The book, being the third in the Blofeld cycle, neatly bookends into the events in the previous novel, OHMSS. It also marks another experimental phase for the series with Fleming, bringing in allegory.
|One of those lovely 1970's paperbacks|
You Only Live Twice, starts with Bond depressed at the death of his wife in the previous book. M is worried about him and decides to give Bond an impossible assignment, something to snap him out of his maudlin condition. M strips Bond of his 00 status and promotes him to the diplomatic division.
"There's nothing the matter with you. You've been through a bad time. You've had good reason to be a bit under the weather. As for the last two assignments, anyone can make mistakes. But I can't have idle hands around the place, so I'm taking you out of the Double-O section."
Bond is sent to Japan with orders to persuade Tiger Tanaka, the head of the Japanese secret service, to share the new ciphering method called Magic 44. However things do not go as planned and soon Bond find himself once again on the trail of Blofeld, although the agent is initially ignorant of the fact that it is his old enemy Blofeld who he is investigating.
You only live twice,
Once when you are born,
Once when you look death in the face
The last section of the book sees Fleming do something he's never done before - he depicts Bond as a St. George like figure while Blofeld is depicted as the dragon. The analogy is brought to the fore and much of the narrative is dreamlike, almost surreal. The author is clearly thinking in the style of the old epics of literature and he does set Bond an almost Herculean task.
"The Piranhas and the volcanic mud are useful housekeepers. They keep the place tidy."
You Only Live Twice, is an excellent addition to the Bond canon - it's bitter sweet, though...knowing that Fleming would never fully complete another Bond novel, doubly so in that this book marks what might have been an whole new avenue for the Bond adventures.