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Topic: Colonel Sun

A few of us posters on the novels forum have been trying to encourage other posters to read the Bond books. Alex has just finished Colonel Sun and it left me wondering what other people make of this fine book.
First off, did you like Colonel Sun? Do you think it is a worthy addition to the literary franchise? Is the Bond of Amis similar/the same Bond of the Fleming books? Is Colonel Sun a worthy villian? Are there any outstanding passages/bits that you liked? Any bits you didn't? Is the torture of Bond too violent or is it passe now that the book is 34 years old?
Comments please....

Aevo rarissima nostro simplicitas
The higher the monkey climbs the more you can see its arse

YNWA: Justice For The 96

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Re: Colonel Sun

As I've said before, I think CS is the best of the post-Fleming Bonds.  What I like about it is that it stays true to the world Fleming wrote about, and then explodes it by putting M into a compromising position that Fleming probably never would have allowed.  The book is also violent and sexually explicit in ways that make old Ian seem kind of quaint--I think the torture of Bond is unnerving even today.  As for the character of Colonel Sun. . .well, he's a little too reminiscent of Dr. No, but I like the perverse nature Amis gave him--his almost sexual love of torture and his use of "James" instead of the traditional "Mr. Bond" in addressing our hero.  He's a truly creepy character.

I think my favorite parts of the novel are the opening and closing chapters, which are both extremely exciting.  The flaw of the novel, though, is that the middle section seems to drag on and on, with a lot of exposition and not much action.  Warts and all, though, Colonel Sun surpasses anything by Gardner and Benson and its best parts even rival Fleming.

Vox clamantis in deserto

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Re: Colonel Sun

I agree with that.Amis was a superb writer and he replicates the unique Ian Fleming voice so well it's difficult at times to realize that Fleming didn't write Colonel Sun.

And the beginning and closing chapters are indeed the best parts of the novel.Amis--craftsman though he was--needed a good editor.The midsection of CS seems to go on forever.It could be trimmed and immediately improved.Also,Colonel Sun--as a title--obviously calls Dr.No to mind immediately.Perhaps Doctor No was one of Amis' favorite Bond novels?

As for the action sequences -the murder of the Hammonds and the kidnapping of M--Fleming wouldn't have done it.However,these are powerful and unexpected moments in the novel and are handled quite skillfully.As a result we readers really want to see 007 turn into an avenging angel.And those torture sequences are very creepy indeed--but then Colonel Sun's that kind of guy:_very_ creepy.

On the whole,Colonel Sun is an excellent Fleming pastiche,it's only weakness being that it doesn't maintain it's brilliant opening momentum,it drags toward the middle of the story,and most unfortunately,after a superb beginning,has a rather anticlimactic climax.On the whole,however,this book is filled with wonderful moments.Too bad Amis didn't try his hand at another Bond or two...

Last edited by Willie Garvin (19th Jun 2002 03:56)

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Re: Colonel Sun

I'd heard that the reason there were no more Bond novels (barring Pearson's authorized biography of 007 and the Wood adaptations) until License Renewed was because Colonel Sun sold so poorly that Glidrose decided to not try to put out any more books.  Amis wrote under the name "Robert Markham" because Glidrose's original idea was to have many different novelists write Bond books all under the Markham name, but when CS flopped, so too did the idea of a bunch of Markham novels.

Vox clamantis in deserto

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Re: Colonel Sun

Yes--I've read that too.Several authors in rotation all writing as Robert Markham.A bad idea then,and a bad idea now.Maybe Colonel Sun--just as a title--sounds too close to Dr.No.In fact,these titles sound interchangable and probably were to the average reader.Perhaps in the end the general public simply wasn't aware that Colonel Sun was a new novel by a different author.Additionally,the Glidrose pen name never worked anyway,since all the original hardcovers' dustjackets and interior flyleafs,along with the title page--clearly display Amis' name beneath Robert Markham like so:

                     COLONEL SUN
                          by
                     Robert Markham
                     (Kingsley Amis)


So there's no mystery surrounding 007's newest scribe.


