“You only live twice:
Once when you’re born
And once when you look death in the face.”
If you’ve only seen the movie version of You Only Live Twice you’re in for a very pleasant surprise. Ian Fleming’s original novel is strikingly different from the movie of the same name. The movie, written at least in part by Roald Dahl, uses very little of the book – just a few of the characters and a couple of the settings. And while the movie’s story structure is very familiar, (having been later recycled in The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker and Tomorrow Never Dies) this stands in sharp contrast to the seemingly one-off nature of the novel (and the radio drama).
At the novel’s start Bond is despondent and listless over the death of his wife (recently murdered by Ernst Stavro Blofeld). Seeing Bond unable to do his job, M promotes him and gives him a “last-chance opportunity to shape up.” Bond is re-numbered as 7777, and assigned an “impossible mission”: to convince the head of Japan’s secret intelligence service, Tiger Tanaka, to betray the CIA and provide access to their top secret Soviet communique decryption machine. Much of the middle of the novel then takes the form of a kind of homosocial courtship between Bond and Tanaka. Eventually, Tanaka agrees to give up the data, but only in exchange for Bond’s agreeing to assassinate an eccentric resident alien named Dr. Guntram Shatterhand. Shatterhand, it seems, is operating a politically embarrassing “Garden of Death” where too many Japanese are going to commit suicide. Aided by former Japanese movie star Kissy Suzuki, Bond accepts the assignment on his personal authority, and with help in the form of make-up and training, attempts to penetrate Shatterhand’s coastal castle. Throw in a marriage, a pregnancy, lots of ninjas and a temporary case of amnesia and you’ve got one loaded story!!
You can get a great sense of of the novel from the exceedingly faithful radio dramatization available over on RadioArchive.cc!
Michael Jayston makes a fine Bond and Clive Merrison’s performance as Tanaka is solid, if not authentically Japanese.
You Only Live Twice
Based on the novel by Ian Fleming; Adapted by Michael Bakewell; Performed by a full cast
1 MP3 – Approx. 90 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broacaster: BBC Radio 4
James Bond…..Michael Jayston
Trembling leaf…..Danielle Allen
And, the unabridged audiobook (as narrated by Simon Vance) is available over at Blackstone Audio.
You Only Live Twice
By Ian Fleming; Read by Simon Vance
6 CDs or 1 MP3-CD – Approx. 6.8 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
ISBN: 9781433261350 (cd), 9781433290398 (mp3-cd)
Bond, a shattered man after the death of his wife at the hands of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, has gone to pieces as an agent, endangering himself and his fellow operatives. M, unwilling to accept the loss of one of his best men, sends 007 to Japan for one last, near-impossible mission. But Japan proves to be Bond’s downfall, leading him to a mysterious residence known as the “Castle of Death,” where he encounters an old enemy revitalized. All the omens suggest that this is the end for the British agent and, for once, Bond himself seems unable to disagree…
Posted by Jesse Willis