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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps my favourite Bond
This is the second of Ian Fleming's novels that I have re-read before reading "Devil May Care", the latest Bond Novel, by Sebastian Faulks under licence from the Fleming Estate.

It is, I think, my favourite Bond. Bond goes to Japan on a mission to help restore his self confidence after the death of his bride at the end of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and...
Published on 1 Jun 2008 by Nicholas J. R. Dougan

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars You Only Live Twice - James Bond Or Taro Todoroki?
James Bond's life is in a mess as he struggles to deal with the assassination of Tracy by Ernst Stavro Blofeld within minutes of their wedding in the last instalment (On Her Majesty's Secret Service).

There is a good possibility he will be removed from active service when he is given a final chance on an impossible mission that takes him to Japan...
Published 5 months ago by Tigerclaw


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps my favourite Bond, 1 Jun 2008
By 
Nicholas J. R. Dougan "Nick Dougan" (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is the second of Ian Fleming's novels that I have re-read before reading "Devil May Care", the latest Bond Novel, by Sebastian Faulks under licence from the Fleming Estate.

It is, I think, my favourite Bond. Bond goes to Japan on a mission to help restore his self confidence after the death of his bride at the end of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and a couple of bungled missions thereafter. He has been stripped of his "double - 0" number but allocated a "diplomatic" one - 7777 - instead. He comes up first against Tiger Tanaka, head of the Japanese secret service and then, in an attempt to prove to Tiger that the British are a race still to be respected, against a mysterious botanist who turns out to be none other than his old enemy, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The scenario - a garden designed to entice hundreds of suicidal Japanese to their deaths - is perhaps the most fantastical of all Flemings' plots.

Tiger provides Fleming with a mouthpiece to express his angst about contemporary British society and its place in the world: "Bondo-san, I will now be blunt with you...it is a sad fact that I, and many of us in positions of authority in Japan, have formed an unsatisfactory opinion about the British people since the war. You have not only lost a great Empire, you have seemed almost anxious to throw it away with both hands...when you apparently sought to arrest this slide into impotence at Suez, you succeeded only in stage-managing one of the most pitiful bungles in history. (Tiger's English is impeccable - he went to Oxford, and spied against Britain, before the war!) Further, your governments have shown themselves successively incapable of ruling and have handed over effective control of the country to the trade unions, who appear to be dedicated to the principle of doing less and less work for more money. This feather-bedding, this shirking of an honest day's work, is sapping at ever-increasing speed the moral fibre of the British, a quality the world once so much admired. In its place we now see a vacuous, aimless horde of seekers-after-pleasure-gambling at the pools and bingo, whining at the weather and the declining fortunes of the country, and wallowing nostalgically in gossip about the doings of the Royal Family and your so-called aristocracy in the pages of the most debased newspapers in the world."

What would Tiger Tanaka and Fleming think of Britain today, I wonder? Given that Fleming was something of a hedonist himself, one might consider him ill-qualified to make such a judgement in any case. One wonders, moreover, with the best will in the world, the extent to which the Japanese ever admired the British.

Bond roars with laughter at Tiger's analysis - but then goes on to risk life and limb to prove him wrong and so to win vital cooperation over intelligence in the Far East. In so doing he meets the lovely pearl-diver Kissy Suzuki, loses his memory as the result of injuries on his mission but is nursed back to health and subsequently presented with a "pillow book" by her - to which he memorably replies "Kissy, take off your clothes and lie down there. We'll start at page one." - but earns a premature obituary.

This is Bond at his best - valiantly struggling to maintain Britain's status in a changing world, having quite a lot of fun along the way, but knowing, in his heart of hearts, that he needed something more.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps my favourite Bond, 1 Jun 2008
By 
Nicholas J. R. Dougan "Nick Dougan" (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: You Only Live Twice (Paperback)
This is the second of Ian Fleming's novels that I have re-read before reading "Devil May Care", the latest Bond Novel, by Sebastian Faulks under licence from the Fleming Estate.

