Advance reader reviews of The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson.

The Orphan Master's Son

A Novel

By Adam Johnson

The Orphan Master's Son
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • Published in USA  Jan 2012,
    464 pages.

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There are currently 32 member reviews
for The Orphan Master's Son
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  • Joan B. (Ellicott City, MD)


    The Orphan Master's Son
    This book leaves me with conflicted feelings about reviewing it. I was glad to finish, but sorry it was over. Part One was fascinating and a fast read. To finish Part Two was more difficult, but absorbing. I continued to reread passages so I could understand the time frame. The daily loudspeaker announcements in every home emphasized one of the brainwashing mechanisms of a despotic government. It is interesting to realize how people accept the "truth" of the media. The way a Korean "John Doe" managed to maintain his identity was truly spellbinding. I always realized the inference of corruption and cruelty in North Korea, but never knew the truth of the matter. This book depicts the possibility of that truth.
  • Suri F. (Durham, NC)


    Detailed grimness
    How amazed I was to note the detail with which life in Korea was depicted in this novel! I was drawn to the book because we know so little about that unhappy place, but stayed with it because of Johnson's keen sensibilities. Whether or not life there is as he depicts it, he certainly presents a fully realized picture of life under tyranny.
  • Amber B. (East Sparta, OH)


    Well-written, engaging, but very heavy
    To be honest, I'm still processing this book. It was amazingly well-written and engaging, but terrifying because of the unfathomable, hopeless conditions of the daily life that North Koreans face. It's a story that will make you consider the human will to survive, and what makes life worth living. It will compel you to ask how such a cruel regime - treating its own people so mercilessly - could possibly come into existence. The "Conversation between Adam Johnson and Richard Powers" at the end of the book is a must read to give readers some context. I want to read more by Adam Johnson!
  • Lori (Wayland, MA)


    Orphan Master's Son
    The intense book was compelling to read, but couldn’t have been more disturbing. If only a fraction of what was described was true, North Korea must be a nightmarish place for its inhabitants. I found some of the 2nd half of the book difficult to follow because of changes in perspective and events being out of sequence. I was glad the author managed to include some humor/satire with the horrifying story, and I am glad to learn something about North Korea.
  • Steve B. (Spring, TX)


    Somber Tale of a Vile Country
    Before reading this novel, I knew North Korea was a country with a demonic leader. What I learned was that the citizens deserve our sympathy. Every vile aspect of life in the former Soviet Union of which I have heard, has apparently been replicated and enhanced in North Korea.
    This is a very informative and well written story. The only reason that I did not give it 5 stars is because the message is so sad and depressing. The image of the plight of the people will stay with me for a long time.
  • Georganne F. (Tampa, FL)


    A Towering Achievement?
    This is a strong, beautifully written absolutely mesmerizing book. If, like me, you know next to nothing about North Korea you will be shocked, stunned and saddened, but you will also be unable to look away from this raw portrayal of life there. A portrayal not from the past, as you might expect from a novel but as North Korea is now, seemingly, a modern day dystopia. The extensive research the author did to write this book is apparent in every paragraph. He includes many actual events and weaves them in seamlessly with his fictional characters. The characters themselves are solid, believable and you find yourself sympathizing with, for the most part, both the good guys and the bad, with one exception: the character of North Korea’s ‘Dear Leader’. A great read, I highly recommend it. However, it’s not for the faint of heart. This is a book that will stay with me a long time, the last one that did that was Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’. The publisher of the ‘Orphan Master’s Son’ promote it as “a towering achievement”, I have to agree.
  • Eileen E. (Asheville, NC)


    The Stepford Wives revisited
    North Korea--a country shrouded in mystery.
    The author opens the gates and I was shocked, sometimes horrified by what was behind them.
    Jun Do is the orphan masters son, and it is through his eyes that we see this repressive paranoid country unfold. Kim Jong II, the only person that can truly call himself an individual has created a world of robots who wear the same exact outfits and get to listen to morning propaganda on the apartment loudspeakers every day. The is so much in this book to experience I am only touching the tip of the iceberg.
    I am so grateful to be living in a free country. An hour or two with this book and I know you will agree wholeheartedly.
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