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Re: Colonel Sun

sweeper wrote:

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

sweeper, there's an edit button at the top of your post.  If you make a mistake, just click it and you'll be taken back to a "post" screen where you can make changes.

Vox clamantis in deserto

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Re: Colonel Sun

Hi, thanks for that. will do next time.

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Re: Colonel Sun

is Stuart Thomas 005 named in this book:Colonel Sun

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Re: Colonel Sun

Yes. He is "remixed" later in The Facts Of Death.

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Funny, I remember a few of Flemings novels starting out quick then dragging in the middle...

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Apologies for dragging this topic back, however I am currently writing some stuff on COLONEL SUN and felt motivated to post a review I wrote a while back. I never ceased to be amazed at how divisive COLONEL SUN seems to be for readers, with people tending to either think it transcends the limitations of continuation writing or that it is a pretty dense novel with a dull plot. There are some, however, who suspect that the reason COLONEL SUN is often lauded as somehow above the continuations that followed or up there with the Flemings is the sense of discovery readers enjoy. Having tracked down a Bond novel written by one of Britain's most renowned post-war authors are those who consider Kingsley Amis' single Bond novel as one of the best mistaken, having approached it with a preconceived notion of its worth? Are those who view it as a competent but ultimately disappointing novel correct that the middle chapters sag, it takes itself too seriously and can be at times dull?

Well, of course, these are only opinions. But it is an interesting proposition. It is probably true that the 'novelty factor' does positively affect the esteem in which COLONEL SUN is held by Bond aficionados. It was published shortly after Ian Fleming's death in the 1960s by a well-known and widely respected author, as well as an author who was a devotee of the James Bond novels himself. For some, perhaps the fact that Mr Amis only wrote one Bond novel does encourage the reader to extrapolate from the text all that is good, and to naively ignore all that is bad. However, while it is an interesting proposition and one which may be borne out to a limited extent from the experience of a few, surely the same case could made about many other aspects of the Bond series. Having read all of the opinions there are to be read about THE MAN FROM BARBAROSSA or COLD (opinions which are almost uniformly negative) do some fans not approach those novels having already decided that they will not be up to much? Or consider the negativity surrounding the movie version of THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, described matter-of-factly by Pfeiffer and Worrall in their reference manual as the 'weakest of the Bond films made to date'*. While some may undoubtedly go into those works having already been convinced of their direness, does that mean that all who have formed that opinion have done so?

That said, COLONEL SUN is not perfect. The middle section is slow, albeit to a much lesser degree than the book's critics attest. There are some (limited) parts that could have been tidied up to ensure a more efficient flow of the book, such as chapter sixteen 'The Temporary Captain'. Due to the descriptive style the book does move at a relatively slow pace, but not sluggishly so. The reader's interest is retained right through, and these more descriptive sections add to the atmosphere and the characterisation. Nevertheless, at times the reader may find themselves wishing the plot to move forward more briskly. The opening is explosive and gripping, but this is not maintained all the way. A second reading is also eminently worthwhile; perhaps I am just slow, however at times things get quite convoluted and require re-reading. Then again, that might be said about any number of thriller novels.

Where Mr Amis does succeed he does so with gusto. He successfully drenched the novel with darkly rich atmosphere. Greece emerges almost as a character on its own so vividly does the author illustrate its scenery and the feeling of being there. The reader is never left with the illusion that it is a pleasant country, at best it is portrayed as a second-rate backward-looking nation of xenophobic proles. Instead, one gains the impression that this is a once great country that has fallen into its state by the fault of its own people. 'There is something to be said for the view that the Parthenon is best seen from a distance,' Amis writes, for the simple fact that the shoddy restoration work (in comparison, the author details, with the Germans or the Americans) is masked. But inside those magnificently tall columns exists a dead world, mcuh more than 'rows of antique marble'. The best thrillers embody a sense of place, which COLONEL SUN undoubtedly does.

In Adriane Alexandrou the Bond series has one of its most interesting heroines. Here is a Bond girl who is fiercely independent, crafty and a fighter, but not to the point where she becomes an irritating 'equal'. She possesses different qualities and faults than Bond, and exhibits many feminine characteristics. Could she, though, be the first Bond girl to utter the word 'bitch'? Throughout it is clear why Bond falls for her, why he is captivated by her sense of loyalty and her bravery. Truthfully, she is not really heroic in any meaningful sense of the word, but she is a most memorable companion of OO7. Colonel Sun Liang-tan is a fascinating foe, an outstanding character about whom the reader is left wanting to know more. An absolute believer in pure torture, he inflicts upon Bond perhaps the most violent scene in any Bond novel (moreso, even, than in CASINO ROYALE). Sun most specifically tortures Bond through his skull, to the point where the latter is barely in control of his own senses. The pain endured, we learn, is almost indescribable. However, as a mark of the Amis' literary erudition, Sun regrets his actions. He tortured Bond in order to feel like god but pleads for forgiveness, feeling sick and guilty and having realised the despicability of his behaviour. Deep for this genre, but a development that recommends COLONEL SUN highly.

