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Solo is a James Bond novel written by William Boyd. Commissioned by Ian Fleming Publications, it was published in the United Kingdom by Jonathan Cape on 26 September 26 2013 and released by HarperCollins in the United States on 8 October 2013. Solo is the thirty-eighth official James Bond novel.

Background

Ian Fleming Publications announced that William Boyd was penning the next Bond novel on April 11, 2012. Twelve days prior Boyd announced his next book would be set in Africa. A year later on April 15, 2013 Boyd announced the title of the book to be Solo during a press conference. During the conference Boyd also revealed the book would be set in 1969 with a 45 year-old James Bond and action would primarily take place on the continents of Europe, Africa, and North America.

Says Boyd of the origin of the title:

"Titles are very important to me and as soon as I wrote down Solo on a sheet of paper I saw its potential. Not only did it fit the theme of the novel perfectly, it's also a great punchy word, instantly and internationally comprehensible, graphically alluring and, as an extra bonus, it's strangely Bondian in the sense that we might be subliminally aware of the '00' of '007' lurking just behind those juxtaposed O's of SOLO …"
― William Boyd[1]

Plot

The morning of his 45th birthday, James Bond awoke from dreams of his time in World War II. In the elevator, and again at breakfast he met Bryce Fitzjohn, who invited him to a cocktail party, which he politely refused before deciding at lunch to go for it. Before heading out, Bond headed to a car dealership to look at the Jensen Interceptor I, to replace his old and costly to repair Bentley. He was lent a Jensen FF for the night, and headed out to Fitzjohn's. Unfortunately he found that she was not there and, desiring to investigate, he slipped the lock on her back door and wandered about her house before she returned with her car being towed before calling her friends to cancel the party. He sneaked out, but left a note thanking her for the drink he had taken having confirmed that their meetings and her invitation had all been coincidence, and throwing professional caution to the wind on his day off. While driving back to Chelsea, the scent of a campfire returned Bond to his memories of & June, 1944 while observing BRODFORCE as they tried to infiltrate Chateau Malflacon. Bond and his partner had gone around the back where Bond found three boys around his age burning documents. Two ran, but his borrowed gun malfunctioned, and he was nearly killed with a pitchfork before the boy was shot in the throat and killed.

Two weeks later, Bond reported to M for assignment, and he was given a briefing on the African country of Zanzarim, which was torn by Civil War. The horrible war, which left thousands of Zanzaris starving was being prolonged by the tactical genius of Solomon Adeka, who was keeping the smaller army from folding. It was Bond's assignment to get close to him and "immobilize" him to end the war. His new secretary, Araminta Beauchamp then informed him that he had been summoned by Q Branch. There he met with Quentin Dale, who equipped him with some powerful stunning agents, as they deemed that he could not enter the country armed. Before leaving for Zanzarim, he stops in Bayswater to visit Gabriel Adeka, the older brother of Solomon, who runs a relief effort for Dahum called AfricaKIN. Unfortunately, Gabriel cannot help him get close to Solomon.

After using his cover as a journalist to hear the official, and blatantly fabricated, press release by the Zanzari military, Bond goes to see the local Station Head, E.B. Ogilvy-Grant, who turns out to be a young woman named Blessing. After dinner, they go to a bar, where they discuss their plan to get Bond into Dahum, and Bond punches a drunk reporter in a back alley for mistaking Blessing for a prostitute. In the morning, they get on the road in a beige Austin 1100 van and start their two-day journey south, meandering from village to village to avoid military checkpoints on the main highway. During the journey, Bond gains a newfound respect for Africa and its people's simple resilience among its untamed and beautiful wildlands. At their last rest house before Bond would take the boat into Dahum, Blessing calls Bond into her room to get rid of a gecko on the ceiling. Bond safely removes the creature, and despite his avid attempts not to sexualize Blessing, the two share a tender period of love-making. Before they awake the next morning they are kidnapped by soldiers from Dahum who had mistaken Bond for one of the English mercenaries fighting for Zanzarim. The lead soldier, a Rhodesian white man with visible damage to his face named Jakobus Breed interrogates them in the jungles, but is attacked by Zanzari forces while trying to cross a road. Bond and Blessing use the chaos to escape into the jungle, but fearing for her life, Blessing runs away leaving Bond alone to wait for morning.