It is, I think, my favourite Bond. Bond goes to Japan on a mission to help restore his self confidence after the death of his bride at the end of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and a couple of bungled missions thereafter. He has been stripped of his "double - 0" number but allocated a "diplomatic" one - 7777 - instead. He comes up first against Tiger Tanaka, head of the Japanese secret service and then, in an attempt to prove to Tiger that the British are a race still to be respected, against a mysterious botanist who turns out to be none other than his old enemy, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The scenario - a garden designed to entice hundreds of suicidal Japanese to their deaths - is perhaps the most fantastical of all Flemings' plots.

Tiger provides Fleming with a mouthpiece to express his angst about contemporary British society and its place in the world: "Bondo-san, I will now be blunt with you...it is a sad fact that I, and many of us in positions of authority in Japan, have formed an unsatisfactory opinion about the British people since the war. You have not only lost a great Empire, you have seemed almost anxious to throw it away with both hands...when you apparently sought to arrest this slide into impotence at Suez, you succeeded only in stage-managing one of the most pitiful bungles in history. (Tiger's English is impeccable - he went to Oxford, and spied against Britain, before the war!) Further, your governments have shown themselves successively incapable of ruling and have handed over effective control of the country to the trade unions, who appear to be dedicated to the principle of doing less and less work for more money. This feather-bedding, this shirking of an honest day's work, is sapping at ever-increasing speed the moral fibre of the British, a quality the world once so much admired. In its place we now see a vacuous, aimless horde of seekers-after-pleasure-gambling at the pools and bingo, whining at the weather and the declining fortunes of the country, and wallowing nostalgically in gossip about the doings of the Royal Family and your so-called aristocracy in the pages of the most debased newspapers in the world."

What would Tiger Tanaka and Fleming think of Britain today, I wonder? Given that Fleming was something of a hedonist himself, one might consider him ill-qualified to make such a judgement in any case. One wonders, moreover, with the best will in the world, the extent to which the Japanese ever admired the British.

Bond roars with laughter at Tiger's analysis - but then goes on to risk life and limb to prove him wrong and so to win vital cooperation over intelligence in the Far East. In so doing he meets the lovely pearl-diver Kissy Suzuki, loses his memory as the result of injuries on his mission but is nursed back to health and subsequently presented with a "pillow book" by her - to which he memorably replies "Kissy, take off your clothes and lie down there. We'll start at page one." - but earns a premature obituary.

This is Bond at his best - valiantly struggling to maintain Britain's status in a changing world, having quite a lot of fun along the way, but knowing, in his heart of hearts, that he needed something more.
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1.0 out of 5 stars James Bond betrayed by Ian Fleming, 18 Sep 2014
By 
Ian Thumwood "ian17577" (Winchester) - See all my reviews
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"You only live twice" epitomises James Bond with non-stop action, the excellent autogiro "Little Nell", the helicopter which removes a car full of Japanese gangsters with a giant magnet, the startling plot to steal space rockets and hide them in a false volcano, a staged assassination scene and the witty one liners like the memorable "I give you good duck" delivered without irony. In a phrase, it represents classic Bond. For me, these elements make this the very epitome of the Bond stories. Unfortunately, all these elements are components of Roald Dahl's excellent script for the film and have nothing to do with Ian Fleming's original novel. The overall story is also substantially improved and elaborated well beyond Fleming's limited, original intentions.

