Solo, by William Boyd

It is no easy task to continue the story of another, however when I discovered that William Boyd had written a ‘James Bond’ novel, I knew that the continuation of this franchise would be safe in the hands of one of my favourite and most compelling authors. Solo certainly didn’t disappoint.

Set in 1969, holding Bond at the full age of around 45 and a long career to look back on, Solo keeps to all the hallmarks of a classic Bond tale. As a dubious mission to end a war in Zanzarim takes a turn for the worse, Bond finds himself embarking on his own agenda to discover the truth to matters. Utilising old contacts, daring cunning and, of course, his license to kill, Bond proves once again that it’s a dire mistake to cross this affamed double 0.

It is of little surprise that the master author of the spy novel Restless would soon turn his hand to the classic series of British espionage loved the world over. Boyd’s exquisite knowledge of the finer cuisine and fashionable tastes certainly lend well to our worldy and charming protagonist, attributing Bond with an even greater suave than perhaps managed by even Fleming himself. Boyd’s own history with Africa similarly explains his attraction to this setting, through which he fully utilises his experiences to present an authentic take on the country and its culture.

With a plethora of loveable clichés, character traits and exotic settings, Solo is indeed a true likeness to Fleming’s classic series. Action, seduction and espionage. What more could you ask of our 007?

Length: 322 (Vintage)
Overall Rating: 3.5 stars

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Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami

Set during the late 1960s, Norwegian Wood is a heartfelt ode to adolescence, filled with both the mindless and mindful meanderings of the young soul struggling along the path to maturity.

Murakami’s artful prose captures the pure essence of this age, reaching out to the unanswerable questions of life and love, as well as the transitory struggles for meaning in the adult world. It is from the tale of the stoic and utterly sincere Watanabe that these themes are laid bare.

Norwegian Wood is filled with vivid characters, each desperate to find meaning and explore their emotions. Through a variety of intricate and somewhat random acts, conversations and occurrences, Murakami tells the tale of youthful heartache. Much apart from his other novels,

Norwegian Wood was Murakami’s first seemingly conventional work, straying from the wonderful and fictional imaginings of his others. Despite this, it is also one of his most famous, raising his readership to the millions, and one which every young person should hold in their repertoire.

Length: 389 (Vintage)

Overall Rating: 5 stars

The Incorruptibles, by John Hornor Jacobs 

25246213In a land built on steampunk contraptions and demonic beings, The Incorruptibles mixes the dangerous ingenuity and extravagance of ancient Rome, with the hard corruption of the wild west. Along with a dash of fantasy, this cross-genre novel harbours both ingenuity and intrigue.

‘The Hardscrabble Territories’ are an unforgiving land, filled with all manner of terrors, where roughened men seek solace for their sins in the fiery depths of the bottle. Damnation is not only rife, but physically apparent, as demon spawn and hell fire fuel mankind’s greed. Jacobs’ gritty western dialect and fluid description creates a harsh yet vivid world of ever-present hardship.

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The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden, By Jonas Jonasson

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Exotically imaginative and audaciously funny, The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden is another wonderful example of Jonasson’s witty and entertaining writing style. Following on from the success of his debut novel, once again Jonasson spins an irreverent and impossible narrative, born from small beginnings surging ever on towards the large and the great.

 

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Carrie, by Stephen King

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​From the skilled hands of its world famous author, Carrie spins a dark tale of youthful cruelty and sorrowful revenge. Bearing a simple yet effective premise for a horror novel, known now by many from its multiple film interpretations, this is a short and entertaining classic.

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Carrie centres around its namesake, a teenage girl who after a lifetime of bullying and trauma is brought to her limits in the run up to her senior prom. As the novel progresses, the supernatural gradually becomes all too frightening and real, and a terrifying retribution soon unfolds upon a small town in Maine America.

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Whilst a little cliché at times, the same can largely be said of all teenagers. King soon moves beyond the realms of youthful stereotype however, drawing upon much darker themes. Carrie engages the brutally honest inner emotions of its characters, offering their raw, primitive thoughts throughout. The effect of this is an intrinsically human perspective on a savage, wounded time for a young damaged girl.

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The general style of the novel is rather different to a typical horror novel. It is certainly interesting to consistently remind the reader of the novel’s end for example, a typical cardinal sin in most narratives. By frequenting numerous article segments and scientific considerations concerning the ‘Carrie phenomena’ throughout however, King adds a sense of impeding and inescapable doom. In this way, the slightest actions are therefore emphasised with a constant sense of inevitable consequence.

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Carrie is the classic tale of youthful hardship and woes, escalated beyond proportion by a horrorful nature that seeks retribution for all the sorry young wronged.

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Length: 242 (BCA)

Overall Rating: 3.5 stars

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders

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In his debut novel, once more Saunders’ irreverent, sporadic and moving style is put masterfully to use to capture a powerful narrative. Composed of dozens of voices, from which history merges with fiction in a mesmerising whole, Lincoln in the Bardo is an entirely singular novel, certainly the first of its kind, and one which will long be remembered.

 

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Ordinary Thunderstorms, by William Boyd

9781408802854Ordinary Thunderstorms is a novel which certainly isn’t lacking in momentum, wasting little time in diving into its fast paced narrative. With an assortment of colourful characters, drawn from all parts of London society, this is quite a different read compared to Boyd’s other novels. Though any thriller faces the potential of being labeled as being somewhat commercialised, Ordinary Thunderstorms is still absorbingly fast paced, varied and highly gripping. 

 

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