You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming
Published by: Penguin (reprint)
Published on: September 2003
Page Count: 224
My Reading Format: Audiobook purchased from Audible.com using a monthly credit
Audiobook Published by: Blackstone Audio
Narrator: Simon Vance
Audiobook Length: 6 hours 11 minutes
Audio Sample: Thank you to Blackstone Audio for this audio sample of You Only Live Twice.
Available Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, and Audiobook
James Bond is experiencing a dark night of the soul. When Irma Blunt and Blofeld murdered his wife, he no longer had the will to do much of anything, much less his job. M is concerned, but is willing to give Bond’s career one last chance. He sends 007 on assignment to Japan. There is a strange garden there full of the most poisonous of plants. The Japanese government needs a foreigner to rid their island of this “Collector of Death,” who is harvesting more and more Japanese suicides every day. James Bond is correct in believing that his nemesis Blofeld is behind it all. In this last in the series featuring Ernst Stavro Blofeld, will Bond finally get his man and make him pay?
Of course James Bond had to meet up with geisha girls at some point. Had these encounters taken place before Tracy’s death, this setup would surely have made my eyes roll. As it was, Bond was very hesitant around these women trained to bring men pleasure. When James Bond falls in love to the point of marrying a woman, he does not recover quickly. As much as I didn’t like the vision of Bond wallowing in pity before this assignment was given to him, I very much appreciated the respect paid to Tracy in You Only Live Twice. I was also happy to find that I liked Kissy as the Bond Girl in this book. She had the right temperament and personality to bring Bond back into the world of the living. What little guile she had was well intentioned. Unfortunately for her, if Bond’s heart isn’t broken, then the Bond Girl’s heart is. The ending of this book will make you sad for her.
As part of the plot to get rid of Dr. Shatterhand (a.k.a. Blofeld) and his Garden of Death, Tanaka, the man who would give Bond a crash course in Japanese customs, has Bond transformed physically into a Japanese man. I found that part of this setup a little absurd. I have a hard time thinking much could be done without surgery to make a British man look compellingly Japanese. However, the scenes where Tanaka was tutoring “Taro Todoroki” in Japanese culture were quite interesting. I didn’t realize that in Japanese there are (or at least were at the time) no such thing as a cuss word. I had just as much trouble with that concept as Bond. Instead, the Japanese will say they made a mistake. That this is the worst thing they could say is enlightening. Did you know that certain Japanese men, such as sumo wrestlers, are trained to be able to move their testicles back up into their body during a fight or competition when they are young. I did not. Apparently this can be taught at an early age. I found that fascinating.
Simon Vance once again serves as narrator. As always, he seems at home in James Bond’s world. While I prefer his English and European accents, his vocal range stretched well in to the exotic locale of this adventure. How he is able to sound engaged during mind numbing scenes like the deadly flora and fauna in this novel will always amaze me.
One thing that I’ve noticed as I’ve read Ian Fleming’s work is that he likes to explain everything to death. This is evident in the scene where Bond is brought up to speed about the Garden of Death. It was easy for my mind to drift as the species of deadly plants were catalogued. It left me longing for another round of gambling. Despite that, there are some interesting things that took place in Japan. The ending had a touch of sadness to it that I wonder if it will be addressed in the next book. The bottom line is that You Only Live Twice was not my favorite James Bond novel, but it certainly wasn’t my least favorite either.