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Orphan Masters Son Paperback – Jan 6 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Doubleday (Jan. 6 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857520563
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857520562
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 3.2 x 23.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 739 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,540,291 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
Let me start by saying I was so impressed with this novel that I am going to come across like Adam Johnsons' mum, publisher, editor, best friend, paid acquaintance or a combination of any of the above. I was actually lucky enough to get a copy and just read it. The blurb makes it sound like a sort of comedy set in North Korea, in actuality it is a staggering achievement as to what you can do when you truly love the subject as Johnson does.

It is in two parts, the first chronicles the life or rather endurance and suffering of Jun Do; he is the son of the Orphan Master, after his mother was taken away to entertain the big wigs in Pyongyang, they were left alone. All beautiful girls from the provinces are taken away like this. It is also shameful to be an orphan and they have their real names ignored and are replaced with the names of fallen martyrs. This way they will always carry the mark and shame of being an orphan. Jun Do's father pretends he too is an orphan and treats him more harshly than the others, it is an existence of grinding poverty ' made worse by the compulsory loud speakers that spout blatant propaganda all day and act as brain washing devices.

In turns he becomes a tunnel assassin in the Demilitarized Zone, a kidnapper and reluctant and not very good spy. He also ends up on a fishing boat where he gets the love of his life's image tattooed over his heart ' the 'best actress in the world' Sun Moon - not her real name, but chosen for her by The Dear Leader Kim Jong Il; or the fat tyrant who is famous for his song 'I so Ronery', as we know him in the Imperialist West.

Then Part Two deals with the Taekwando Champion of the World and husband to the best actress ' Commander Ga. He is famous for many things including ridding the army of homosexuals.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Firstly, the standard disclaimer. I received this book in a GoodReads drawing so it made its way to my door at no cost as part of the book's marketing. Even so, as always I will endeavor to give the book an honest airing.

I rated the Orphan Master at 5 stars but to be honest it's a rather weak five stars. The topic, the novel and varied life of a North Korean orphan and conscripted soldier, is automatically amusing before the second page is even turned. We get to see what life is at least theorized to be like in that backwards little Asian country. The depiction is keenly Orwellian and inspires great pity for a people so ruthlessly used by a tyrant for generations.

All that said though it does begin, after a while to inspire a bit of ennui. There's only so much to say and Johnson seems to say it again and again and again. At half way I was a ship happily adrift in the sea of this novel. By the last few pages I was just tired and looking for the shore. The ending, though dramatic and appropriate, failed to spur me to awe because of the length of time it took to get to it and the fact that it was fairly obvious after all the lead-up.

Well worth a read, perhaps spread out over a lazy week or so. Transitions between narrators can be abrupt in the last half of the book though so take special care to figure out exactly who it is suddenly using the first person before you go to far. Enjoy!
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Format: Kindle Edition
In another book, 'Nothing to Envy -Ordinary Lives in North Korea ' by Barbara Demick in the first chapter is a satellite view of N & S Korea at night. The bottom half has a smattering of lit up inhabited areas w Seoul largely evident as the capitol by the size of whiteness or lightness against blackness of night. Whereas, the upper N. Korea looks almost non existent, a couple of dots like two pple smoking or an insignificant flicker a plane against starless universe. So daunting is that image taken from space, it has stayed w me as the 'picture says it all'.

I realize this author was awarded the Pulitzer Prize be sure to read the short interview at the end w editor asking the questions. As this is a novel & not based on real characters, I know of the propaganda constantly being fed to the poor to ensure allegiance to "Dear Dictator, the father" before family members. The great famine is not exaggerated, (the worst imaginable, hundreds of thousands died, yet outside aid was rejected which oddly is absent, I believe, in this narrative)Imo, there were too many scenarios that were obviously created to personalize , since the author was not given access to interview the 'common pple' during his visit to N K. As expected, he was escorted & closely watched as he made his way to sites & places. He was allowed to request (within reason of a Communist country living in the dark day & night where pple were made to believe there were no better places & contained elements of deprived living, , working in terrible conditions however he went to an Orphanage which has a constant underscoring in the story. The rest of his information was through interviewing those who defected, though he d o es say few do.

In my opinion, there was one flaw in the conveying the reality of N.
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Format: Hardcover
This novel is about the adventures and misadventures of Pak Jun Do, a North Korean, who is raised in the `Long Tomorrows' orphanage his father is director of. Jun Do never knew his mother - we are told that she is a singer of great beauty who was shipped to Pyongyang. His name, like those of the other orphans, is given to him from the list of the 114 Grand Martyrs of the Revolution. He is, simultaneously, everyone and no-one. Jun Do even sounds like John Doe.

After the orphanage is devastated, Jun Do is sent to the military where first he undertakes training in zero-light combat in the tunnels under the demilitarized zone, and then on an undercover mission which involves kidnapping Japanese from the beaches. And then, Jun Do is sent to language school to learn English, which gets him assigned to a boat to transcribe radio intercepts. Once back on land, he is assigned to an intelligence team travelling to Texas where he meets a Senator and his wife.

`There's no way around it: to get a new life, you've got to trade in your old one.'

After returning from Texas, Jun Do ends up in a labour camp where he takes over the life and identity of a North Korean military hero, Commander Ga. In this half of the novel, the depiction of North Korea may exceed a reader's wildest imaginings. `The Dear Leader' Kim Jong-il, who died shortly before this book was published, is Commander Ga's rival for the affections of Commander Ga's wife, an actress named Sun Moon.

It's complicated, and convoluted and doesn't always make sense.
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