You Only Live Twice (novel)

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You Only Live Twice (1st Edition)
You Only Live Twice (1st edition cover)
Author: Ian Fleming
Publisher: Glidrose Productions
Hardback: (UK) 1964 (U.S.) 1964
Paperback: (UK) 1965 (U.S.) 1965
Cover artist: Richard Chopping
Alternate title:
Preceded by: On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Followed by: The Man With The Golden Gun

You Only Live Twice is the eleventh novel—and twelfth book—by Ian Fleming featuring James Bond, secret agent 007; it was published in 1964, around the time Fleming died. It was adapted by screenplay writer Roald Dahl as the fifth entry in the James Bond movie series, which was released in 1967, starring Sean Connery as James Bond. The film was produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman and was made by EON Productions. This film is the first Bond movie to deviate from the source material. Other than the Japanese setting, and several characters, the two stories are very different.

The novelEdit

You Only Live Twice is the concluding chapter in what is known as the 'Blofeld Trilogy'. The trilogy began with Thunderball and after the interlude novel The Spy Who Loved Me, resumed with On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

It has been suggested that Fleming had chosen to retire the Bond series with this novel, but later changed his mind and wrote The Man with the Golden Gun.

You Only Live Twice also marks the final appearance of Ernst Stavro Blofeld and references to his criminal organization, S.P.E.C.T.R.E. in Fleming's novels. A later novel, For Special Services, by John Gardner, features a rebirth of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. as well as Role of Honour and Nobody Lives For Ever.

In the 1990s, Raymond Benson wrote a short story sequel to You Only Live Twice, titled "Blast From the Past", although the story falls into neither Gardner's or Benson's Bond continuum.

The title of the novel is often mistaken as being the work of a Japanese poet named Matsuo Basho; however, the unique title comes from a haiku that James Bond wrote for his friend Tiger Tanaka. It is also mentioned in the novel that it isn't a haiku at all, that in actuality it is a failed attempt by Bond after being taught the basics for creating a haiku.

In the epigraph (and explained in the novel), the haiku is listed as being "after Basho", meaning written in the poet's style.

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

Plot summaryEdit

James Bond, his career fading after the wedding-day murder of his wife, Tracy Bond, is promoted by M to a special branch of MI6. M, was actually going to offer him dismissal from the secret service, but later changed his mind as a "last chance" opportunity for Bond to shape up. Bond is subsequently re-numbered as 7777 ("four sevens"), and assigned an impossible mission: Convincing the head of Japan's secret intelligence service, Tiger Tanaka, to provide information about an informant within the Soviet Union, information referred to as Magic 44.

Heading to Tokyo, Bond quickly befriends Tanaka, but seems unable to persuade him to do the British such a large favor. Finally, after two months of friendly boozing and not-so-friendly haggling, Tanaka tells Bond of a Swiss gentleman Dr. Guntram Shatterhand, a botanist who has built the Garden of Death, a secluded castle on a volcanic island off Kyushu stocked with boiling geysers, carnivorous fish, and poisonous plants and reptiles for the suicidal to use in ending their lives.

In exchange for the Magic 44, Tanaka asks Bond to kill Dr. Shatterhand. Bond accidentally discovers that Shatterhand is his nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and gladly takes the mission and dicovers that Statterhand is actually Blofeld. Bond keeps his knowledge of Blofeld a secret so that he can exact his revenge. Aided by former Japanese movie star Kissy Suzuki, and, with make up and training, James Bond learns to live and think as a Japanese in order to penetrate Shatterhand's castle. Bond is renamed by Tiger while on this mission as Taro Todoroki.

Bond ultimately exacts revenge on Blofeld in a sword fighting duel, but, on escaping, suffers a head injury leaving him an amnesiac living as a Japanese fisherman with Kissy, while the rest of the world believes him dead. While Bond's health improves Kissy conceals his true identity so as to keep him forever to herself, even going as far to marry him in a Japanese ceremony (Kissy never officially becomes his wife). At the novel's end, however, Bond finds a paper slip with the name Vladivostok written on it, making him wonder if the far-off Russian city is the key to his missing memory. Unbeknownst to Bond, Kissy reveals, in thought, that she is pregnant.

At book's end, is an obituary written by M for Commander James Bond, C.M.G., R.N.V.R., featuring the majority of his biography, per Fleming. It includes his parents' names, their fate, and Bond's Royal Navy service. Most notably, the obituary refers to a series of sensational novels about his exploits — a clearly post-modern reference to Fleming's work, and the source of rumours that James Bond was based upon a real man. The book, James Bond: The Authorised Biography of 007 is based upon that premise. Additionally, the same chapter includes an epitaph by Mary Goodnight (M.G.).



  • This is the only Fleming novel in which Bond is given a designation other than 007. He was never again referred to as 7777, and by the next novel had returned to double-oh status.
  • David Niven is specifically mentioned by Kissy Suzuki as the only respectable man in Hollywood. Niven later played "Sir James Bond" in the 1967 spoof, Casino Royale. Niven had also been considered for the role officially for Dr. No in 1962.
  • Bond quips to Blofeld that his plot should be made into a Broadway theatre musical, set by Noel Coward. Coward was a long-time friend of Ian Fleming's, and they both spent the latter part of their lives living in Jamaica. Coward had also been invited to play Dr. No in the first Bond film, but had declined.
  • The first volume of The Moneypenny Diaries by Samantha Weinberg (published under a pseudonym) covers some of the events occurring between On Her Majesty's Secret Service and You Only Live Twice.
  • Fleming did not resolve the issue of Kissy's pregnancy in the remaining Bond stories he wrote before his death. Bond's son appears for the first (and only) time in Benson's sequel, "Blast from the Past".

Comic strip adaptationEdit

Ian Fleming's novel was adapted as a daily comic strip published in the British Daily Express newspaper, and syndicated worldwide. The adaptation ran from May 18, 1965 to January 8, 1966, was written by Henry Gammidge and illustrated by John McLusky. It was the final James Bond strip for Gammidge, while McClusky returned to illustrating the strip in the 1980s; the strip was reprinted by Titan Books in 2004.

In the segment featuring Bond's obituary there is a reference to "sensationalistic novels" written about Bond's adventures (as in the novel's plot summary, above), wherein artist McLusky uses actual covers of Fleming's books.


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