It is not difficult to appreciate why the storyline for the film was almost completely jettisoned for the film. Written as a sequel to the excellent "On her majesty's secret service" the novel commences with Bond in a state of mental breakdown following the murder of his wife by Blofeld. A secret mission to Japan is seen as the tonic but rather than concoct a decent plot and populate it with more credible villains, Fleming turns the book into a virtual travelogue with the Japanese secret service chief Tanaka acting as his guide to the very alien culture of Japan. Tanaka is by far the novel's most vivid creation but the Australian equivalent of Felix Leiter is portrayed in such a fashion that it is impossible not to conjure up an image of Sir Les Patterson when reading the passages where he appears. By this stage in the series Fleming was heartily fed up with his creation and this story is a marked contrast to his laser sharp short stories where Bond is portrayed as a more clinical and colder character. The guide of Japan rattles on for a good proportion of the book and there is effectively no action until page 160. You keep continuing hoping for something to happen yet , up to this point, the book has become little more than a long-winded dialogue between Bond and Tanaka. By the time that Bond embarks on his mission any sense of surprise and excitement has been dissipated and the conclusion of the novel is pure farce and even worse than the fluffed endings of "Dr No" and "Live and let die." It is staggeringly bad and almost cringe-worthy with the clunky dialogue. Bond's escape from the villain's castle hanging on to the end of a balloon like a secret service version of Winnie the Pooh is simply risible and the closing chapters seem almost like an act of resignation from Fleming that there was little else he could do with this character. The spicier elements in the final chapter just seem seedy.

Fleming has often been dismissed as a writer of pulp fiction or someone left behind by the changing social awareness which renders his writing racist and misogynistic. This is unfair as his best writing, often in the shorter and less-celebrated tales, is lean, economic and often well crafted in their construction. Fleming could write good novels and the better, full blown books like "FRWL", "OHMSS", "Diamonds are forever" and "TSWLM" are absolutely brilliant. The short stories are even better. Unfortunately, "You only live twice" gives credence to the criticisms of Fleming being an incapable author and can't even be forgiven for having a good story. This is the work of a writer on auto-pilot and with no interest in either the credibility of the plot or creating a "page turner." Fleming couldn't possibly have believed in this creation. "Moonraker" might have been stupid but at least it was fun to read. Hugely disappointed with this Bond novel.
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2.0 out of 5 stars You Only Live Twice - James Bond Or Taro Todoroki?, 15 July 2014
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James Bond's life is in a mess as he struggles to deal with the assassination of Tracy by Ernst Stavro Blofeld within minutes of their wedding in the last instalment (On Her Majesty's Secret Service).

There is a good possibility he will be removed from active service when he is given a final chance on an impossible mission that takes him to Japan.

Whilst there he forms a friendship with Tiger Tanaka. Who is a senior figure in the Japanese Secret Service.

Tiger asks for Bond's help in a local matter. A Doctor Shatterband and his wife have recently arrived in Japan and have set up home in a castle in one if the nearby islands. They are encouraging people to come and commit suicide as Japan has high statistics of their people taking their life.

On being shown their photographs. Although disguised there is no doubt it is Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Irma Bunt who are masquerading as Doctor Shatterband and wife in their castle retreat.

Bond agrees to help. He does not let on that this is now a personal matter.

Does he get revenge over Blofeld?

This is a slow paced read which is better in the second half of this book. It lacks the action I associate with James Bond and the glamorous woman.

Then again the man is in a state of shook and like in his last adventure Bond finds a form of love in the shape of Kissy Suzuki.