He walks for two days with only a wild pawpaw fruit to eat and he continues into a village full of dead children. He finds two alive and gets two milk cans which he fills with water from a nearby stream but is yelled at by an old man before moving on. He is picked up by a traveler and is taken to a nearby town where he is reported to Dahumian forces and picked up by Kobus Breed. On returning to Dahum, he had shown his superiors Bond's ID card, and they now believed he was a member of the French agence presse libre and bring him into Port Dunbar where he spends the next few days trying to get close to Adeka.

After directing a successful military operation at the Battle of the Kololo Causeway, Bond is given an audience with him, and he discovers that Adeka was terminally ill, effectively invalidating his mission. He stays on for a few more days, and takes away the Dahumian will to fight by kidnapping Tony Msour. While on the suspicious AfricaKIN plane out of Dahum, Bond is taken off by soldiers, and interrogated by Kobus Breed, who had found out his true identity from Blessing, who shoots him in the chest.

Bond awakes in a hospital and is visited by M, who tells him to take a month of leave for his recovery. Bond however, begins plotting revenge on his attempted murderers and decides to "go solo" and find them without the Service or any official help. After discovering that AfricaKIN had moved to Washington D.C., he steals Bryce Fitzjohn's passport after a lovely evening together, and has it altered to fit him before departing.

In America he stakes out the AfricaKIN headquarters and sees Adeka's successor Colonel Denga, Breed, and Blessing coming and going before he is stopped by Brig Leiter of the CIA who informs him that she is one of their operatives. Bond then goes to see her and she reveals that she had misdirected him from the real Ogilvy-Grant and was working to get close to Hulbert Linck, but she didn't know why. He lies to the CIA and claimed he was leaving now that the Blessing situation was over, but stayed in the country. However, on visiting her again after watching the AfricaKIN relief plane land, he finds her dead: her throat slit and hanging by a large fishhook in her hotel bathroom. Bond then makes it his personal mission to kill Kobus Breed.

He then stakes out the AfricaKIN triage hospital in Orange County, and waits in the darkness to take out the three guards. While climbing to the second floor, Bond derives a plan to take out Breed using a loose bit of masonry: an incredibly heavy stone ball. He lures Breed out with deceptive radio transmissions and drops the ball, reveling in the sickening crunch it makes. The strike missed Breed's head, but had crushed his shoulder, so Bond, embellishing his revenge, sprays Kobus in his faulty eye with pepper spray before severing his spinal cord with a switchblade. A little aghast at his brutality, Bond enters the house to find that the bags the African children had brought had had bricks of raw heroin sewn into them, and in the basement he found a heroin-addicted Solomon Adeka, back from the dead. Linck approaches with a gun and begins to surrender when he is killed by CIA Agents. Breed and one guard disappear.

Back in Port Dunbar, Bond and Felix Leiter discuss what had even happened and why the CIA had shot Linck, and why Solomon had been posing as Gabriel in the US. Linck had dealt with Solomon to finance the war in exchange for a 25 year contract for a 50% split of oil revenue and distribution. Adeka had accepted, but being the younger brother, the oil was not legally his to give. Gabriel was killed to prevent his resistance and Solomon's death was staged to allow him to take over AfricaKIN in the States, where Kobus smuggled heroin while they kept Adeka sedated with it to prevent him changing his mind. In the end, Linck had to be terminated because his contract made it difficult for the US and UK to access the oil. Felix and James sit for a moment realizing the sour note of their line of work, but the countries were desperate for the easy to refine light-crude oil from outside the Persian Gulf area.

Bond returns to London, where he tells the story to M, who reminds him that they are both servants to the country, whatever its needs may be. James then pays Bryce a visit and reflects on the true depth of the emotion that they felt for one another before becoming worried that Kobus was outside. In the end, James writes a note to Bryce explaining that he can never make her happy, while knowing that his line of work did not allow for love.

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