A Brief Look at Colonel Sun by Kingsley Amis

In 1968, Glidrose Publications (Fleming’s publisher) commissioned Kingsley Amis to write the first Bond continuation novel after Ian Fleming’s death. At the time, Glidrose could not obtain the copyright to the Bond character and it was determined that a new novel would help them obtain that copyright. Kingsley Amis used the pseudonym “Robert Markham” to publish his Bond novel and came up with an intriguing tale of espionage taking Bond to Greece and the Aegean Islands.

The plot of the story itself is excellent. M. is kidnapped by Colonel Sun’s henchmen in a Chinese scheme to implicate Britain in the bombing of a Communist secret conference on one of the Aegean islets. Bond goes on a rescue mission to find M. and receives help from the beautiful Ariadne, a Greek communist sympathizer and agent for the GRU as well as Litsas, a Greek WWII Resistance fighter who is convinced to help the mission by the promise of capturing and executing Col. Sun’s collaborator Von Richter, an ex Nazi known as “The Butcher of Kapoudzona.”

The novel certainly has enough elements in it to entice any Bond fan, but it still pales in comparison to the Fleming books in terms of execution. I found Amis’s style a bit wordy and laborious especially in the early chapters. There’s a lot of unnecessary expositional dialogue that could have been made a bit tighter or at least would have been made tighter by Fleming if he wrote it. Fleming’s prose reads a lot more smoothly than Amis and when there isn’t any action going on the book gets a bit bogged down. When the action does come, however, Amis’ language awakens and all his stylistic flourishes make those segments quite exciting to read.

Colonel Sun himself may be perhaps the most sadistic literary Bond villain yet. The 3rd act torture scene of Bond is one of the most thrilling of the series and that’s saying a lot considering how much Fleming subjected Bond to torture and near death.

I didn’t enjoy Colonel Sun as much as the Fleming books, but there’s a lot that Amis does get right and the climatic 3rd act of the book is reason enough for any Bond fan to read it. I just wish the earlier chapters between the kidnapping of M. and Bond’s confrontation with the enemies weren’t so arduous to get through.

My apologies for the brief nature of this review.  I may revisit this review and make it a bit more thorough in the future but for now I just wanted to put my initial thoughts out there on the book.

If you want a more detailed review of this book, I recommend you check out my favorite James Bond podcast, James Bond Radio.  A while back ago they did a thorough review of this book.  You can check it out here:

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One Comment

  1. In my opinion, ‘Colonel Sun’ is a masterpiece and every bit the equal of Fleming in his prime.
    Not only did Amis match Fleming as a narrator, he restored my faith in Bond after the confused YOLT and the lacklustre TMWTGG. Kingsley delivered a flat out thriller that is up there with FRWL & OHMSS – a must read for any Bond fan!

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