Friday, 9 November 2012

'And so the sky falls...'

For the second time this year I’ve been to the cinema, on this occasion to see the latest James Bond film, Skyfall. Normally I wouldn’t comment on it but so many people have compared Afrika Reich with Bond – comparisons that usually leave me scratching my head – that I thought it deserved a blog.

I’ve never been much of a 007 fan. I used to like the Roger Moore films as a kid but by my teens the allure was fading. This is the first time I’ve been to the cinema to see a Bond film since 1989s Licence to Kill. So what did I think of the new movie?

Beyond the galling amount of product placement, the casting was impeccable, photography sumptuous, editing bombastic but suitably explosive. There was enough intrigue to keep me engaged (though I felt the plot was a bit thin and the whole hard drive strand seemed to be forgotten half way through), along with plenty of action and some extraordinary stunts... even if some of the visual effects – the blowing up of Vauxhall Cross, the komodo dragons – were a bit dodgy. Despite all this, I was left cold. The film didn’t engage me on any emotional level.

The principle reasons for this explain why I don’t recognise the link some readers have made between my book and Bond. Firstly, there’s the glamour: Daniel Craig’s sculpted body and tailored suits, the women who are perfect from their eye lashes to their heels, the cocktails, fast cars and glittering cities. This type of glamour doesn’t do much for me. It’s one of the reasons I like Leone’s films so much: half the time his characters are filthy and dressed in rotting clothes. There’s very little glamour in the world of Afrika Reich: I can’t ever imagine Burton wearing a dinner jacket. Indeed, returning to the previous blog (‘E is for…’), Madeleine was initially a plainer woman and I was asked to make her more attractive.

For me, Bond also lacks a ‘mythic’ quality. There’s no primordial conflict between good and evil. Each film is just another mission and even in the case of Skyfall, where the revenge strand has a parallel with my story, it’s dealt with in a much more grounded way. Guns, gadgets and quips will suffice rather than that irrepressible desire to triumph no matter how battered the soul is. I’m sure plenty of people will disagree with me!

Two final points: 1) One of the carps I get about Afrika Reich is that Burton couldn’t endure all he does. It was therefore with a certain irony that I watched Bond survive a lot worse, starting with his spectacular fall from the bridge in the opening sequence. 

Burton isn't the only one who fights on train tops

2) There’s a line of dialogue I’ve written in Book 2, and long before Bond 23 had a title, that may have to be changed. It comes when Hochburg surveys a cataclysmic scene and responds by saying, ‘And so the sky falls.’ It was meant as a reference to Hans Christian Anderson though I suspect now people will think it is a nod to James Bond. Readers of this blog will know different.


  1. Are you really going to change your "sky falls" line?!? I hope not!

    I've never taken Bond films seriously but Daniel Craig's Bond for me takes it somewhere else more profound. I don't know - his Casino Royale was amazing - dark despite all the glamour. I think this latest one is comparable to that film
    I’d like to think Craig's Bond is a tortured soul in a nice suit with a gorgeous sculpted body. :-) The first scene where he tries to help the wounded agent despite M screaming at him to leave him... or drawn like some wounded creature to the person (M again!) who left him to die in Turkey... maybe I'm just reading too much into these scenes! LOL! Oh and he CRIES! He never did for Vesper (Casino Royale) and she gave up her life for him! But he does revenge her death and does so in a way he nearly loses his spy licence!

    Before Craig's Bond, I'd have laughed outright if someone compared your Burton to Bond. There are absolutely no similarities (Roger Moore's Bond?? No, no, no!) But Craig's Bond.. oooh I don't know! He at least tries to show he feels pain.

    BUT when I saw Skyfall, I did have to suspend my disbelief at some pretty laughable action set pieces. I didn’t with AR. In AR the action scenes complement and carry on the story to gruesome heart-stopping ends but in Bond, they just felt added there to drag out a scene and as all too knowing nods to previous non-Craig Bonds. They were beyond parody – apart from one. The one on one fight Bond had with the shooter in Shanghai. That was good!

