|Category||Politics and Sociology|
The final Bond book by Fleming to be published in his lifetime, You Only Live Twice ties with From Russia With Love as my favorite of his novels. FRWL is a classic espionage tale but in YOLT, Fleming aims for something much different and writes Bond into something much more mythic and elaborate. Written after the hit Bond films were released, Fleming writes his most cinematic book, full of elaborate detail and outlandish concepts such as Bond training to be a ninja, a villain decked out in samurai armor, and a "Castle of Death" built on a volcano, filled with poisonous flora and fauna, a theme park of sorts for the suicidal and a grim setting none of the films have attempted to bring to life.
The book is a character-driven story that sees Bond grow from a broken failure of an agent to a man with a purpose and a will to live again under the tutelage of Tiger Tanaka when he is, as a last resort before firing him, given a mission that MI6 deems impossible. The theme of death and rebirth is used throughout much of the book with Bond himself being reborn numerous times but the book never repeats itself or grows stale and in its final third is impossible to put down.
Unlike many of the films, Bond is a fascinating character and a flawed man and as outlandish as the story may grow Fleming ties it together with a strong dose of humanity and tragedy. The book goes places I never saw coming and is not once predictable. At one point the villain claims to have reduced Bond to "human dimensions." Fleming however does just the opposite and makes Bond a mythic figure and a hero for the ages.