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You Only Live Twice

(James Bond (Original Series) #12)

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  13,168 ratings  ·  705 reviews
Ian Fleming’s twelfth James Bond novel.

The tragic end to James Bond’s last mission – courtesy of Ernst Stavro Blofeld – has left 007 a broken man and of little use to the British Secret Service.

At his wit’s end, M decides that the only way to snap his best agent out of his torpor is to send him on an impossible diplomatic mission to Japan. Bond’s contact there is the formi
Paperback, 214 pages
Published September 2nd 2003 by Penguin Group (first published March 26th 1964)
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Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) No, I can't, but you can get the book and read it for yourself in a very short time. The vocabulary isn't demanding.…moreNo, I can't, but you can get the book and read it for yourself in a very short time. The vocabulary isn't demanding.(less)

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Average rating 3.75  · 
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 ·  13,168 ratings  ·  705 reviews

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(B+) 77% | Good
Notes: James Bond, ninja tourist, prefers labor and vice simple and direct, but is sent to Japan: land of subtext and etiquette.
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am one of the first to admit that I would rather be reading than watching most television, movies, and other media other than a few of my favorite franchise series. One of those series is James Bond, and I have seen most films at least once. I have a favorite Bond actor and a favorite film for each Bond, which I am partial to and end up repeating more so than the other flicks. When classic bingo called for an action or adventure square, I used it as an excuse to read another of Ian Fleming's o ...more
Mohsin Maqbool
May 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I WAS reading a lot of espionage and western novels in the early 70s. In fact, I had started reading espionage in 1969 with “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” novels and Ian Fleming’s “Goldfinger” which was followed by “Thunderball” and finally “You Only Live Twice”, both of which I read in 1970.

Ian Lancaster Fleming writing his novels in the bedroom of his house in Jamaica.

Of the three James Bond novels, I think I had liked “You Only Live Twice” the best. Maybe because the location was Japan and I was t
J.L.   Sutton
Apr 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Excellent Ephemera From You Only Live Twice - Flashbak

Instead of being fired, a depressed and out of sorts James Bond receives a next to impossible mission on a remote Japanese island. There's a lot that's unbelievable here. I'll just start with Bond successfully impersonating a Japanese man (ridiculous!) and a secret missile base hollowed out of a dormant volcano that no one else knows anything about. But it is James Bond and don't think too hard fun so I went with it.

Despite its flaws, I'm now somehow reading more James Bond. There's something ab
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
“You only live twice:
Once when you are born
And once when you look death in the face”

Ian Fleming’s 12th Bond book is set in Japan and concludes his brilliant Blofeld trilogy.

While the films use Blofeld and Spectre to a greater degree, Fleming’s Blofeld shows up in three books – Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and here. First published in 1964, we see Fleming at the height of his considerable narrative powers, but tragically he only had a few months to live.

Months after Blofeld killed
Jan 22, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bond fans
You only live twice:
Once when you are born,
And once when you look death in the face.

This is the haiku James Bond composes in this book, but in reality it is by Bassho, a Japanese poet.

This is a very weird book. Actually, it's my personal opinion that (view spoiler) marks the point this series jumped the shark. When that event happens at the very end of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, it marks the end of good Bond books, at least to my recollect
Richard Derus
Aug 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Rating: 3.5* of five

1967's film version of the book apparently kept nothing to speak of from the book's plot, little enough of the characters, and broke new ground in space science, if only physics would agree to operate by Bondiverse rules. So that raises the question:

What the actual fuck. Undetectable space launches from a densely packed island nation famous then as now for being xenophobic? Volcanos hollowed out and repurposed because they're extinct and then *KERPOW* they blow up on cue? The
Oct 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After the death of his wife, at the hands of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, James Bond understandably has little interest in his work or life. M, head of the Secret Service, sends 007 on a seemingly impossible mission that will make or break him.
Ian Fleming's penultimate Bond novel is populated with some of the author's best creations, especially Tiger Tanaka (Head of the Japanese Secret Service) & the foul mouthed & incredibly amusing Dikko Henderson. Bond's arch enemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld is perhaps a
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed

"The Superintendent went to the bottom of his file and extracted what looked like a blown-up copy of Doctor Guntram Shatterhand’s passport photograph and handed it over. Bond took it nonchalantly. Then his whole body stiffened. He said to himself, God Almighty! God Almighty! Yes. There was no doubt, no doubt at all!"