The ending is bitter-sweet, and far more profound than it first seems. 'People think it must be wonderful and free and everything,' Ariadne says, 'But we're not free, ae we?' Bond replies, 'No ... We're prisoners. But let's enjoy our captivity when we can.' Succinctly we gain a deep insight into the lives these characters lead; their lack of freedom, their constrictions. We are left in no doubt that Bond and Ariadne's time together will be limited (her decision), nicely setting up the next 'Robert Markham' adventure which, sadly, was not to materialise.

It is easy and tempting to contrast Amis with Fleming. There is little point, so divergent are they. There is a connection in that Amis' Bond is Fleming's, while the former takes account of what is canon providing an interpretation that is undeniably post-YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. And yet, no matter how hard one tries to avoid doing so, one inevitably compares Amis with Fleming. The differences between the two illuminate the fact that, as a scribe of thrillers, Fleming was undoubtedly the superior. And while Amis was an accomplished and highly versatile author COLONEL SUN is simply not as good as Fleming at his best. In comparing the two, moreover, it is discernable just how different Amis was. The element of the bizarre, so evident in much of Fleming's novels, is nowhere to be seen. This is deliberate, as is the striking difference in he respective authors' prose. Gone is the brilliantly florid and flowery prose of Fleming, in is something altogether more blunt and straightforward. Both work in literary terms, but are really quiteradically different. Stylistically and tonally COLONEL SUN is darker and grittier and bleaker than anything Fleming wrote. Fleming may have been criticised for his sadism, however Amis pushed that to a different level.

In that sense, then, COLONEL SUN is a more modern novel and Amis a more modern thriller writer. In style and plot it is far less extravagant than Fleming's books, with a far greater emphasis on realism. While this works in other contemporary thrillers (some of which are more similar to COLONEL SUN than Fleming's novels) does it work in a Bond novel, where the pulp was part of the attraction? This depends on what one is expecting and what one wants. COLONEL SUN is decidedly not 'larger-than-life' or Flemingesque, if you are looking for that look elsewhere. It is another author's interpretation of the literary Bond, a story about Ian Fleming's James Bond written in a very different style than Ian Fleming. And for some that is the novel's largest downfall.

On the back of the 1970 reprinting the DAILY MIRROR is quoted as desribing the novel as 'an exciting, violent, sadistic and sexy piece of reading matter.' This is largely accurate. Instead of embodying a sense of fun it embodies a sense of seriousness. Does it register as deep an impact as, say, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE? No. Yet it is violent, sadistic and sexy, as well as being exciting and entertaining throughout. And whatever one's opinions on it, for the simple divergence from Fleming, COLONEL SUN is a thoroughly rewarding, and above all interesting, read. In fact, I would contend the novel is up there with the best of them, if not quite reaching the lofty heights of Fleming at his best. ajb007/smile

* Pfeiffer, L. and Worrall, D. (2003) The Essential James Bond London: Boxtree p. 97

Last edited by Lazenby880 (14th Jul 2006 01:07)

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Re: Colonel Sun

That was a good review!

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Re: Colonel Sun

For some bizzarre reason this book's title caught my eye and I was wondering if anyone knows of a good place in the US where I can order this book.  I hear it is good and I am looking forward to reading it.  Any help would be great. ajb007/wink

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Re: Colonel Sun

I can only suggest you search some local second-hand book stores, or ebay.
I found it to be a good read. The second half is fantastic!
Good luck with your quest.

Drawn Out Dad.
Independent, one-shot comic books from the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia.
twitter.com/DrawnOutDad

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Re: Colonel Sun

0064 wrote:

Any help would be great. ajb007/wink

Abebooks is a very good site, one that I have always found most reliable and prompt in delivery. Scroll down the link to find more copies in the USA, and if you are ever again looking for some obscure novel (like I often am) head there--they usually have it.

Hope you enjoy COLONEL SUN, it is a great thriller and gripping Bond adventure. ajb007/smile

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Re: Colonel Sun

I saw it on amazon.com if it can help... ajb007/smile

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Re: Colonel Sun

Thanks to all, i hope to order my copy soon...

