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A sensational imagination Sunday Times Instructive and entertaining Cyril Connolly
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Ian Fleming (1908-1964), creator of the world's best-known secret agent, is the author of fourteen James Bond books. Born in London in 1908 and educated at Eton and Sandhurst, he became the Reuters Moscow correspondent in 1929. In the spring of 1939, Fleming went back to Moscow as a special correspondent for the London Times. In June of that same year, he joined Naval Intelligence and served throughout World War II, finally earning the rank of Commander, RNVSR (Sp.). Much of the James Bond material was drawn directly from Fleming's experiences as an intelligence officer. Later, Fleming became a consultant on foreign affairs for the London Sunday Times, by which time he had become far better known as the creator of James Bond.
Ian Fleming was born in London on May 28, 1908. He was educated at Eton College and later spent a formative period studying languages in Europe. His first job was with Reuters News Agency where a Moscow posting gave him firsthand experience with what would become his literary bete noire--the Soviet Union. During World War II he served as Assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence and played a key role in Allied espionage operations.
After the war he worked as foreign manager of the Sunday Times, a job that allowed him to spend two months each year in Jamaica. Here, in 1952, at his home "Goldeneye," he wrote a book called Casino Royale--and James Bond was born. The first print run sold out within a month. For the next twelve years Fleming produced a novel a year featuring Special Agent 007, the most famous spy of the century. His travels, interests, and wartime experience lent authority to everything he wrote. Raymond Chandler described him as "the most forceful and driving writer of thrillers in England." Sales soared when President Kennedy named the fifth title, From Russia With Love, one of his favorite books. The Bond novels have sold more than one hundred million copies worldwide, boosted by the hugely successful film franchise that began in 1962 with the release of Dr. No.
He married Anne Rothermere in 1952. His story about a magical car, written in 1961 for their only son Caspar, went on to become the well-loved novel and film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Fleming died of heart failure on August 12, 1964, at the age of fifty-six.
"You Only Live Twice" (1964) was published the year of Ian Fleming's death, and, as with its predecessor, the superb "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," it is suffused with doom and death. It is unlike any of the other Bond books, with a pervasive gloominess that was as much the result of Fleming's rapidly declining health and unhappiness with the world around him as it was the result of Bond's clinical depression after the tragedy that finished the last book. Bond, recovering from the death of his wife, is falling to pieces. Taking the advice of a friend, M sends him on a vital mission to Japan, which he hopes will restore Bond's spirits. What seems at first to be a rather placid visit soons turns dangerous as Bond agrees to accept secrets about the Russians in exchange for carrying out a delicate mission for the Japanese government. What he encounters is the culmination of the previous two Bond novels, and the last half of the novel is virtually unputdownable. This is the best writing of Fleming's career, and his descriptions of Bond's disintegration are surprisingly moving. The final hundred pages or so are horrifying and gripping; never before had Fleming demonstrated such mastery of his craft or technical skill at setting up a denouement. The tension becomes almost unbearable. "You Only Live Twice" is not an uplifting book, but it is a vital book in the Bond series, and much better than its successor, the pale and posthumously published "Man With the Golden Gun." Those expecting slam-bang action will have to wait until the middle and final chapters, but the rewards are worth the patience. This is a fine novel, but I wouldn't start here if I were just discovering Fleming's Bond novels.
Taking place nine months after the tragic ending of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, You Only Live Twice was the last of Ian Fleming's truly completed Bond books. (The Man With The Golden Gun, released after Fleming's untimely death, is considered by many to be only a first draft.) It also served as the conclusion to the trilogy, beginning in Thunderball and continuing through OHMSS, that detailed James Bond's epic battle against Ernest Stavro Blofeld, founder of SPECTRE and essentially the anti-Bond. (Blofeld, we are reminded, refrains from almost all excessive behavior -- even being described as a virgin in Thunderball though he later somehow contracted syphillis in the later books. Of course, while he doesn't smoke or drink, he does seem to spend a lot of time thinking up ways to blow up the world.) While Fleming's prose is better than ever in this novel (showing his uncanny ability to mix sophisticated urbanity with hardboiled cynicism), its still somewhat of a disappointing end to the trilogy. The plot does start out quite promisingly. Nine months following the death of his wife, James Bond has sunk into an alcoholic wave of depression. M, rather cold hearted in this book after being humanized in OHMSS, comes close to terminating his service but instead, gives Bond a mission designed to respark his love of espionage. Bond is sent to Japan to try to convince the head of the Japanese secret service -- Tiger Tanaka -- to ally himself with the English. These sections of the book are very strong. Bond's mission is believable, the plot (which is quite cynical while detailing how even allies like America and England are actually rivals when it comes to espionage) is compelling, and Tiger Tanaka is one of Fleming's strongest connections.Read more ›
This is Ian Fleming's most mysterious and enigmatic James Bond novel. This is a direct follow up to "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." It starts out as a direct secret service story even though Bond is reassigned to the diplomatic section. As it progresses it becomes almost surrealistic as James Bond tracks down his arch nemesis on the island of Kyushu. This is a very well written and researched novel. The Japanese idioms and depictions of locale are exquisite. When the novel moves to Kuro Island and is on the threshold of Dr. Shaterhand's castle lair, Fleming approaches mythical horizons. I found this absorbing, haunting and prophetic novel very difficult to put down once I started reading it. You get addicted early on to such charismatic characters as Tiger Tanaka and the all too brief Dikko Henderson but it is the narrative of this epic tale that beckons the reader. The new retro-paperback cover is alluring.
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The Bond movies made a fatal flaw in two BIG ways. One was not putting the film version of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE after ON HER MAJESTIES SECRET SERVICE, and two was throwing away the superior novel's story. YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE is probably one of Ian Flemings best and his last fully completed novel. The novel opens with M talking to a doctor about Bond's well being, Bond, after suffering a tradgedy in his life in the previous book, (OHMSS) has his life coming apart. He has botched two assignments, drinking more and losing countless amounts of money at the casinos. M is tempted to fire Bond but the doctor laments that Bond be given an "impossible assignment" one that will wake Bond out of his depression and turn his life around. M calls Bond in and tells him that Bond is going to Japan for his impossible mission; to secure the rights to the "Magic 44" a special coding system of sharing secrets with the USA and Japan. To do this he must make negotiations with Tiger Tanaka, a Japanese official. Bond arrives in Japan and meets Tiger, and the negotiations are going well. Tiger will agree on one condition and he needs Bond's help. Tiger needs Bond to commit an assassinaiton on a man named Dr. Shatterhand. Shatterhand has recently arrived in Japan, took an older castle and turned it into a large "garden of death" full of countless poisonous plants and animals. Shatterhand is under protection by the botanical institute, even though countless Japanesse citizens use his garden to commit suicide (an honorable practice in Japan). Tiger however wants him dead, and Bond even more once he discovers what more is at stake, and who lives in the castle.Read more ›