You Only Live Twice or, as I really want to call it, On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Part Deux, because I can't help seeing parallels to the second Hot Shots! movie, deals with
Apr 03, 2011 rated it liked it
“(Britain has) not only lost a great Empire, you have seemed almost anxious to throw it away with both hands... You apparently sought to arrest this slide into impotence at Suez, (but) succeeded only in stage-managing one of the most pitiful bungles in the history of the world, if not the worst. Further, your governments have shown themselves successively incapable of ruling and have handed over effective control of the country to the trade unions, who appear to be dedicated to the principle of ...more
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
James Bond's twelfth adventure takes him to Japan, but this is not really a novel involving the usual gunplay & gambling. Fleming creates an excellent picture of a culture far removed from our own & we are introduced to some of his greatest characters. Tiger Tanaka, head of the Japanese Secret Service & Dikko Henderson are two of my favourites. Despite the story revolving considerably around death there is a surprising amount of humour for a Fleming novel. Having read the story quite a few times ...more
"I’ve found that one must try and teach people that there’s no top limit to disaster – that, so long as breath remains in your body, you’ve got to accept the miseries of life. They will often seem infinite, insupportable. They are part of the human condition."
- Ian Fleming, You Only Live Twice


Ian Fleming took James Bond off the interstate of his more traditional espionage novels with the last couple books. You Only Live Twice is Fleming putting James back into the "game". The settting for most o
aPriL does feral sometimes
Ian Fleming often teased readers in earlier James Bond novels by including scenes where James Bond fantasizes what his life would be like if he retired from the Secret Service. Bond often discusses quitting with his friends in almost every book in the series, too. The ending of ‘You Only Live Twice’, number twelve in the series, leaves readers wondering if Bond has really come to the end of his career! The tone of this book is elegiac, and the story seems more of a funeral plot (pun intended) fo ...more
In 1964, Ian Fleming wrote Bond #12, You Only Live Twice. Three years later, someone must have decided they hated the book and made a movie about something completely different. Essentially. The two certainly do not have a lot in common.

For good measure, the original trailer.

One word about the movie that makes it more awesome than the book: The screenplay was written by my beloved Roald Dahl. The truly Dahl-esque moment (which is shown in the above trailer) is when a helicopter carries a car ful
Jun 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Written during the winter of 1963, at Ian Fleming's Goldeneye retreat in Oracabessa, on the north shore of Jamaica, "You Only Live Twice" was the author's 11th James Bond novel, not counting the short story collection "For Your Eyes Only." Ultimately released in March '64, just five months before the author's untimely demise, it was the last Bond novel to be completed. (The posthumous 007 novel "The Man With the Golden Gun" is an essentially unfinished first draft, lacking the rich detail that F ...more
Apr 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
I thought there was definitely an element of "I am so sick of writing these books" in this one. For example, "You want me to begin with Bond winning some sort of gambling game like in most of the other books? Fine! I'll narrate a high-stakes round of ROCK PAPER SCISSORS! Fuck you!" and "You want a death trap? Okay, how about having Bond's testicles dangle over a LIVE ACTIVE VOLCANIC GEYSER! Go to hell!" and "You want the scene where Bond instantly masters some skill that other people take years ...more
David Sarkies
Apr 18, 2022 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure
Bond in Japan
16 Apr 2022 - Wodonga

If you are expecting a novel about some super villain stealing space ships then you are going to be sorely disappointed. This is one of those James Bond novels that has absolutely nothing to do with the movie, or I should probably say that the movie has nothing to do with the novel. No, rather most of the novel seems to deal with Japanese culture, and it is only in the last quarter of the novel that Bond confronts his nemesis Ernst Stavrov Blofeld.

The story ba
Sep 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-mystery
I've read a few James Bond books...not a lot, just a few. Usually I only pick them up when working on a reading challenge. They seem to land between 3 and 4 stars for me.

In this book, I liked the last half infinitely better than the first half. It started off super slow, it was close to the halfway point before the story actually started...then at the ending, it felt like it needed more enlightenment.

I liked the humor in this one too. That's when I see the movie version of James Bond in these b
Jul 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
"You Only Live Twice"(or, as it should be better known, the book in which Ian Fleming came close to the territory John Le Carre and Graham Greene), is perhaps the strangest of the James Bond novels that I have read. When I call it the strangest, I mean it as a compliment. It has none of the usual sleek swagger that we associate with Bond, which occasionally borders on smugness, and it has no wonderfully protracted scenes of playing cards with tough-headed villains, beautiful ladies, not even muc ...more
Steve Payne
Jun 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: thriller
James Bond travels to Japan to get information; but the man he meets agrees to give the information only if Bond will kill someone first. Which leads to a very big coincidence!