Furthermore,it may also be that by the late 1960s the huge interest in all things Bond had begun to peak.We should remember that Bondmania only lasted from 1964(with the great success of Goldfinger--and the rerelease later that year of From Russia With Love and Dr.No on the famous double bill),through 1965 and the incredible international success of Thunderball.The You Only Live Twice film in 1967 rode the last crest of that wave...casual Bond fans may not have been as interested in the novels as the devotees of Bond were...


Interestingly,the year Colonel Sun was published in the USA,TRUE magazine optioned the rights to carry the story in an edited,serialized format in 2 parts.I have this serial version and it's much better than the actual novel.Amis apparently did the editing and all the midsection "fat" is gone.Additionally,it's beautifully illustrated with a series of oil paintings by artist Bob Abbett.

Last edited by Willie Garvin (19th Dec 2002 05:57)

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Re: Colonel Sun

Perhaps one reason for the failure of Colonel Sun in 1968 was the original cover art:

[img=http://www.commanders.com/images/timeline/book_cs.gif]

Bizarre. . .fascinating. . .eye-catching. . .but maybe potential readers wondered if this was a Bond novel or the autobiography of Salvador Dali.

Vox clamantis in deserto

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Re: Colonel Sun

OH MY - - -  LOL!!!  What were they thinking?  It's sooo Salvador Dali that I was looking for the melting clock in the background.

MBE

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Re: Colonel Sun

Quoting MBE_:OH MY - - -  LOL!!!  What were they thinking?

A better question might be what was the artist smoking?  In all seriousness, I think the jacket is trying to create images that complement the novel.  The beach setting represents the novel's locations in Greece and on Colonel Sun's island; and the all-seeing eye where the sun should be, of course, is Col. Sun himself--who orchestrates all the events in the novel.  The eye is also traditionally associated with the male sex organ (this is why Oedipus blinds himself when he discovers he's slept with his mother), and of course the nose and ears are orifices associated with the female anatomy.  Given that the nose and ear are growing out of a female body we have an over-literalization of Bond's sexual desire. . .PLUS the fact that Sun (who's possibly gay and certainly gets a sexual charge out of inflicting pain) tortures Bond by probing his eye sockets, nostrils, and ears.  So there you have power, sex, and torture all on one book cover.

Or maybe the artist was just smoking the ganja.

Another observation about why Colonel Sun flopped.  The book was released during Bondmania--the films of Casino Royale and You Only Live Twice, two of the most outlandish Bond movies ever made--were released the year before; Bond merchandise was in all the stores; and Bond knockoffs were all over film and television.  The film Bond had become a cultural phenomenon, and the Bond in Colonel Sun belongs entirely to the rough and gritty world of Ian Fleming.  There are no witty comebacks, no gadgets, no glamorizing of Bond's world, and no SPECTRE hatching an elaborate plan for world domination.  CS is a harsh and violent book, and although it's close to what Fleming wrote about, it's nothing like the "Bond" people were getting on the screen.  Perhaps this is a sign that, just four years after Ian Fleming died, his character died with him.

Vox clamantis in deserto

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Re: Colonel Sun

An Interesting analysis of the cover art and it's symbolism.I vote for the ganja...Covers should intrigue their readers-not confuse them or drive them away.Personally,I like Dali but he's not an artist one associates with James Bond.Sometimes less is more-perhaps a representational illustration by Richard Chopping.Something  saying that this book too,--though not by Ian Fleming-- is a Bond adventure and part of the grand saga.

At any rate,in life timing is everything and Colonel Sun probably arrived at the wrong moment.As Hardyboy observes,in 1967 Casino Royale and You Only Live Twice were on the screens and neither one--especially CR--resembled Fleming's writing(barring character names,titles and locales).And frankly,even with JFK's endorsement,Ian Fleming was always a cult author--the general public knew 007 from the movies and his larger than life escapades.Colonel Sun isn't the literary equivalent of an EON production.

Then again,for all of Kingsley Amis' writing talent,Colonel Sun isn't an especially gripping novel.It certainly has it's moments,but on the whole,it's not as compelling as it ought to have been.It'll never be confused with From Russia With Love,Moonraker or OHMSS,for example.And just as a title,"Colonel Sun" is too close to "Dr.No",while the story itself---which should move rapidly while still establishing mood and uniquely interesting characters---as per Fleming's best work, often drags.