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It should be adapted into a film (So should the Gardner and Benson books)

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v215/Bbrown/207qoznfl4.gif

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Re: Colonel Sun

Ok, so I just joined this site, and I can see this is a "ressurrection topic" however....

I am not a great fan of Col Sun; I agree with the comments above: the middle section drags, the start is excellent, as is the torture sequence, it is also a very sexy novel, quite graphic and the main female character is excellent, in terms of setting Amis/Markham's Greece is as good as Fleming's Istanbul or Tokyo.

But the novel doesn't seem to have the pace of Flemings best books, even some of the action sequences are confusing, and there is a lot of talk about Communism and Greek polotics which is neither interesting nor particularly relevant. The plot is a non-event, returning to the blackmail ideas of FRWL, and the kidnapping of M is interesting, without being entirely necessary.

That said the main issue I have with Col Sun is that by 1968 the novels already seemed a little dated thanks to the huge success of the movies, yet Amis/Markham makes no concession to this and we have essentially a Cold War thriller as Fleming may have wrote in 1958. Fleming himself struggled with this problem in both YOLT and TMWTGG, the latter of which, as I understand it, Amis himself edited and completed after Fleming died. I think even in the late 1960s readers were expecting something more fanciful than the story put before them.

What made the initial Gardner novels so interesting was he updated the setting of the novels to the 1980s without altering the essential nature of James Bond. Of course Gardner's novels have their own problems and thats a subject for another forum.

In terms of a movie I am in agreement. Sun would make a great villian and the title is excellent. But havent some of the elements of Col Sun already been used? M was kidnapped in The World Is Not Enough, the Koreans in Die Another Day are clearly modelled on Colonel Sun, Niko Litsas is another Columbo from FYEO, and thats just 3. But given the ingenuity of todays screenwriters, I am sure something tangible could be created. I would look forward to it, I think it is about time the "other" Bond novels were taken as serious movie options. Maybe i will start a forum on that....

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Re: Colonel Sun

Amis was not a superb writer. He had a reputation for dragging on and on. I read Lucky Jim and was bored by the endless philophizing of small things. But Colonel Sun was pretty good. Yes, the middle was boring. But it was better than Lucky Jim.




Go to my website: I have all the answers http://www.smoochbaby.com/

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Re: Colonel Sun

For me, Colonel Sun is better than Fleming's.
John Gardner's Win Loose or Die and Scorpius are great.
In TWINE, with M kidnapped, we have something of CS. Too bad than EON haven't (yet?) produced this novel.

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Re: Colonel Sun

Uh oh. Sorry to kick this topic back to the top but I wanted to reply. For all you cats who say the middle seems to drag on you're right. It does. But, like Casino Royale where the Vesper/Bond beach romance seemed to drag on, this also makes the ending just as great. I thought the beach scene was tedious but Bond's last lines in Casino Royale made it worth it. The same goes for the ending of Colonel Sun.

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Re: Colonel Sun

Hopefully in a couple of months or less I will be writing an article on Colonel Sun for AJB as part of the A Licence to Read series - I'm lucky enough to have an uncorrected proof copy of Colonel Sun and will be giving it a scan to see if there are any differences in it from the final edition. ajb007/smile

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Re: Colonel Sun

chrisno1 wrote:

I think even in the late 1960s readers were expecting something more fanciful than the story put before them.

Interesting review chrisno1. I think this part underlines the inherent problem: Amis is simply not as fanciful an author as Fleming. Colonel Sun is a deliberately more low-key yarn, soaked in Greek atmosphere, with none of the element of the bizarre found in Fleming. Amis's novel is more intense, a lot more political and with a completely different pace. I don't view this as a negative development. I enjoy the change, and I think Amis handled it brilliantly.

It is almost impossible not to compare the two, but it really is apples and oranges. I enjoy both approaches—in contrast with Colonel Sun, my favourite Fleming novel is the wild You Only Live Twice—whereas some just dislike Amis's style. To each his own. ajb007/smile

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Re: Colonel Sun

mangis wrote:

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.

Like others I enjoyed the fast paced start where Bond finds M kidnapped and tries to escape.
There was Colonel Moon in DAD, Colonel Sun in the Amis book, Dr. No by Fleming supposedly based on Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer.
All these cunning oriental villains !
De Bleuchamp. (From Gydnia, Poland!)

