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Literature / Colonel Sun

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A James Bond novel from 1968, and the first one by someone other than Ian Fleming. It was written by Kingsley Amis, under the pseudonym Robert Markham.

When M is kidnapped from his own house, James Bond is tasked to retrieve him. This takes him to Greece, where he is joined with the local beautiful GRU agent Ariadne Alexandrou. Eventually, he comes face to face with the master torturer of China's Liberation Army, Colonel Sun-Tang Liang, who has plans, painful plans, for both him and M.

The book was long out-of-print, at least physically, however recently it's seen a bit of revival, with an E-Book Edition published, an audio-book adaptation solicited, and being brought back into print through Penguin's Vintage Classics imprint, in an edition matching Fleming's novels and under Amis' own name, not the pseudonym. Elements of it were used in the twenty-fourth Bond film.

This novel has the examples of:

  • A Day in the Limelight: M takes part in the action and gets some genuine character focus for the first time.
  • Alliterative Name: Ariadne Alexandrou.
  • Antagonist Title
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Colonel Sun was the only non-Fleming Bond book to see adaptation in the newspaper comic strip. One notable difference is that it made Sun a member of SPECTRE.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Bond's past adventures involving Scaramanga and a trip to Japan are briefly mentioned.
    • As Sun lectures about genital torture, he notes that Bond is quite familiar with it. This could be a reference to Casino Royale.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Sun is going to torture Bond up to point of ultimate despair, then kill him.
  • Dirty Communists: Colonel Sun himself is a part of the Chinese branch of this trope. An interesting subversion occurs in the fact that Bond allies with the GRU agent Ariadne to stop him.
    • The head of the Greek KGB branch is a pedophile.
  • Ear Ache: First part of Bond's torture has Sun rummaging through his ear canal with a metal spike.
  • Expy: Colonel Sun, like Doctor No, is one for Fu Manchu.
  • Evil Plan: Sun, as per orders from China, plans to disrupt a secret meeting hosted by Soviet Union by killing everyone in it, and framing the British for the deed.
  • Failed Future Forecast: A Downplayed Trope example. The book has a running theme about how the Red Chinese are a bigger danger to the West than the Soviet Union and how eventually both the USSR as well as the West will probably team up against in the future. Cue 1972 with Richard Nixon visiting China...
  • Faux Affably Evil: Sun keeps up his polite demeanor even as he tortures someone horribly.
  • First-Name Basis: Sun prefers to call his subjects by their first names.
  • Gorgeous Greek: Ariadne, the resident Bond Girl/love interest.
  • Groin Attack: Defied. As Sun is about to to start torturing Bond, he notes that genital mutilation is effective, but too ordinary of a choice, and goes for a spike in the ear instead.
  • Hypocrite: Sir Ranald Rideout implies that Bond was cowardly for 'fleeing' M's kidnappers, then quickly switches to praising him after it occurs to Rideout that there might be political fallout. At the end of the novel he complains that Bond didn't kill a witness, then despises him for being a Professional Killer.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The KGB doesn't remove the head of the Greek branch despite the fact he's a pedophile because such a horrifying secret means he can't be blackmailed on the basis of his superiors already knowing something so incredibly awful. Yeah.
  • Interservice Rivalry: One of the many reasons that Alexandra isn't believed when she tries to warn about the imminent attack on the Soviet meeting is that she's reporting to a KGB representative, who doesn't take her seriously as she's a GRU agent.
  • Leave Him to Me!: Litsas agrees to help Bond in his mission, but only if he gets to kill von Richter for his war crimes.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Colonel Sun and von Richter (The Von Trope Family and the German word for "judge").
  • Not Quite Dead: Despite being fatally stabbed by Bond, Sun has enough life in him to kill those who betrayed him, and to have last attempt at Bond's life.
  • Red Right Hand: A powerful gun was discharged near von Richter's right ear during the war, which has left it and the area around it scarred.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Used on the second cover of the book, which has light being reflected from the right lense of Col. Sun's glasses, and Bond aproaching being reflected from the left one.
  • Smug Snake: Colonel Sun turns out to be not nearly the ice-cold badass he pretends to be—see Villainous Breakdown.
    • The head of the Greek KGB branch thinks he'll be able to trick James Bond into a trap which will kill him—ignoring that he's a minor functionary and he's James Bond.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: von Richter is a former Nazi who took a part in the Greek side of the World War II.
  • Torture Technician: Col. Sun was specially trained to be a torturer, a job he enjoys as he believes that "through cruelty one rises to heights of superhuman awareness".
  • Un-person: The man who's killed kidnapping M is left behind because there are no records on him.
    "...this chap'll turn out to be one of a comparatively new type of international criminal who's been turning up in rather frighteningly large numbers in the sabotage game, terrorism and so on. They're people without a traceable history of any sort, probably white Africans with a grudge, various fringe Americans - but that's all supposition because they turn up out of thin air. The lads in Records here call them "men from nowhere"."
  • Villainous Breakdown: Played With, as Colonel Sun tells Bond that he expected torturing him to make him feel like a god but it actually just made him feel sick and horrified at him. Really, Sun is just trying to get Bond to give away his position by answering, so he can throw a mortar shell at him.
  • Writer on Board: Kingsley Amis was significantly softer on Soviet communism than Ian Fleming, to say the least. Becomes Hilarious in Hindsight because he predicted a thawing of Soviet and Western relations as well as an escalation of Chinese-Western tensions. Cue Nixon's visit to China...
  • Yellow Peril: Colonel Sun is a fairly typical figure of the Inscrutable Oriental villain type.