‘Balls, James. You’ve been running through a bad patch. We all hit ‘em sometimes.’
(And by “bad patch” he means “severe depression”.)
‘M. just thought you’d be the best man for the job. You know he’s got an entirely misplaced opinion of your abilities.’
(Yes. Yes he has.)
Bond is understandably depressed after the events of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. After screwing up two assignments and generally losing the will to live, Bond is sent to Japan to try to winkle some spy secrets out of Tiger Tanaka, the head of Japanese intelligence. In exchange for these secrets, Bond is asked to cosplay as a deaf and dumb Japanese guy in a groan-worthy display of literary yellowface to infiltrate Doctor Shatterhand’s Castle of DEATH, which sounds cool but is really just an old castle with a garden full of fumaroles and poisonous plants and venomous insects that’s become a popular place for people to commit suicide.
Doctor Shatterhand is really Bond’s nemesis, Blofeld, and he has to be assassinated because he’s “collecting death” and this whole suicide thing is super embarrassing for the Japanese government, even though suicide is regarded culturally as a perfectly good way to restore your family’s honor, and this Castle of DEATH is saving the Transportation Dept. heaps of trouble by luring potential suicides away from train tracks all over the nation. Still, it’s unacceptable and this “Doctor” must die by a non-Japanese hand, because reasons.
So Bond, thirsty for revenge and totally prepared after a crash course in Japanese culture and a whole afternoon of watching other people train as ninjas, sets out to slay the dragon with the help of Kissy Suzuki, a former Hollywood actress who speaks English and might be slightly psychotic since she wants to keep Bond and love him and pet him and call him George. FOR-EV-ER. Or at least until he wanders off into Russia to find clues to his past after a traumatic brain injury leaves him with near-total amnesia.
(Actual footage of book’s plot.)
Seriously, though, the star of this book is Japanese culture, to which Fleming actually manages to provide some accurate insight (aside from some absurd assertions about sumo wrestlers, but I’m not convinced that wasn’t a case of Tiger Tanaka taking the piss). The rest is . . . well, I suppose it’s justification for my mental association of these books with old Dirk Pitt novels. All that was missing was a Clive Cussler cameo.