Also mentioned in this are his parents Andrew Bond a foreign representative from Glencoe in Scotland and his Swiss mother Monique Delacroix who both perished whilst climbing at Chamonix in the French Alps when Bond was eleven years old.
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3.0 out of 5 stars It's just a little bit boring., 27 July 2014
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It is impossible to call any of Fleming's Bond books awful - even the short stories had their charm. My problem here is that he spends so long trying to ''set the scene'' in Japan that he forgets to include the actual story.
TOO MUCH time is taken up by listening to Bond talk about Japanese food, drink, architecture, women, politics, history and culture that by the time we actually reach Blofeld (who is incidentally now but a shadow of his formerly magnificent self) the book is all but over. Maybe if I was reading this back in the sixties when Japan was this distant faraway exotic land I could have appreciated this more - but I make no apologies for being a child of the early nineties and as such I began to feel under pressure to continue reading.
It's sad because ''Live and Let Die'' proved that Fleming is more than capable of including a lot of local flavour and yet still write a fantastic book.
If I may be so bold as to say this; but I think this book just smacks of a man who was getting very bored of his creation. If the many rumours are true that he wanted to end the series here I honestly would not be surprised. Stick with the earlier books would be my advice.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Garden of Death, 9 Mar 2009
This review is from: You Only Live Twice (Paperback)
The penultimate book in the original Ian Fleming James Bond series, You Only Live Twice is a real cracker, featuring Bond's arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld in a somewhat surreal tale whereby the godfather of all fictional terrorists creates a `garden of death' on a remote island off Japan, subsequently luring suicidal Japanese and providing them with the opportunity to end their own lives - in various grotesque ways. Agent 007 has a personal score to settle with the man who murdered his wife, and he teams up with the Secret Service's Head of Station J, Tiger Tanaka, in order to hunt his enemy down and destroy him once and for all.

Forget the overblown if rather fun 1968 Roald Dahl penned screenplay; this novel has the careful attention to detail and the fast-paced action that has become the hallmark of the series of novels. This, plus one of the most intriguingly unresolved climaxes to a James Bond story, makes You Only Live Twice a must-read for fans of action adventure stories as well as a great slice of late-Twentieth Century fiction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You Only Live Twice: Ian Fleming - Bondosan slays it with flowers, 24 July 2013
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: You Only Live Twice (Paperback)
Contains plot spoilers.

First published in 1964, this is the twelfth print outing (eleventh full length novel) for Ian Fleming's James Bond. It was the last of the Bond series published in Fleming's life time.

Following the calamitous events at the end of `On Her Majesty's Secret Service', Bond is a wreck. He is drinking too much, he is gambling and losing too much, and even worse he is making mistakes on assignments that are putting lives at risk. M is on the verge of firing him from the service, but is persuaded by an eminent psychologist to give Bond one last chance, with an assignment so tough that it might shake Bond up and bring the old, dedicated and dangerous agent back to life. M sends him on a seemingly impossible mission to Japan, not to kill or investigate anything, but to schmooze the chief of Japanese intelligence into letting the British have access to a solid gold intelligence source they have in Russia. Bond is indeed shaken up and the assignment proves to be a tough one as he uses all his wits and judgement to get Tiger Tanaka on side. He gains the trust of the Japanese intelligence man, who agrees to hand over the intelligence, but at a price. He needs a deniable operative to perform an assassination, and it seems as though Bond fits the bill. One murder by Bond and the British can have all the access it wants. So Bond undergoes a transformation into a Japanese coal miner and is sent off to slay the mysterious Dr. Shatterhand in his garden of death. But it turns out that as well as the opportunity to fulfil his mission, Bond also has the opportunity for a personal revenge.

The book falls into three main sections, Bond's breakdown and the early stages of his mission in which he schmoozes Tanaka, a journey across Japan in which Tanaka immerses Bond in Japanese culture, and finally the mission itself in which Bond is on his own in an alien landscape. The first section is a well written and interesting study of a man taken to the brink and slowly pulling himself back from it. It holds the interest, and Fleming's usual excellent prose is used to good effect. The second section of the book however is a different story. Fleming often worked in a detailed description of something crucial to the plot (for example, guano farming in Dr. No, gold smuggling in Goldfinger, Heraldry in OHMSS) and made it utterly adsorbing. Here he attempts to sum up Japanese culture, and though mildly interesting to see it from the point of view of a middle aged man in the early 1960s, this whole section of the book is a real struggle for me to get through. It could have been trimmed to half, even a quarter of the length and the book would have still made sense and been a lot better for it. It is in the final third of the book, where Bond actually starts on his mission and realises who he up against that things really take off. Fleming uses all his descriptive powers to great effect to describe the garden of death in all it's alien horror, and the final showdown between Bond and his would be nemesis is an absolute cracker.

