Book Review: Ian Fleming's "You Only Live Twice"

Rating: 4 out of 5

Almost a year after his wife's death, James Bond is still suffering. His last two missions have ended badly with Bond narrowly escaping death. While M contemplates letting him go, a meeting with Sir James Molony, a nerve specialist in the Secret Service, convinces M to give Bond one more chance on an impossible mission. That mission: convince the Japanese Secret Service to release decrypted Soviet Union information to the British government.

To work on this mission, James Bond is given an acting promotion to the Diplomatic Section of the Secret Service (in which he is re-numbered to 7777). Bond is flown to Japan and meets up with Dikko Henderson of Section J, who is able to arrange Bond a meeting with Tiger Tanaka, the head of the Japanese Secret Service. Tiger tells Bond about a gaijin, a foreigner, Doctor Shatterhand, who has set up a Castle of Death full of exotic plants and animals that kill. The Castle of Death has become a favored spot among suicide victims, claiming over 500 lives, but the whole setup is legal and the Japanese government can take no action against this Doctor Shatterhand. So, in exchange for Magic 44, the Soviet Union intelligence, Tiger asks Bond to "enter this Castle of Death and slay the Dragon within."

You Only Live Twice is the twelfth novel in the James Bond series and the concluding chapter of the Blofeld trilogy. It has been about a month since I have read one of the James Bond novels, and it felt good to get back into the series. Ian Flemming's story of a broken man who must confront his personal enemy to regain a lost part of his life was a fitting conclusion to the Blofeld trilogy. One thing I have always liked about the Ian Flemming novels that you don't really get in the movies is the more human side to James Bond, a man who is beat up emotionally and physically and overcomes all odds to save the day. That is one characteristic that is prevalent in this novel. An excellent read of a fan of the series.

You only live twice:
Once when you are born,
And once when you look death in the face.

-- epigraph - After Basho, Japanese poet, 1643-94