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Literature / You Only Live Twice

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The twelfth James Bond book by Ian Fleming, published in 1964.

Eight months have gone by since the events of the eleventh book, and Bond's a wreck who can barely keep his job. In order to help, M gives him a promotion and sends him on a tough diplomatic assignment to Japan to get information that would benefit England out of Tiger Tanaka, head of the Japanese secret service. He and Tanaka become pals, and soon Bond finds himself doing a job for Tanaka: assassinate one Dr. Shatterhand, a man "who collects death".

The book's title was used for the fifth James Bond film, but the film's plot differed widely, only retaining Blofeld and the Japanese setting. The film version was written by Roald Dahl. Yes, that Dahl. Elements unique to the novel were finally adapted in movie form in No Time to Die in 2021.

This novel has the examples of:

  • Artistic Licence - Geography: Dr. Shatterhand's castle resides near Japan's coast. In real life, they were never built so close to water due to storms and other natural problems. This is why Blofeld has a volcano base in the film.
  • Awesome Aussie: Dikko Henderson, though his awesomeness largely revolves around consuming grossly large quantities of alcohol.
  • Balls of Steel: Tiger Tanaka describe the sumo wrestlers' ability to retract their genitals up into a recess in their hip bone, to which Bond responds with amazement.
  • Big Bad: Dr. Shatterhand aka Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
  • Chalk Outline: Bond is somewhat shocked over an incident where Japanese police insisted in drawing outlines around the victims of a road accident, and complaining when the victims moved.
  • Country Matters: Bond is concerned the Japanese version of his name may have a double meaning because a colleague named Monk was nicknamed "Mōnko" by Japanese people. Mōnko is a Japanese obscenity equivalent to this trope.
  • Dead Hat Shot: Bond witnesses one man killing himself in the Garden of Death by walking into a fumarole field. Only his tophat is left behind on the surface after he sinks.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Blofeld in his Dr. Shatterhand guise, however; as penitent suicide has such an honoured place in Japan (especially as portrayed by Fleming), no-one bar Tiger Tanaka is in a hurry to do anything about him.
  • Direct Line to the Author: When Bond is believed dead, his obituary mentions that there is a book series being written about his adventures. It also mentions that if the books were any closer to the truth, they'd prosecute the author, an old friend of Bond's, under the Official Secrets Act.
  • Easy Amnesia: Bond develops amnesia from being hit in the head by debris while escaping from Blofeld's castle. He then spends several months living as a Japanese fisherman.
  • Evil Gloating: Bond waits patiently for a change as Blofeld, who has him at his mercy, goes on about how he is a genius and Bond is just a common criminal on a payroll.
  • Face Death with Dignity: At the Garden of Death, Bond witnesses a well-dressed man walking in a dignified manner carrying an umbrella and mumbling unknown phrases to himself as he goes to his death.
  • Foreign Culture Fetish: Tiger Tanaka puts down Westerners who live in Japan and emulate and study (and often marry) the Japanese. Bond calls him out on this and Tiger admits that many of these scholars are sincere but Tiger is still rather old fashioned and racist toward any non-Japanese.
  • Four Is Death: Tanaka sees a pair of eagles near Shatterhand's castle as a good omen, and tells Bond that one or four would have been bad, four being as bad luck as thirteen in Western cultures.
  • Garden of Evil: The Garden of Death, created by Dr. Shatterhand as a mecca for suicidal Japanese. It lives up to its name.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Dr. Shatterhand subjects Bond to one of these; 007 answers him in the bluntest and most terminal way possible.
  • Heroic BSoD: Bond is going through one at the start of the novel. He ends in an even worse one — amnesiac, and on his way to Vladivostok to try and find clues to who he really is.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: Dr. Guntram Shatterhand turns out to be none other than Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
  • In Medias Res: The book starts with Bond exchanging polite words with Tanaka at a Geisha parlour, before jumping back to explain how he got there.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: Lampshaded, Tiger Tanaka insults Bond for talking about Ming dynasty as Japanese art.
  • Japanese Politeness: Tiger Tanaka explains to Bond that Japanese criminals will stop and surrender when ordered to by the authorities, because of the Japanese culture.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Bond's obituary makes reference to a series of "sensationalistic novels" written about Bond's life.
  • Majored in Western Hypocrisy: Tiger Tanaka studied at Oxford, and later used it as a pretext to spy on the Brits.
  • Master Actor: Bond is disguised as the Japanese Miner Taro, and is not a complete disaster. He still can't speak Japanese very well, though, so his cover identity is said to be mute.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Kissy does not tell James that she is pregnant; instead allowing him to go off to investigate the lead as to he really is, knowing that he will probably never return.
  • New Child Left Behind: At the end of the book, Bond leaves for Russia to find clues to his identity. Kissy is revealed to be pregnant with his child, but she never got to tell him about it.
  • Noble Bigot: Henderson is a nice guy, but his old-fashioned attitude towards the Australian aboriginals makes him look politically incorrect to present-day audiences (and probably did at the time of writing, too, if not as much).
  • Piranha Problem: The Garden of Death has many lakes in it, all filled with hungry piranha.
  • Politeness Judo: As Bond drinks with Tiger in the first chapter, they constantly trade polite comments with each other. Bond, who has been tasked to get Tiger's co-operation, struggles to avoid one-upping him in any way.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero:
    • By contemporary standards Dikko is jaw-droppingly racist — not with regard to the Japanese, whose culture he shows some knowledge of and who he has respect for, but with regard to Indigenous Australians:
    Dikko: Don't talk to me about the Aboriginals. Do you know there's a movement afoot in my country, not merely afoot but at full gallop, to give the Aboriginals the vote? You pommy poofter. You give me any more of that liberal crap and I'll have your balls for a bow-tie.
    • Tiger Tanaka as well, considering the way he feels about Westerners who live in Japan.
  • The Reveal: Dr. Shatterhand and his wife are actually Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Irma Bunt.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: Even Dr. Shatterhand knows that the sensationality of all the suicides in garden is bound to force him to relocate.
  • Sanity Slippage: Blofeld has suffered one of these; his ego has bloated and his formerly calm speech has been replaced by a Hitleresque bark.
  • Sequel Hook: Bond, suffering from Identity Amnesia, goes on a Quest for Identity. Into the Soviet Union.
  • Title Drop: It's part of a haiku Bond composes.
  • Tuckerization:
    • "Tiger" Tanaka was named after Fleming's traveling companiong Tiger Saito.
    • For Blofeld's pseudonym, Dr. Guntram Shatterhand, Fleming used the name of an old café he had seen in Hamburg in 1959.
    • Bond's mother, Monique Delacroix, was named after two women in Fleming's life: Monique Panchaud de Bottomes, a Swiss girl from Vich in the canton of Vaud who Fleming was engaged to in the early 1930s, with Delacroix taken from Fleming's own mother, whose maiden name was Ste Croix Rose.
    • Bond's aunt was called Charmian Bond: Charmian was the name of Fleming's cousin who married Richard Fleming, Ian's brother. Charmian's sister was called "Pet" which, when combined with the Bottom from Monique Panchaud de Bottomes, gives Pett Bottom, where Charmian lives.
    • Pett Bottom is also the name of a real place which amused Fleming when he stopped for lunch after a round of golf at Royal St George's Golf Club, Sandwich.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Stop looking at my black cat."