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Suri F. (Durham, NC)
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.
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.
Georganne F. (Tampa, FL)
A Towering Achievement?
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.
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.
Bizarre but Captivating
I was completely engrossed in the story from the opening pages and remained captivated until the end. Very descriptive passages of life in a country where everyone lives in fear, there is no such thing as truth and survival means finding a place deep within yourself to escape what is really happening around you. Torture, murder, starvation, lies, propaganda and disappearances are accepted as normal and for the most part ignored because to call attention to any of those things or question them might mean you disappear as well. The main character led a completely bizarre life - from orphan to impostor - with many adventures in between. The other character that resonated was the prison camp photographer and what becomes of her photographs. There are a few 'over the top' areas, but they aren't too much of a distraction. I read the final paragraph several times. Highly recommend.
Eileen E. (Asheville, NC)
The Stepford Wives revisited
North Korea--a country shrouded in mystery.
William E. (Honolulu, HI)
Life in the Greatest Nation in the World
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.
....or so Dear Leader proclaims. The book describes grim life in North Korea. That as a backdrop, the story of Jun Do is a picaresque fable of identity and life shifting. I found the juxtaposition of the grim reality of life and the theatrical lives a bit jarring. The book is certainly a worthwhile read though.
Jill S. (Chicago, IL)
Vividly original and imaginative
Part adventure thriller, part real-life dystopia documentary, part imaginative feat, Adam Johnson searingly paints a portrait of a culture where the individual is erased and the collective is all that matters. Filled with twists and turns and exposure of the dark realities of life in North Korea (kidnapping of innocents, repression and propaganda), this is truly an imaginative feat. Fans of writers like David Mitchell and Denis Johnson have another treat in store!