You Only Live Twice - Ian Fleming My friend recently praised the audiobook narrations of Simon Vance. Unfortunately, my library's inventory is small and Overdrive Media only allows me to download MP3s to my Nexus, further limiting my options to only two James Bond novels narrated by Vance. Since I have been wanting to read Bond books, I figured why not.

Shortly into the reading, my friend asked me what I thought of Vance's performance. I informed her that there was no Simon Vance. There was only James Bond and Tiger Tanaka. Vance has definitely earned a place on my list of favourite audiobook narrators.

This is the twelfth Bond book, taking place shortly after the violent death of Bond's wife of only a few hours. Bond physically survived the explosion at the hands of Dr. Blofeld, but the emotional effects are obvious. M is uncertain of what to do with his formerly best agent, until one doctor determines that what Bond needs is an impossible mission. This leads Bond to Japan and a friendship with Tiger Tanaka.

This is the last Bond book published by Ian Fleming in his life time, and it differs significantly from the film. There are no spacejackings and nuclear weapons in the book, but there are ninjas.

The story takes place not long after Japan's defeat in WWII. The west is encroaching on the east, and not everyone is happy with subjugation. The samurai sense of honour remains.

I enjoyed the insight into the Japanese culture, which was not as pretentious or derisive as it was in Michael Crichton's [b:Rising Sun|7668|Rising Sun|Michael Crichton||2045220]. The back-and-forth between Tanaka and Bond is amiable and respectful, even when they are being negative or insulting to each other's countries.

Bond's mission changes significantly when Tanaka asks him to deal with the "Castle of Death" that has been built on a Japanese island. A lot of their discussions deal with their differing views on suicide and honour. Although Bond does not get heavily into his emotions over Tracy's death, there is a sense that the discussions about suicide and other aspects of Japan are definitely on Bond's mind. Or, perhaps I was just projecting, because I wanted a little more of Bond's internal struggle to come out. It does rear its head in the end, with good reason, but I wanted to see a bit more of his pain than Fleming allowed.

As this is a Bond book, there has to be a Bond Girl. In this case, it is Kissy Suziki, a clam diver on the small island that becomes Bond's base of operations. Throughout the book, he has numerous encounters with women and the book comments on his lascivious thoughts, but I found it interesting that the woman who is clearly intended to be a love interest, is treated with the utmost respect by Bond. Several moments in Kissy's appearances were dedicated to Bond's utter appreciation of her as a woman. The descriptions spoke as much about her body as they did about her abilities and demeanor.

There is not a lot of action in this book. In fact, M informs Bond at the beginning, that the mission requires his wits, more than anything. When the mission changes, Tanaka denies Bond's requests for the simplicity of guns, instead introducing him to ninjutsu and the art of stealth. I was a bit skeptical about this part, though I appreciated that Bond didn't simply learn how to ninja over night. Or at all, really.

My only other complaint comes from two particular moments when mission information is provided to Bond. I expected the information to be summarized, but instead it was listed off in great detail that caused me to tune out a bit. That said, I do now have a long list of poisonous flora and their resulting effects.

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