    Skyfall’s biggest disappointments were the women. Apart from M, why did the film even bother? Bring back Vesper! Even in Quantum of Solace, Camille was a wonderful foil for Bond and she saved the film for me. But in Skyfall, there were two glam women who decorated the film and not much else. Terrible. I hope to read more of Madeleine in Book 2!

    Ok this is a really long rambling comment. Off I go!

    p.s. I think the komodo dragons should sue for misrepresentation!

    Take care

    1. Kitty – feel free to ramble on :o)

      It’s interesting that you should say SKYFALL is dark because other people I know have said the same and I didn’t find the film that dark at all despite all the murder and mayhem. So much of this is personal taste and harks back to some of the comments in ‘I is for…’

      Thanks, as always, for your generous comments about TAR. I might have to put a well represented komodo in TAR2.

  2. Got to disagree on this one. Part of what makes Bond special *is* the glamour, esp the cars and girls.

    I thought 'Skyfall' was the best Bond ever with the possible exception of 'Casino Royale' and a million miles away from Moore's Bond. DC has made the role his. Definietly too much product placement though. Heineken, anyone? ;-)


    1. Steve – like I said in the reply above, the fact that Bond left me cold is very much a personal taste thing and I certainly don’t want to diminish anyone else’s enjoyment. I’ve always found Moore’s Bond hysterically funny!

  3. I'm more of a Connery man myself. I think which Bond you prefer depends upon which one you grew up with (I was born in the 50s), though Daniel Craig seems to be uniting fans like no other 007 before him: ironic given how much vitriol there was when his casting was first announced.

    I say you keep the line of dialogue!

    All the best


  4. PS - do you think Craig would make a good Burton in a film version?

    1. Ron – I agree, your favourite Bond probably says a lot about when you grew up.

      Several people have suggested Craig as Burton but I think he’s probably a bit too old now. His more thuggish qualities would probably work though.

      There seems to be a consensus about keeping the line of dialogue.

  5. hello from tiny Singapore.
    i am like 70pct into your book. great stuff this historical drama, nehmind that half of it didnt actually happen.
    boy, was i disappointed when i googled, ebayed and amazoned and couldnt find OTHER books by u. yikes, this was your first, huh.

    i was a much happier bunny when i came across Iggulden's book earlier this year, and found that he had written like 10 other books. all since bought and read!
    (btw, i came across Afrika Reich at a second hand book sale. bought it cos it was just a few dollars!)

    anyway, can u like stop wasting time with this blogging, and quickly put out more alternative history books pls!!!
    all the best, sir.


    PS. hey! why dont u write an alternative history book on the Japanese invasion and subjugation of singapore, malaya, indonesia, burma, philippines and parts of southern pacific islands?
    i often wondered how history wouldve been if japan was not defeated by the A-bombs and had continued to rule over southeast asia!

    1. R.Ahmad – you’re the first person to contact me about TAR from Singapore – so a big hello! I’m currently working on a follow up to AFRIKA REICH, so you’ll have another alternative history to read soon.

      I’ve actually read about some of the Japanese plans and they’re very interesting – though they’re probably for another writer to do. I’ve got my hands full with Africa!

      Best wishes

    2. No, please do keep blogging (as well as writing the second book). I find the insights into the creative process and details about your book fascinating! It's rare to get so much information from an author.

  6. Have you seen this on Bond?

    1. Tech Geek – thanks for your comment and for posting a very interesting link.

  7. Given the Spagetti Western connection below, are you doing a review of Django Unchained???

  8. Anon - thanks for your comment. As you may have seen from reading other blogs I don't often visit the cinema; things are also a bit hectic with Book 2 etc. However, as you rightly say spaghetti westerns were an influence on the book, so once I've seen DJANGO on DVD I will probably share my thoughts here :o)