Fleming was clearly running out of steam by this time, this is the eleventh novel of twelve – and is possibly the weakest. There really is a heck of a lot of talk in this book; but the irony is, much of this (between Bond and his Tokyo aid, Tiger Tanaka) is the best part. Their verbal sparring, East versus West (in particu
Emperador Spock
Jun 13, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: bond-novels
The last of Fleming's books published in his lifetime, and what a dishonourable way to go! Shimata!

80% of the book have no action (not in the genital sense) whatsoever, and little, almost none of, spy or detective work. The book could have just as well been an essay on how Bond spent his Japanese holidays and entitled 'You Only Live Twice: Shagging Chicks & Getting Pissed': the whole jolly trip from Tokyo to Kuro is a dull sequence of sightseeing, whores and sake flasks, nothing more. Well, apar
Aug 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spy, britain
I seem to remember reading all or part of Ian Fleming's You Only Live Twice many years ago when it was abridged and serialized in Playboy magazine. I do not remember many of the long scenes with Tiger Tanaka, which either were not in the issue(s) I had, or which were mercifully left on the cutting room floor.

In this, the third of Fleming's SPECTRE novels, James Bond catches up with Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his infamous consort Irma Blunt at a Japanese castle and blows them to kingdom come. (As B
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Quentin Wallace
Dec 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Stars

I enjoyed this one mostly due to it's Japanese setting. Fleming did a great job with his research, as I'm sure some things he wrote about which are common knowledge now would surely have been more obscure facts back in the 1960s. I loved the idea of Blofeld's "Island of Death": an island where all the plants and trees are poisonous and all the creatures are either venomous or dangerous as well. The piranha filled lake was a nice touch but I'd like to have seen more of the snakes, spider
Randell Green
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fun story, probably more like a 3.5. The last five pages are incredibly weird and aimed at the same audience of Maxim magazine. 🇬🇧
Jun 19, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Howard Olsen
Jun 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is last fully realized Bond novel from Fleming (he died while revising "The Man With The Golden Gun"). It is also an exercise in Far East exotica as Bond travels to Japan for a mission. Like "Dr. No," the story builds slowly with the Bad Guy (Blofeld, again) appearing towards the very end. Most of the book is taken up with; first, an extended sequence where Bond and the head of the Japanese Secret Service - the inevitably inscrutable Tiger Tanaka - travel around Japan arguing over the merit ...more
David Nicol
This was the first 'Bond' book that I've read and in hindsight it probably wasn't the best choice to start with.

Having grown up on the Bond films I was aware that the books were quite different to gadget-centric films of the same name. However, I was quite disappointed that there was basically no action until the final fifth of the book and not once did he punch anyone in the face (I R DISAPPOINT).

It's obvious from the book that Ian Fleming had quite a good understanding of Japanese culture and
Jun 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This Bond novel is arguably the best in the Fleming series. Not only is it an excellent spy and revenge story, it's also a chilling account of the human condition in post-war Japan. The fact that Blofeld sets up base in a country that (at the time) had the highest suicide rate in the world is no simple super-villain plot device.

The Japanese have a strong sense of honor and shame and they lost the war at a terrible cost. As a result the suicide elements in the book are very emotional; all of thi
You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming is the 12th book in the James Bond series and follows the story where Ernst Stavro Blofeld has Bond's new wife (of one day) murdered. Bond has lost interest in his job, arrives late, has had some unsuccessful missions, drinks and smokes too much. M is concerned about his top agent and is considering making Bond retire. Bond's secretary, Mary Goodnight, doesn't know what to do. She despairs for Bond.

M decides to give Bond one last mission of great importance to
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Ian Lancaster Fleming was a British author, journalist and Second World War Navy Commander. He was a grandson of the Scottish financier Robert Fleming, who founded the Scottish American Investment Trust and the merchant bank Robert Fleming & Co.

Fleming is best remembered for creating the character of James Bond

Other books in the series

James Bond (Original Series) (1 - 10 of 14 books)
  • Casino Royale (James Bond, #1)
  • Live and Let Die (James Bond, #2)
  • Moonraker (James Bond, #3)
  • Diamonds Are Forever (James Bond, #4)
  • From Russia With Love (James Bond, #5)
  • Doctor No (James Bond, #6)
  • Goldfinger (James Bond, #7)
  • For Your Eyes Only (James Bond, #8)
  • Thunderball (James Bond, #9)
  • The Spy Who Loved Me (James Bond, #10)

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“You only live twice:
Once when you are born
And once when you look death in the face”
“I've found that one must try and teach people that there's no top limit to disaster-that, so long as breath remains in your body, you've got accept the miseries of life. They will often seem infinite, insupportable. They are part of the human condition.” 13 likes
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