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Wilhelmina H. (New Port Richey, FL)
One Day, Dual Paths
This story revolves around activities in a single day. It was interesting, kept my attention and the characters are, for the most part, well-developed. The main characters all have multiple paths they follow and choose show to each other and their country is also split in two politically. A well done, tightly focused effort that balances political and moral issues while providing insight into what it might mean to be a forgotten spy suddenly remembered and the power of political duty to country over personal choice.
Carole A. (Denver, CO)
Your Republic is Calling You - or is it?
If a numerical choice I would have given this a 3.5. Young Ha-Min offers an interesting view into the worlds of North and South Korea as well as that of "spyland" why there was nothing outstanding in the thriller/spy/mystery arenas. The actual usefulness of these "spies" was apparent and so left me rather disappointed. The author has a knack for beautiful phrasing and perhaps this type of novel is not his strong suit. It is possible that something was lost in translation. The story revolves around the lives of several people who seem to be inter locked and yet worlds apart. There were times I felt some of the plots were difficult to track. I will recommend the novel to my book clubs and fellow bookies for some beautiful phrasing, interesting insights into North and South Korea and the world of spying. - but not as a fabulous MUST to read.
Lisa E. (Cincinnati, OH)
This Book Grew on Me
As I began this book, I found it difficult to penetrate. We are introduced to characters and learn about them without understanding who they are or why they are important. The third-person-omniscient point-of-view also makes it difficult to discern upon whom we should be focusing. But as the book progressed, I discovered that it was about something that matters deeply to anyone my age (43) - the choices we make in life and how we reflect upon those choices in middle age. The spy story, the story of a man who has lived in South Korea since college as a spy for North Korea, is interesting but somewhat difficult to follow - the true value lies in the reflections of this man, his wife, and his former lover upon their lives.
Dorothy M. (Owatonna, MN)
Your Republic Is Calling
Timely. While reading one day in the life of an embedded North Korean spy in South Korea, the reader not only learns about the society and its people but also how emotional it would be when the spy is called back. Fantastic information on how a spy might be trained and set up in the new country. It has been so long since Ki-yong has heard from Liaison Office 130 he questions if this is a valid message. Most of the day he frantically searches who might have sent it. We meet his family and friends, learning about them, as the time flies. Should he tell everyone? Should he go back up North? Some of the minor characters might have been excluded because for me it took a while to keep them all in order.
Rob K. (Kalaheo, HI)
Secondary Storylines Weaken Plot
I really enjoyed the novel and wondered how closely his training relates to the spies we have just heard about in the media.
The book excels when the focus is on the protagonist, Ki-yong. It's worth reading just to see what happens to this North Korean spy living in Seoul who is ordered home in 24 hours. There's enough intrigue and conflict with his character for a great novel. The description and contrast between both North and South Korea was fascinating. I found myself losing interest in the novel, however, when the story detours and tries to develop the characters of Ki-yong's wife and daughter. We needed to know about them but not to the extent the author believes. I found myself skimming a lot until the action returned to Ki-yong. With some additional editing I think this novel has a chance to be really, really good.
Marganna K. (Edmonds, WA)
By Page 12...
I knew this was not going to be a book I'd enjoy and I was so correct. Page 12: "The frightened horses dwarf the drivers in their cars, who instinctively shrink away when the horses leap by, their large penises jiggling at eye level." Frightened horses do not leap with penises jiggling -- my guess is this writer has never seen a horse at all. And as far as spies go, I think he should go back to writer's school. The book is filled with nonsense and filler that adds nothing to the story like the above sentence.
Anat S. (Sharon, MA)
Spy games of North and South Korea
I did not care for the characters and only stayed with the book in hopes I'd learn something about North and/or South Korea - very interesting countries in a very interesting time. The main character, Ki-yong, could have been developed and this might have provided some depth to the story. Yes, the novel is about a day in the life of a spy but his daughter's and wife's sexual romps, work days, school chums, etc. do not add anything to this story. The book does not know if it's about spies or soft porn - both of which failed in my estimation.
I would never read another book by this author or recommend this book to anyone. There were moments when I thought something would be developed and the history of Ki-yong's early life did hold some promise. But nothing came of this spark - it died before the chapter was complete and back to the wife and her young lover and his friends. Spare me, please.
The book is an account of 48 hours from the time the protagonist, a spy from North Korea who has lived in South Korea for the past 20 years, gets a message recalling him to the North.
Jerry P. (Santa Rosa, CA)
Your Empire is Calling You
It provides an interesting view into the life and culture of both North and South Korea which are playing in a complex and deadly spy game.
The book is written in very choppy, simple sentences and reads almost like a play script. The characters are very shallow and very lonely - no true bonds between people, not even close family members. They survive - performing every day chores, working and having sex, but each one is alone. For a westerner, the names seem too similar and characters get confused easily. Overall, the topic is of interest but the book itself is mediocre.
I liked this book. The plot-line, surprising ending and the in-depth portrayal of the main characters made it a worthwhile read. The author focused on the anxieties each member of a family was experiencing: the husband, his complacent lifestyle for the past ten years was abruptly shattered by an urgent email from his former country; the wife, who was undergoing an intense mid-life crisis filled with regrets of her past choices; and the daughter, who is struggling with teenage angst. As often happens, painful truth hastens the dissolution of an empty marriage.
As I was reading the book, I realized how little I knew about North and South Korea and how different the societies were, especially since they are neighbors.
I found my enthusiasm waned during the middle of the book. Of course, I was re-energized at the end. Some Korean words were not translated which was annoying.