Review by C.J. Bunce

What shines through in Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Tim Waggoner‘s novelization of this summer’s successful sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service is how lead spy Eggsy is so different from James Bond.  Even Ian Fleming’s later Bond novels don’t include the fast-paced, extended action sequences found in modern spy stories like this latest foray into the genre.  Both spies are dressed to the nines, they have a tech whiz supporting their efforts, and a smarter, wiser mentor guiding them.  But that’s where they veer apart.  Taking a graphic novel based world, then translating it to film, and back to prose requires certain elements be retained and others fleshed out.  Waggoner’s latest novel strikes the right balance–it is loyal to the source material, an interesting deep-dive into each of the story’s characters, and a fun read.  It’s also a good opportunity to compare the world of the Kingsman to other spy novels.

Eggsy, as seen on the screen, requires the viewer to get into his head to try to understand his motivations if he is to be something other than a plugged-in action hero.  His quick reactions are part of what defines the character and the Kingsmen–these are not simply the best agents but agents that are confident and cocky and their moves fully back up the confidence.  In the novel we see that Eggsy is as nice a guy as he is a brilliantly tuned, results-driven machine.  When he must get into bed with a target to plant a tracking device, he first hides in the bathroom to call his girlfriend.  Is he unwilling to commit to her because he is a James Bond womanizer?  No, he just hasn’t thought that far, in part because he’s a dumb street kid thrust into the spy world.

As we read earlier this year in Donald E. Westlake’s superb Forever and a Death, modern spy stories–like every new Bond movie–require more intrigue, more double crosses, more politics, and maybe something new.  Kingsman: The Golden Circle provides all of this.  The “new” is found in different places–in your face and over-the-top violence that draws from the Coen brothers and Tarentino, a lead who is more street urchin than London elite, a villain that out-crazies every Bond villain you can think of, and the real twist–a crime that seems to draw more from the zombie genre than the spy genre.

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