Cloud of Sparrows Audio CD – Abridged, Audiobook
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Following in the substantial footsteps of filmmaker Akiro Kurosawa and Shogun author James Clavell is Takashi Matsuoka, whose action-packed debut novel, Cloud of Sparrows, unfolds as the age of the samurai warrior starts to wane. The year is 1861, and Lord Genji of Akaoka, last in line of the Okamichi clan, welcomes missionaries Emily, Matthew, and Zephaniah to Japan. Cut off from the West for more than 2,000 years, Japan is as completely unprepared for these outsiders as the missionaries are for geishas and honor killings. Genji, his geisha love Heiko, and the missionaries suddenly find themselves in the middle of several nefarious plots to overthrow the Okamichi leader from as far away as the shogun's palace and as close as Genji's own henchmen. Genji and his visitors journey together across treacherous terrain to seek refuge at the faraway Cloud of Sparrows palace. Although it's a rip-roaring yarn full of ambushes, swordfights, cross-cultural friction, love, and prophetic visions, the book does read a bit like a screenplay, cutting quickly from one scene to another. But the frequent shifts in the story's tempo succeed in making the novel all the more vivid, allowing simultaneous action and contemplation to deepen the story and its inhabitants. --Emily Russin --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Matsuoka's ambitious first novel is an epic saga of clashing personalities and ideologies in the tradition of Shogun, yet it distinguishes itself from its wide-eyed predecessor with a grimmer perspective on Japan's military culture. Set in Edo in 1861, the book chronicles the arrival of a group of American missionaries (two men and a woman, each hiding secrets) into a land bristling with feudal clans nursing ancient grudges and a central shogunate trying to maintain control in the face of corrosive Western influences (like Christianity). The young Lord Genji, a modern heir to the embittered Okumichi clan and its rulers' gift of prophetic vision, receives the missionaries as his guests. Their visit coincides with an effort by the Shogun's secret-police chief to destroy Genji, which leads to the accidental killing of one of the missionaries. In response, Genji, his mad uncle Shigeru (tortured with visions of "swarms of metallic insects," which presage the devastation of WWII), and Genji's lover, the devastatingly beautiful geisha Heiko, join forces with innocent American missionary Emily Gibson and Matt Stark, also an American, who is hiding under the mission's aegis while he hunts down a man who wronged him long ago, to stave off the imperial assassins and restore the honor of the clan. The novel boasts plenty of Edo-era pomp and pageantry, as well as some nicely convoluted court intrigue and lightly handled romance. But the author's central message appears to be a rebuke of the narrow-mindedness of the isolationist feudal tradition in Japan and its bloody track record: "It is our duty to ensure that all looting, murdering, and enslaving in Japan is done by us alone. Otherwise, how can we call ourselves Great Lords?"
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The missionaries are received as guests by Lord Genji, the heir to the Okumichi clan, and Zephaniah Cromwell is fatally wounded in an attempt to destroy Genji. Lord Genji, like one member of each generation in his family, is gifted with prophetic visions and he has foreseen that his life will be saved by an outsider. When Lord Genji is forced to flee from Edo to his ancestral home: the castle known as Cloud of Sparrows, he takes with him the missionaries Emily Gibson and Matthew Stark, together with his lover Lady Heiko, and his uncle, the legendary swordsman Lord Shigeru.
Their adventures involve some bloodthirsty battles, some Zen-like wisdom, and some elements both of cultural difference and prejudice. For some characters, their adventures lead to increased self-knowledge and increasingly, tolerance.
`Courage is knowing fear and overcoming it.'
I really enjoyed the portrayals of Lord Genji and Lady Heiko, as well as many of the minor characters. The turmoil of this period in history is clearly shown: the end of isolation from the West had its own impact on traditional Japanese society.Read more ›
What amazes me are the ones who didn't enjoy it. Some of them just expected the wrong thing, while others just do not get it. One reviewer claimed a samurai was honorable and would punish an entire village in blood for failure, or if you will dishonor. Well, think again. In the earliest years of the Tokugowa Shogunate over 50 Japanese-christians were exicuted in one day for following an outsider religion. And it wasn't just men that were exicuted or the adults. If a samurai's orders are to kill, the samurai will kill. Loyality is but a light word to describe the samurai and his relation to the lord being served. Devotion is a better word than loyalty I believe. Samurai epics have a tragic feel for a reason.
And as far as Westerners visiting Japan that was nothing really new. Europeans were visiting long long before the time this novel takes place, hence the exicutions mentioned and the 200 years of closed borders. As it is written anyway in history books I have read.
In short Western version of honor and Ancient Japan's version of honor are at least in part two different things. I do not presume to understand it all myself, that would be ignorant on my part.
Back to the novel itself. It is better than what I expected. I did expect something that would be action packed from page to page. There are action scenes and well handled ones. I feel the author did the right thing not focusing on action through out the entire book. Leaving more room for character discussion. It isn't unlike watching Seven Samurai, Zato-Ichi or Yojimbo. There is alot of Dialogue but good dialogue.Read more ›
Now I don't claim to be an expert on Bushido or anything, but Samurai warriors were expert fighters that lived by a very demanding code of honor. It takes a fairly intense person to cut open their own belly. So if one were to insult such a person or to call into question a Samurai's honor, then the sword would soon be swinging. Whether or not one admires these traits is, of course, subjective. The point is that the book, in my opinion, didn't contain any gratuitous violence. That's just the way it was.
As far as the historical inaccuracies, I'm sure there are some. I know the type of handgun the gunfighter used didn't use self-contained metalic cartridges. And even if it did, the dude would have needed primers to reload ammunition which would not have been available in 19th century Japan. But I didn't see many serious errors with the Japanese history. There was a lot of turmoil just prior to the Meiji restoration, and it was very bloody.
Take the book for what it is. A story of fiction and fantasy that is action packed, funny, romantic and to a fair degree educational.
Most recent customer reviews
As a huge fan of Clavell's asian saga, I've been on the lookout for something else to enjoy in that genre. Read morePublished on Nov. 18 2005 by Absinth
To the "eta" out there who do not understand the mind of samurai, prepare yourself for a misunderstood and violent read. Read morePublished on June 24 2004 by David DiCredico
I read this book after Gai-Jin by James Clavell. It appears to be a rip-off of that novel. Plus the writing is worse, the plot is asinine, and it's way too gory for most people's... Read morePublished on June 21 2004 by Bob Sloan
In my opinion, the book is not quite as bad nor as good as some readers are saying. I'd say Matsuoka has the potential to become a decent midlist writer. Read morePublished on June 17 2004 by Jim Collins
I forced myself to read it, and I don't think the book's that good. Here are some of the problems: prose is difficult to read, not straightforward; too many Japanese and western... Read morePublished on June 17 2004 by Ron Nishikawa
I was deeply repelled by this work. On the surface, it appeared to be a Clavell clone. However, once I got past the first thirty pages, I realized that it was written by a sadistic... Read morePublished on June 10 2004 by Dean
This is easily one of my avorite books. Matsuoka-sama has created a true masterpices with this book. Read morePublished on June 5 2004 by M. Pedersen
I enjoyed Shogun and Gai-Jin by Clavell, so I thought I'd give "Cloud of Sparrows" a try. I have never been so disappointed in a novel in my life. Read morePublished on May 29 2004 by Kelly Reynolds
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