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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

Notes on You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming

You Only Live Twice (James Bond) - Ian Fleming

* The twelfth Bond book.

* Third appearance of Blofeld.

* Not one of the most sensibly plotted books. While on a diplomatic mission in Japan, Bond is pressed into service to help the Japanese authorities out of a sticky situation involving a dangerous gaijin whose deadly nature preserve has become the nation's hot spot for suicides. Bond discovers that the gaijin, the foreigner, is actually Blofeld. So far, so good. But a large portion of the second half of the book is back-plotted to accommodate the unusual ending. During this portion, Bond is taken in hand by Tanaka, the head of the Japanese Secret Service, who helps Bond to understand Japanese culture and, indeed, to change his appearance so that he can walk among the people without drawing undue attention to himself. The problem is, none of this is necessary--except to explain what happens after the mission is completed. It's interesting and entertaining, but of no consequence whatsoever to the plot. However, since this was the last of Fleming's Bond books to be published during his lifetime, one can understand why Fleming chose to sacrifice a bit of plot to preserve his ending (which I won't give away here).

* Blofeld's preserve, and the use to which it is put, is highly imaginative and culturally appropriate. When Bond finally sees it for himself, and sees it in action, it's like something out of a horror story. This is the best part of the book, the climax, and that isn't always the case.

* A good book, but not one of the best.

* The fifth Bond movie (Sean Connery).

* With the molestation done to Thunderball still hot in the producers' heads, they here give the green light to Roald Dahl to adaptively rape You Only Live Twice.

* Funnily enough, after changing practically everything else, Dahl chooses to keep the one plot element of the novel that really made no sense: the transformation of Bond into an approximation of a Japanese man. It makes no more sense here; perhaps less.

* Effectively shows why characterization is impossible in a typical Bond flick, as hardly five minutes ever goes by without another action scene.

* Leaves you wondering why Blofeld--who, in the film, is technologically superior to both the United States and the Soviet Union--doesn't just create his own country and take over the world that way.

* Dahl evidently said that the novel was "Ian Fleming’s worst book, with no plot in it which would even make a movie." Yes, indeed. Heaven forbid that a movie set in Japan should have something to do WITH Japan.