Orphan Masters Son Paperback – Jan 6 2012
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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!
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
An awesome read holding you captive from the beginning page. Sending you tumbling into confusion as the time and narrative changes. Could not put it down. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Mealoaf
Half way through this difficult read and will not continue. Have already grasped the essential message that North Korea is dehumanizing .. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Avid reader
The anti- North Korean bias made characterization irrelevant - but an unusual narrative structure - Pulitzer worthy - not sure.Published 14 months ago by Victor Garaway
The book was confusing and unclear in the characterization of the main characters. I kept losing the main gist of the story. It was confusing at times.Published 21 months ago by P D Stanley Beck
This is a very strange book. I am not sure how representative it is of North Korea. It definitely left me wondering.Published 22 months ago by Fred Paranchych
This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. The author did a lot of research on life in North Korea and it comes across in the writing to completely immerse you in the... Read morePublished on Dec 28 2013 by LindsayHawes
Not having many preconceived ideas about a story which takes place in North Korea, I was soon gripped by this unique, complex tale. Read morePublished on Oct. 5 2013 by SV