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Re: Colonel Sun

BS 007 wrote:

For me, Colonel Sun is better than Fleming's.
John Gardner's Win Loose or Die and Scorpius are great.
In TWINE, with M kidnapped, we have something of CS. Too bad than EON haven't (yet?) produced this novel.

In the film TWINE (1999) the female M was captured and imprisoned, but it's not as dramatic as the Colonel Sun beginning.
De Bleuchamp.
"Ten minutes and counting..."

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I've never read Colonel Sun, but with the forthcoming release of the Faulks novel, I would like to do so.  Now this might sound silly, but I want a copy with a decent cover. ajb007/embarrassed  The cheapest available edition has a close-up of a Korean fella, and doesn't really catch my attention.  There is another edition I liked, which is very 70's, with a blonde woman in a white dress, sitting on a very large gun, but it costs about thirty-odd pounds.  Does anybody know of any other editions of the novel and where I can get them.  Amazon lists plenty, but doesn't seem to have them in stock.

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Re: Colonel Sun

John, let's continue in PM.

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CS is a magnificent novel. Amis may have only done one, but what a novel to do. It is very rich in detail and violence. I proudly include it in the Fleming timeline.

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Just finished reading Colonel Sun for the very first time, so thought I would add some thoughts to this thread. I find myself completely disagreeing with most here. I was just as disgusted with this as any of the other non-Fleming Bond novels I've read.

"Sun" started out somewhat promising at the golf course with Chief of Staff Tanner, but the first few pages brought my first "ugh" when I had to read that Bond was regularly patronizing an infirmed M with kindly visits as if M was some doddering, dear old uncle.

My guess is that the depiction of M in this novel is not something Fleming would have approved of.

The Colonel Sun character lacked any of the strength of any of Flemings villains. Colorful as they might have been, Fleming's at least tended to have some background that gave them substance. The bit with Sun at the end displaying a conscience completely undermined the attempt to make him appear ruthless, as if Bond was his first ever torture victim and Sun discovered he didn't have the stomach for it. Silly.

The Ariadne character was extremely obnoxious. Compare Bond's reaction to the discovery that Vesper was a double agent working for the Soviets with Bond's acceptance of Ariadne as an idealistic Communist working for the G.R.U. Not only accepts it, but chuckles over it at one point. It doesn't fit with the Fleming legacy. Also, why does she have to be a young kid, about half Bond's age? Why not a woman in her thirties?

Having Bond figuring out Sun's plot (quite a lame one, by the way) less than half way through the book took all the mystery out. I had to conclude Bond was clairvoyant and could read the author's mind. The idea that Sun had to capture M and Bond, and use them, and them alone, for his plot to be a success was utterly ridiculous. This revelation by Bond at such an early part of the book also was not in keeping with Fleming's usual style. If the arch-villain has a devious plot, Fleming's Bond is usually in the dark until close to the end of the book. This was another aspect of Fleming's story-telling style that made Bond seem more human and less of a cardboard cutout. Fleming's Bond could be confused, have doubts and fears, was not always on top of situations and often seemed like an underdog. This made his predicaments darker and his triumphs more meaningful. I never had that sense in Amis' novel, right from the get-go when Bond eludes several armed professionals after being injected with a sedative.

Other irritants:
1) the character of Von Richter, an extraneous villain tossed in to round out the cast and give Litsas a focal point for revenge.
2) The Litsas character, a sad attempt to replicate someone along the lines of a Kerim Bey.
3) But worst of all, the momentum-killing chapter titled "The Temporary Captain." Remember the part in Dr. No where Bond has Quarrel find two locals to drive Strangways' Sunbeam Alpine to use as decoys, and they end up getting killed? Now try to imagine Fleming devoting an entire chapter to the identity of one of those decoys...several boring pages worth about a completely insignificant character's hopes and dreams, a character who is going nowhere in the story. Amis is like Fleming? I don't think so.

With regard to the Greek setting, I have to say Amis also lacked Fleming's verve for making settings come to life (e.g.,  the beginning of OHMSS). In my opinion, Amis's Greece was a pasteboard backdrop. I will admit that given the nationality of Colonel Sun I expected the story to take place in the Far East...but that expectation had nothing to do with my boredom with the setting. Over half the novel has Bond tooling around a Greek island, but at no time did I feel as a reader that I was there in the way Fleming seems to be able to do with such apparent ease.

While Fleming's novels might appear "fanciful," in my opinion he was still able to suspend disbelief far better than Amis, Gardner or Benson. In the end, I have to say that far too much of Amis' story just didn't ring true enough. If Amis is the most like Fleming, then that is a real indictment on all the other Fleming successors.