The book has a strong theme of character development and rebirth in it. Bond is transformed from a drunken gambler back to a man of action, then into an instrument of vengeance and finally into a normal human being living a contented life. Blofeld is shown as moving from a disciplined authoritarian evil genius into a raving lunatic (though no less of an evil genius), no longer in control of himself. Fleming also takes time to explore the state of the nation, with the exchanges between Tiger and Bond revealing how Fleming saw the position of the UK on the world stage at the time. There is also an interesting interlude at the end which leaves us on a bit of a cliff hanger, and gives us an opportunity to read Bond's obituary from M in the papers. That s a neat touch, and a great ending to what had been an only intermittently good book.

I wanted to like the book a lot more than I did, mainly because of the slow middle section. The opening, and the action packed finale are excellent, as is the philosophical depth that Fleming manages to bring to the piece. But that long tedious slog as Bond is trained to be Japanese just mars the whole thing. Three stars for the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You Only Live Twice: Ian Fleming - Bondosan slays it with flowers, 23 July 2013
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: You Only Live Twice (Hardcover)
Contains plot spoilers.

First published in 1964, this is the twelfth print outing (eleventh full length novel) for Ian Fleming's James Bond. It was the last of the Bond series published in Fleming's life time.

Following the calamitous events at the end of `On Her Majesty's Secret Service', Bond is a wreck. He is drinking too much, he is gambling and losing too much, and even worse he is making mistakes on assignments that are putting lives at risk. M is on the verge of firing him from the service, but is persuaded by an eminent psychologist to give Bond one last chance, with an assignment so tough that it might shake Bond up and bring the old, dedicated and dangerous agent back to life. M sends him on a seemingly impossible mission to Japan, not to kill or investigate anything, but to schmooze the chief of Japanese intelligence into letting the British have access to a solid gold intelligence source they have in Russia. Bond is indeed shaken up and the assignment proves to be a tough one as he uses all his wits and judgement to get Tiger Tanaka on side. He gains the trust of the Japanese intelligence man, who agrees to hand over the intelligence, but at a price. He needs a deniable operative to perform an assassination, and it seems as though Bond fits the bill. One murder by Bond and the British can have all the access it wants. So Bond undergoes a transformation into a Japanese coal miner and is sent off to slay the mysterious Dr. Shatterhand in his garden of death. But it turns out that as well as the opportunity to fulfil his mission, Bond also has the opportunity for a personal revenge.

The book falls into three main sections, Bond's breakdown and the early stages of his mission in which he schmoozes Tanaka, a journey across Japan in which Tanaka immerses Bond in Japanese culture, and finally the mission itself in which Bond is on his own in an alien landscape. The first section is a well written and interesting study of a man taken to the brink and slowly pulling himself back from it. It holds the interest, and Fleming's usual excellent prose is used to good effect. The second section of the book however is a different story. Fleming often worked in a detailed description of something crucial to the plot (for example, guano farming in Dr. No, gold smuggling in Goldfinger, Heraldry in OHMSS) and made it utterly adsorbing. Here he attempts to sum up Japanese culture, and though mildly interesting to see it from the point of view of a middle aged man in the early 1960s, this whole section of the book is a real struggle for me to get through. It could have been trimmed to half, even a quarter of the length and the book would have still made sense and been a lot better for it. It is in the final third of the book, where Bond actually starts on his mission and realises who he up against that things really take off. Fleming uses all his descriptive powers to great effect to describe the garden of death in all it's alien horror, and the final showdown between Bond and his would be nemesis is an absolute cracker.

