You Only Live Twice

Author: Ian Fleming

Publisher: Vintage Books

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Ratings: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

James Bond is mourning his wife’s death; it is when he is summoned for one last assignment. He is asked to convince the head of the Japanese intelligence service, to provide with radio transmissions from the Soviet Union. Instead of providing the transmission, Tiger Tanaka, the head asks Bond to assassinate Dr. Guntram Shatterhand, a man who operates The Garden of Death, a well-known location where people go to commit suicide.

Bond undertakes training, learning the Japanese culture and etiquette. His appearance is changed, and he is given the name of Taro Todoroki. He then goes undercover as a Japanese coal miner to observe Dr. and The Garden of Death, only to discover that Shatterhand and his wife are the two people, names changed, responsible for his wife’s death – making the mission personal as well.

Sadly, Bond is held captive. The rest of the world believes Bond to be dead – his obituary ran in newspaper followed by the destruction of The Garden of Death.

NUTs and BOLTs

  • The projection of Japanese women are happy submissive slave/objects – is a little disturbing portion of the book.
  • It is not a novel involving the usual gunplay and gambling. The plot of The Garden of Death – the garden of deadly plants and creatures for Japanese people intending suicide does not turn out interesting.
  • The chemistry build between Bond and Kissy Suzuki is dull, probably an unnecessary plot of the story.
  • The pages of the novel wherein Bond is in learning of the culture are pretty enjoyable. It has light humor at places, plus the reader earns insights on the Japanese culture.

Kafka On The Shore

Author: Haruki Murakami

Publisher: Vintage Books

Genre: Speculative Fiction, Magical Realism

Ratings: ⭐️⭐️.5

Not that anybody’s life has more clear-cut meaning to it, whats really important for people, what really has dignity, is how they die. Compared to that, how you lived doesn’t amount to much. Still, how you live determines how you die.

The hero, a runaway boy calling himself Kafka Tamura, is only 15. Kafka is fleeing his father, a man whose shadowy malevolence takes the form of an *Oedipal prophecy: Kafka, he insist, will kill his father and sleep with his mother and sister, both of whom banished when the boy was 4.

Alternatively, on another side is the story of Satoru Nakata. At 9, near the end of the World War 2, Nakata was part of a group of schoolchildren who, while on a school trip in the woods, lost consciousness. When he came to, weeks later, Nakata had lost all his memories, his ability to red and write, and most of his intelligence. On the upside, he acquired the ability to talk to cats.

Later in the novel, Kafka finds refuge in a job at a small private library in a seaside town, while Nakata attracts the attention of a sinister cat catcher who wears leather boots, a red tailcoat and a tall hat, Mr. Johnnie Walker.

Along with Kafka and Nakata, Hoshino, Oshima and Miss Seiki’s characters play an equal role. It’s pretty open-ended, with some unanswered questions. Even at the end of the book, one can’t know exactly how Nakata is related Miss Seiki, what’s the deal with Kafka’s father, and the whole curse.

The book’s title is the name of the song, ‘Kafka On The Shore’ that Miss Saeki wrote when she was young in love.

The darkness in the outside world has vanished but the darkness in our hearts remains, virtuallu unchanged. What we label the ego and consciousness is, for the most part, sunk in darkness. And that estrangement sometimes creates a deep contradiction or confusion within us.

NUTs and BOLTs

  • The book is full of philosophical metaphors and stuffed with the dream like planes which are hard to comprehend.
  • Characters are well drawn, each one unique in their uniqueness. They’re not transparent and definitely not predictable.
  • Reader must be patient to see where events take you. Just when you think you have it figured out, Mr. Murakami adds another twist to the plot or to the metaphor in play.
  • Many points and plots sound eccentric.
  • The reader doesn’t get a ‘and the live happily after’ end, but instead sees how these characters have grown and can imagine what they’ll do next.

Sometimes fate is like a small standstorm that keeps changing direction.

Things in the past are like a plate that’s shaterred to pieces. You can never put it back as it was, right?

* Oedipus Complex – the complex of emotions aroused in a young child, typically around the age of four, by an unconscious sexual desire for the parent of the opposite sex and wish to exclude the parent of the same sex.