, if you liked it and were hungry and enjoyed it, you need to order again to see if the flavor is still there.

 

I was hungry and it was a good dish, but I need another serving as I reflect over a post meal snifter of some scotch (neat, single and over 30 - like my preference in women), a smoke and a dark double espresso.

 

I always read a new Bond novel twice before giving a full review. 

 

Now, being 45 myself and also having had bacon and eggs at the Dorchester and also being prone to (several times) celebrating my birthday alone by staying the night at a luxury hotel, the appeal of the first chapter (and other elements) was a bit of fun if not reflective for a fan who's first "new" Bond novel was Wood's TSWLM adaptation.

 

I'll follow up on this after my second serving, but....I need to taste it again....There's still a sip of both scotch and espresso left and I'm not quite done with my cigarette.

 

For the vote above, at present, a strong 7-7.5

 

More to follow, but not too soon.

 

Damn nice to just spend a day or two reading a Bond novel though....As always. 



#24 OmarB

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Posted 10 October 2013 - 01:58 PM

This does not count as a full review because I am not done with it ... and that is the problem.

 

Picked the book up on the weekend along with Terry Goodkind's The Omen Machine and The Third Kingdom.  Weird enough I'm done with both of these already.

 

I'm up to just after the road ambush after the kidnapping.

 

So far, the book is slow as all heck.  Plodding, glacial, Man From Barbarossa.  The characters are pretty wooden and going back to Africa so soon after Deaver invited comparison that Boyd wouldn't have welcomed.

 

I said it before and I will say it again, Project X must continue.  It had a better pace, better action, made you want to continue reading.  Seriously, Solo makes me bored reading it.  I am not done yet but I have to, but so far it's a middling effort, Deaver wrote a better Africa, better villains and had a better pace.  This thriller is not thrilling yet.



#25 SecretAgentFan

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 02:53 PM

Okay, finished it today.

 

And... well... um... oh, boy...

 

It´s certainly better than Faulks´ parody (at least "Devil may care" felt like one to me) and more Bondian than Deaver´s frantic re-boot.

 

What I liked:

 

- setting it in the original timeline

 

- showing an older Bond

 

- the prose, very close in tone to Fleming

 

 

What I didn´t like:

 

- the convoluted plot that had to be explained at the end in a conversation (I thought only bad tv dramas of the 50´s and 60´s did that)

 

- the very lazily developed plot with so many clichéd elements (the way Bond leaves Africa) and weird choices (the romance with the Vampire movie actress and the reason he leaves her)

 

- the seriousness of the African interlude (this is, of course, probably only my problem since I prefer Bond not to mesh with the real world, especially not with malnourished children)

 

 

Maybe it´s about my expectations again - but I thought, after reading the synopsis, that "Solo" is a story about Bond on a mission in Africa, becoming personally involved so much that he goes rogue.  What I found felt more like Bond being sent to Africa, being rather clueless what he is about to do there, being tricked again and again, then solving everything with ideas he got from being in WW2 - and afterwards being rather angry for what has been done to him and going to Washington, stumbling upon the truth, trying an attack without really planning it and getting everything explained in the end, accepting suddenly that he left a very loose end.

 

Again, this book is really shoddily plotted, as if the author had some great ideas and just wrote everything down without re-considering.

 

Also, Boyd´s statements in the press about being a better writer than Fleming set the bar so high... I probably had to be disappointed.

 

Apart from these criticism my personal feeling is that "SOLO" lacks the pulpy fun of Fleming big time. It´s as if Boyd wanted to prove that he can elevate material that is not really up to his standards, only exposing that he is not up to Fleming´s standards.

 

Bond needs more escapism and fun. And a better, driving plot without too many subplots going nowhere.



#26 glidrose

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 04:48 PM

My problem with the book is that Boyd appears to copy certain well-worn tropes from John Gardner's Bond novels. Just when you thought it was safe to read a new Bond novel, we get that ugly, "whose side is this person on and are they really dead?" plot idea that Gardner did to death. And Bond being in some ways a minor player as far as the plot goes is another Gardner trope, e.g. Icebreaker.

 

I argued with another Bond fan whether Boyd had ever read a JG Bond novel. I said he probably hadn't, for the simple reason if he had he would have stayed the heck away from those JG plot tropes!

 

I wonder if it says something about our times that Higson, Faulks, Deaver and now Boyd have felt compelled to include this "duplicity" plot twist which Fleming himself rarely employed. And when he did - CR, Risico - it was bang up perfect.



#27 SecretAgentFan

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 04:56 PM

Good point.  I think the duplicity angle is really overused for years now.  It would be much more surprising these days if a character actually were exactly like he/she seemed at the beginning.



#28 Dustin

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 05:38 PM

Finished it a few days ago. In search of a good hook for a review now. May take a while...



#29 zencat

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 05:58 PM

My review. Sorry for all the words.

 

http://www.thebookbo...nking-mans.html



#30 Dustin

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 06:43 PM

Fine review there, zencat. I find myself agreeing with a lot of your points.






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