The book has a strong theme of character development and rebirth in it. Bond is transformed from a drunken gambler back to a man of action, then into an instrument of vengeance and finally into a normal human being living a contented life. Blofeld is shown as moving from a disciplined authoritarian evil genius into a raving lunatic (though no less of an evil genius), no longer in control of himself. Fleming also takes time to explore the state of the nation, with the exchanges between Tiger and Bond revealing how Fleming saw the position of the UK on the world stage at the time. There is also an interesting interlude at the end which leaves us on a bit of a cliff hanger, and gives us an opportunity to read Bond's obituary from M in the papers. That s a neat touch, and a great ending to what had been an only intermittently good book.

I wanted to like the book a lot more than I did, mainly because of the slow middle section. The opening, and the action packed finale are excellent, as is the philosophical depth that Fleming manages to bring to the piece. But that long tedious slog as Bond is trained to be Japanese just mars the whole thing. Three stars for the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You Only Live Twice: Ian Fleming - Bondosan slays it with flowers, 23 July 2013
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
Contains plot spoilers.

First published in 1964, this is the twelfth print outing (eleventh full length novel) for Ian Fleming's James Bond. It was the last of the Bond series published in Fleming's life time.

Following the calamitous events at the end of `On Her Majesty's Secret Service', Bond is a wreck. He is drinking too much, he is gambling and losing too much, and even worse he is making mistakes on assignments that are putting lives at risk. M is on the verge of firing him from the service, but is persuaded by an eminent psychologist to give Bond one last chance, with an assignment so tough that it might shake Bond up and bring the old, dedicated and dangerous agent back to life. M sends him on a seemingly impossible mission to Japan, not to kill or investigate anything, but to schmooze the chief of Japanese intelligence into letting the British have access to a solid gold intelligence source they have in Russia. Bond is indeed shaken up and the assignment proves to be a tough one as he uses all his wits and judgement to get Tiger Tanaka on side. He gains the trust of the Japanese intelligence man, who agrees to hand over the intelligence, but at a price. He needs a deniable operative to perform an assassination, and it seems as though Bond fits the bill. One murder by Bond and the British can have all the access it wants. So Bond undergoes a transformation into a Japanese coal miner and is sent off to slay the mysterious Dr. Shatterhand in his garden of death. But it turns out that as well as the opportunity to fulfil his mission, Bond also has the opportunity for a personal revenge.

The book falls into three main sections, Bond's breakdown and the early stages of his mission in which he schmoozes Tanaka, a journey across Japan in which Tanaka immerses Bond in Japanese culture, and finally the mission itself in which Bond is on his own in an alien landscape. The first section is a well written and interesting study of a man taken to the brink and slowly pulling himself back from it. It holds the interest, and Fleming's usual excellent prose is used to good effect. The second section of the book however is a different story. Fleming often worked in a detailed description of something crucial to the plot (for example, guano farming in Dr. No, gold smuggling in Goldfinger, Heraldry in OHMSS) and made it utterly adsorbing. Here he attempts to sum up Japanese culture, and though mildly interesting to see it from the point of view of a middle aged man in the early 1960s, this whole section of the book is a real struggle for me to get through. It could have been trimmed to half, even a quarter of the length and the book would have still made sense and been a lot better for it. It is in the final third of the book, where Bond actually starts on his mission and realises who he up against that things really take off. Fleming uses all his descriptive powers to great effect to describe the garden of death in all it's alien horror, and the final showdown between Bond and his would be nemesis is an absolute cracker.

The book has a strong theme of character development and rebirth in it. Bond is transformed from a drunken gambler back to a man of action, then into an instrument of vengeance and finally into a normal human being living a contented life. Blofeld is shown as moving from a disciplined authoritarian evil genius into a raving lunatic (though no less of an evil genius), no longer in control of himself. Fleming also takes time to explore the state of the nation, with the exchanges between Tiger and Bond revealing how Fleming saw the position of the UK on the world stage at the time. There is also an interesting interlude at the end which leaves us on a bit of a cliff hanger, and gives us an opportunity to read Bond's obituary from M in the papers. That s a neat touch, and a great ending to what had been an only intermittently good book.

