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Cloud of Sparrows Audio CD – Abridged, Audiobook

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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Random House Audio; Abridged edition (Oct. 1 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 073668820X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0736688208
  • ASIN: 0553713906
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.4 x 12.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,623,642 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

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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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bob Martin on June 24 2004
Format: Hardcover
The thing I liked about Shogun and Clavell's other works was the detailed research effort that went into each novel. I'm afraid Matsuoka doesn't deliver on the same level. He basically co-opts Clavell's Gai-Jin plot and then tries to overlay a real 17th Century Japanese historical event, the pivotal Battle of Sekigihara, onto the late Tokugawa landscape. I'm afraid it doesn't work for me or anyone else who knows history, since the samurai were almost gone by the time of the late Tokugawa shogunate. The same can be said for Stark, the American gunfighter who comes to Japan to hunt down a ruthless American desperado, hiding out as a buddhist monk no less! Ha! Ha! Excuse me, but I just have to laugh at this improbable nonsense. Add to that, Lord Genji's strange psychic abilities and you've got the makings of a good soap opera, or anime movie, but not an historical action adventure. The other reviewers said it best: James Clavell remains the undisputed master of this genre.
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Format: Hardcover
This novel, a work of historical fiction with elements of fantasy, opens in Edo in 1861 as two centuries of Japanese isolation is forcibly ended by outsiders from the West. As foreign ships threaten to destroy the Shogun's castle in Edo, a small group of American missionaries arrives. The missionaries are the Reverend Zephaniah Cromwell, his fiancée Emily Gibson, and Matthew Stark. Unsurprisingly, each has secrets and each has a reason for wanting to be in Japan which is not directly related to missionary work.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
I am not disapointed in this book and I am only 30 pages away from finishing it. To those who liked the last Samurai starring Tom Cruise, read this as I find the two to be companion pieces to one another.
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.
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By A Customer on June 16 2004
Format: Hardcover
Overall, the book was very entertaining. I just want to comment on some of the other reviews that consider the book to be too bloody or that some of the Samurai in the book were murderous pyschopaths. The problem, I believe, is not uderstanding Japanese culture, or more specifically, the way of the Samurai.
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.
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