Moreover,the colonel's grand scheme is disappointingly mundane and the climax is surprising anticlimactic.Too bad because the colonel is a promising villain.And except for the superb opening chapters with the violent assault on Quarterdeck and the kidnapping of M, we've seen most of this stuff before:in better and lesser Fleming stories.There's a sense of deja vu that permeates this book.

I like Colonel Sun despite it's many shortcomings--at a purely technical level it's a fine Ian Fleming pastiche--but it isn't the kind of novel to relaunch an ongoing series of new James Bond adventures.

Last edited by Willie Garvin (21st Jun 2002 04:03)

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Re: Colonel Sun

Hardyboy, excellent explanations but like Willie Garvin I'm going with the ganja (no not personally, as a theory). ajb007/wink

MBE

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Re: Colonel Sun

Colonel Sun was one terrific novel... it was very Fleming-esque. It was such a good read that I grew angry at myself for not having picked it up before. M's kidnapping and Bond's torture...this book exceeded my wildest expectations. It was as gripping as any Fleming novel. Five stars...I'm impressed. This definitely belongs right there with the originals.

I guess it's all downhill now, I haven't tried any Benson or Garner as of yet...this book was a little difficult to find...Amis never wrote any more? that's really a shame.

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Re: Colonel Sun

After finally receiving a copy of Colonel Sun and reading it I have to concur with the opinions of most of you that have written on this topic. It is indeed a fine book that suitably follows the Fleming tradition with a few extra twists. It does drag a bit in the middle, but knowing its building upto something -makes it utterly compelling. It is indeed a shame that Amis didn't write more. Over all I'm very pleased to now own a copy of this book, and it is perhaps my favourite of all the post Fleming books. I'll give it 9/10, it only drops a point because of the slump in pace in the middle. ajb007/biggrin

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Re: Colonel Sun

It's been a while since I've read Colonel Sun but I think that parts of the plot and the overall theme of the novel were the basisis of DAD. Please correct me if I'm wrong,  I read so much I may be thinking of a different book.

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Re: Colonel Sun

I haven't read Colonel Sun for years, so don't want to comment on it directly. However, wonder what a Bond book by Martin Amis would turn out like.

'Yes, dammit, I said "was". The bitch is dead now.'
The James Bond Dossier | Bond 24 | Q-Branch James Bond Podcast

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Re: Colonel Sun

While I'm not quite through with Col. Sun I'll have to agree with the other posters.  Excellent at the begining.  I was highly entertained, but about 3/4 of the way through I got caught in the quagmire and had to put it down for a few days.
As for the cover, speaking as an artist, I must disagree with all of you (sorry Hardyboy), he was on some serious CRACK!  I can see the symbolism but that doesn't make it right.  Maybe I'm just old fashioned but a 007 book should have at least a gun on it or something (with the exception of John Gardner's Never Send Flowers wich looks like a Danielle steel cover, but I like it anyway).

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Re: Colonel Sun

Coming a year late to this, but I was hunting for a reference to COLONEL SUN's cover and here it is! I had never seen the HC cover before this thread, but wondered what everybody thought of the PAPERBACK cover.

CS was the first Bond novel I read, and with the pb cover showing a craggy faced fierce Bond who looked an AWFUL lot like AGENT FOR HARM's Peter Mark Richman, I read the book with that face battling Connery's for Bond's image in my mind's eye.

I haven't seen the CS paperback in 25 years or more, but I wonder if anyone knows who the subject was for the artist (or who the artist was, for that matter?)

"Achievement is it's own reward - pride obscures it."
Major Garland Briggs, in TWIN PEAKS

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Re: Colonel Sun

Why don't they make new editions of CS?

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Re: Colonel Sun

Quoting KielFan91:
Why don't they make new editions of CS?

They have done, probably not in the US though, and they are concentrating on the Fleming novels at the moment.

Aevo rarissima nostro simplicitas
The higher the monkey climbs the more you can see its arse

YNWA: Justice For The 96

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Re: Colonel Sun

Quoting kmart:
Coming a year late to this, but I was hunting for a reference to COLONEL SUN's cover and here it is! I had never seen the HC cover before this thread, but wondered what everybody thought of the PAPERBACK cover.