I wanted to like the book a lot more than I did, mainly because of the slow middle section. The opening, and the action packed finale are excellent, as is the philosophical depth that Fleming manages to bring to the piece. But that long tedious slog as Bond is trained to be Japanese just mars the whole thing. Three stars for the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You Only Live Twice: Ian Fleming - Bondosan slays it with flowers, 23 July 2013
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
Contains plot spoilers.

First published in 1964, this is the twelfth print outing (eleventh full length novel) for Ian Fleming's James Bond. It was the last of the Bond series published in Fleming's life time.

Following the calamitous events at the end of `On Her Majesty's Secret Service', Bond is a wreck. He is drinking too much, he is gambling and losing too much, and even worse he is making mistakes on assignments that are putting lives at risk. M is on the verge of firing him from the service, but is persuaded by an eminent psychologist to give Bond one last chance, with an assignment so tough that it might shake Bond up and bring the old, dedicated and dangerous agent back to life. M sends him on a seemingly impossible mission to Japan, not to kill or investigate anything, but to schmooze the chief of Japanese intelligence into letting the British have access to a solid gold intelligence source they have in Russia. Bond is indeed shaken up and the assignment proves to be a tough one as he uses all his wits and judgement to get Tiger Tanaka on side. He gains the trust of the Japanese intelligence man, who agrees to hand over the intelligence, but at a price. He needs a deniable operative to perform an assassination, and it seems as though Bond fits the bill. One murder by Bond and the British can have all the access it wants. So Bond undergoes a transformation into a Japanese coal miner and is sent off to slay the mysterious Dr. Shatterhand in his garden of death. But it turns out that as well as the opportunity to fulfil his mission, Bond also has the opportunity for a personal revenge.

The book falls into three main sections, Bond's breakdown and the early stages of his mission in which he schmoozes Tanaka, a journey across Japan in which Tanaka immerses Bond in Japanese culture, and finally the mission itself in which Bond is on his own in an alien landscape. The first section is a well written and interesting study of a man taken to the brink and slowly pulling himself back from it. It holds the interest, and Fleming's usual excellent prose is used to good effect. The second section of the book however is a different story. Fleming often worked in a detailed description of something crucial to the plot (for example, guano farming in Dr. No, gold smuggling in Goldfinger, Heraldry in OHMSS) and made it utterly adsorbing. Here he attempts to sum up Japanese culture, and though mildly interesting to see it from the point of view of a middle aged man in the early 1960s, this whole section of the book is a real struggle for me to get through. It could have been trimmed to half, even a quarter of the length and the book would have still made sense and been a lot better for it. It is in the final third of the book, where Bond actually starts on his mission and realises who he up against that things really take off. Fleming uses all his descriptive powers to great effect to describe the garden of death in all it's alien horror, and the final showdown between Bond and his would be nemesis is an absolute cracker.

The book has a strong theme of character development and rebirth in it. Bond is transformed from a drunken gambler back to a man of action, then into an instrument of vengeance and finally into a normal human being living a contented life. Blofeld is shown as moving from a disciplined authoritarian evil genius into a raving lunatic (though no less of an evil genius), no longer in control of himself. Fleming also takes time to explore the state of the nation, with the exchanges between Tiger and Bond revealing how Fleming saw the position of the UK on the world stage at the time. There is also an interesting interlude at the end which leaves us on a bit of a cliff hanger, and gives us an opportunity to read Bond's obituary from M in the papers. That s a neat touch, and a great ending to what had been an only intermittently good book.

I wanted to like the book a lot more than I did, mainly because of the slow middle section. The opening, and the action packed finale are excellent, as is the philosophical depth that Fleming manages to bring to the piece. But that long tedious slog as Bond is trained to be Japanese just mars the whole thing. Three stars for the book.
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You Only Live Twice
You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming (Hardcover - Dec 1964)
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