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You Only Live Twice is the eleventh novel (and twelfth book) in Ian Fleming’s James Bond series of stories. It was first published by Jonathan Cape in the United Kingdom on 26 March 1964 and sold out quickly. It was the last Fleming novel published in his lifetime. It is the concluding chapter in what is known as the “Blofeld Trilogy” after Thunderball and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
The story starts eight months after the murder of Tracy Bond, which occurred at the end of the previous novel, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. James Bond is drinking and gambling heavily and making mistakes on his assignments when, as a last resort, he is sent to Japan on a semi-diplomatic mission. Whilst there he is challenged by the head of the Japanese Secret Service to kill Dr. Guntram Shatterhand. Bond realizes that Shatterhand is Ernst Stavro Blofeld and sets out on a revenge mission to kill him and his wife, Irma Bunt.
The novel deals on a personal level with the change in Bond from a depressed man in mourning, to a man of action bent on revenge, to an amnesiac living as a Japanese fisherman. Through the mouths of his characters, Fleming also examines the decline of post-World War II British power and influence, notably in relation to the United States. The book was popular with the public, with pre-orders in the UK totalling 62,000; critics were more muted in their reactions, generally delivering mixed reviews of the novel.
The story was serialized in the Daily Express newspaper and Playboy magazine, and also adapted for comic strip format in the Daily Express. In 1967, it was released as the fifth entry in the Eon Productions James Bond film series, starring Sean Connery as Bond. The novel has also been adapted as a radio play and broadcast on the BBC.