CS was the first Bond novel I read, and with the pb cover showing a craggy faced fierce Bond who looked an AWFUL lot like AGENT FOR HARM's Peter Mark Richman, I read the book with that face battling Connery's for Bond's image in my mind's eye.

I haven't seen the CS paperback in 25 years or more, but I wonder if anyone knows who the subject was for the artist (or who the artist was, for that matter?)

If you're referring to the Bantam edition, kmart, (and what else would a vet like you be talking about) then heck yes! I love that cover. Reminiscent of the sixties action novels that have accumulated my collections.

Here's a link showcasing the various covers.

http://www.bondian.com/books/13205876i.html

Last edited by Alex (28th Jun 2004 19:03)

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Re: Colonel Sun

I only read CS once, and that was around 15 years ago.  I remember it was a library book, which is no longer in my county's library system.  Anyway, I have a question.  In the site, Art of James Bond http://www.artofjamesbond.com/newspaper.htm , there's an illustration of Bond's torture in CS, and the girl standing in front of him (administering the torture?) is partially topless.  Did this sequence happen in this exact way in the book?  Thanks in advance!

"...the purposeful slant of his striding figure looked dangerous, as if he was making quickly for something bad that was happening further down the street." -SMERSH on 007 dossier photo, Ch. 6 FRWL.....

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Re: Colonel Sun

superado wrote:

I only read CS once, and that was around 15 years ago.  I remember it was a library book, which is no longer in my county's library system.  Anyway, I have a question.  In the site, Art of James Bond http://www.artofjamesbond.com/newspaper.htm , there's an illustration of Bond's torture in CS, and the girl standing in front of him (administering the torture?) is partially topless.  Did this sequence happen in this exact way in the book?  Thanks in advance!

Those illustrations by Bob Abbett were painted exclusively for the two-part serialization of Colonel Sun that appeared in True magazine.I don't recall the girl looking like that in the novel itself--but I could be wrong.I'll reread it and let you know...

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Re: Colonel Sun

Much obliged, WG!

"...the purposeful slant of his striding figure looked dangerous, as if he was making quickly for something bad that was happening further down the street." -SMERSH on 007 dossier photo, Ch. 6 FRWL.....

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Re: Colonel Sun

The half topless girl is actually the last part of the torture. She is supposed to strip for Bond and make him want her, but she has a better plan. She suggests that she should kiss Bond first, THAN strip... I don't want to spoil it, but this kiss is a crucial moment. I think the artist imagined a bit too much, because the last time Bond notices her, she is still wearing turquise jacket and green slacks and she doesn't strip down from that as far as I can tell...

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Re: Colonel Sun

I know that I am very late picking up this thread…but here I go anyway.
I decided 6 months ago to re read all of the Fleming originals after a 22-year gap. On completion of the originals I sought out a copy of Colonel Sun from Ebay to complete my ‘Bond reading fest.’
With regard to the merits of CSI have to agree with the views expressed in early posts.  CS starts off magnificently and for my money ends very well. It is however let down by a rather ponderous middle section. I cannot help believing that Fleming would have cut out much of the ‘padding out and been much more severe with his editing.
However in the final analysis I believe that the novel contains enough quality to be regarded as the equal, and indeed in some instances dare I say superior, to the Fleming originals.

With regard to its poor contemporary reception, I would be curious to read any reviews of the novel at the time of publishing? Perhaps critics indicated some of the same short fallings highlighted within this forum? Or was it simply a case of readers not being willing to accept a non-Fleming original? Hindsight is a marvellous thing and 37 years on we are in a position to be able to assess Kingsley Amis’s contribution in perhaps a more circumspect manner. Amis himself acknowledged his shortcomings in attempting to follow in Fleming's footsteps in a 1991 forward in the paperback addition I obtained(Harper paperback U.S.Ed) It was not Fleming, but it was dam close and a fine effort in my opinion.

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Re: Colonel Sun

oops!
sorry, just noticed a mistake in my last post.
'Addition' should be 'edition'.