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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb
Though there have been numerous negative comments surrounding this book, I thought I would tackle it anyway. And I have to say it was well worth it.
I will admit that at times, Clavell has characters 'space out' when they are in the middle of a conversation. At times it is difficult to keep up with the transitions he goes through.
But I still had to give it 5...
Published on Feb. 2 2004 by Amazon Customer

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Gai-jin - An unworthy end to a great career.
I was captivated by Shogun, and it sparked what has come to be a life-long fascination and study of Japan. As I learned, I recognized that Clavell's characterization of Japanese culture and this particular period in Japanese history was not entirely accurate. But he was telling a story for Western audiences, and it was an historical novel, not a history. Had he not...
Published on Sept. 10 1997


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, Feb. 2 2004
By 
Amazon Customer "KJV Only" (Monticello, GA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Gai-Jin (Mass Market Paperback)
Though there have been numerous negative comments surrounding this book, I thought I would tackle it anyway. And I have to say it was well worth it.
I will admit that at times, Clavell has characters 'space out' when they are in the middle of a conversation. At times it is difficult to keep up with the transitions he goes through.
But I still had to give it 5 stars because I loved every minute of this book. The characters are superb and if you have read shogun and tai-pan then you feel like you are still in the same book only later in life.
Read it, it will not disappoint you...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Gai-jin - An unworthy end to a great career., Sept. 10 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Gai-Jin (Mass Market Paperback)
I was captivated by Shogun, and it sparked what has come to be a life-long fascination and study of Japan. As I learned, I recognized that Clavell's characterization of Japanese culture and this particular period in Japanese history was not entirely accurate. But he was telling a story for Western audiences, and it was an historical novel, not a history. Had he not taken artistic license, perhaps I would not have been so entranced.

The opening of Japan is one of the country's most fascinating periods, when centuries of tradition were turned topsy-turvy and the way of life was wrenched into the Modern Age almost overnight. I eagerly awaited Gai-Jin and Clavell's interpretation.

Perhaps he was old and forgetful, perhaps he was too sick, or maybe he was so important a writer that no one dared tell him, "Jim, you need to do more research before you publish this -- your Japanese characters are using Chinese(? - anyway, not Japanese) words, and phonemes that aren't even in the Japanese language. You've given men's names to women, and bonze (Buddhist priest) names to young men who haven't retired to the priesthood, and your leading Japanese character only has half a name." (Yoshi is a sometimes a modern nickname, but for a "full" given name like Yoshinobu, Yoshitada or Yoshi-e. No samurai or noble would have ever used a half-name in a formal introduction.) As I read further, I found that the mistakes weren't just in the details, but even in the fundamental characterizations of the factions and forces that were struggling within Japan about what to do with the foreigners on their shores.

Historical fiction has constraints that other forms of fiction do not, and writers who choose the genre have a responsibility to their readers to provide a well-researched framework in which to cast their story. To the best of my knowledge, Clavell did this in the other books of his Asian saga, but when it came to Gai-Jin, he apparently couldn't be bothered. I felt cheated, and did something I have never done before: halfway through, I threw the hardcover book in the garbage.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Clavell was the best dest Gai-Jin, Jan. 24 2004
This review is from: Gai-Jin (Mass Market Paperback)
First and foremost James Clavell was one of the most talented writers ever. Especially if you like fiction about Asia. Not only did he tell great stories but his books were filled with so much good history and culture about places like China and Japan. Though I was never a fan of "King Rat" books like Shogun, Tai-Pan, and Noble House were some of the best I ever read. They were books you never wanted to end.
Gai-Jin starts off that way as well. The first 400 or 500 pages of Gai-Jin are classic Clavell. Combining many of the stories and characters from Shogun, Tai Pan, and Noble House. The books first 500 pages are terrific. Clavell using some familiar faces from his other books sets the stage for the Meiji Restoration in Japan.
The book in typical Clavell fashion talks about the history of Japan after the arrival of Commodore Perry in 1853 as well as of China while it was divided up into spheres of influence.
Gai-Jin is so good at setting the stage for Meiji with its characters discussing Japan's options of either learning for the Gai-Jin or attempting a futile resistance and facing humilation like China suffered under the Opium Wars.
Unfortunately Clavell died shortly after finishing this book. And unfortunately the affects of his illness affect the second half of the book. The book just loses focus 1/2 way through. My gut feeling is that Clavell's illness just caught up to him. Because the book just goes downhill and nowhere which is not typical of Clavell.
Clavell will never be replaced. Other fictional books about Asia do not even compare. Cloud of Sparrows, The Laura Joh Rowland Books, are ok but not in Clavell's league. The first half of Gai-Jin reminds us how good he was. Unfortunately, he will never be replaced.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and addictive, but unsatisfying in the end., Dec 8 2003
By 
trashcanman (Hanford, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Gai-Jin (Mass Market Paperback)
Just finished this book yesterday.I was positively hooked on it once I opened it. A friend recommended this one to me since I'm a big admirer of Japanese culture. This book has so many complicated stories going on it can be rough to keep up with them all at once, especially when they all weave together, but you still care for each of the characters. The story allows you to see all sides of every conflict, there is no black or white, it's all grey. You root for almost every character, even though they are all conflicting with each other. For example, the Shogunate rule the country with military might while the revolutionary shishi samurai, driven to poverty by the shogunate's excesses, are organising a coup to restore power to the emperor. The man passed over as shogun, Lord Yoshi, is strong and admirable and beset by enemies on all sides; a target of shishi assassinations and power grabs from within his own shogunate. Meanwhile, he must deal with the gai-jin (foreigners) who have been allowed to settle in Yokohama and are hated by shishi and shogunate alike. But the British navy threatens to crush Yedo (Tokyo) and take Japan by force if not allowed to conduct their trade. As the Japanese have no guns or cannons, they must comply...for now. Hiraga (who uses several names over the course of the book to hide his identity) is a shishi who wishes to exterminate all gai-jin and the shogunate as well. Sounds like an evil character, but you come to understand his point of view and even root for the guy as he crawls through the snakes' nest that is the politics of 19th century Japan. Like I said, a lot of grey area, when the shishi attempt to assassinate Yoshi you don't know who to root for. That kind of stuff makes this book so engaging. The Gai-jin themselves are the focal point of much of the book with Dirk Struan's son, Malcolm, falling in love with a beautiful frenchwoman against his mother's wishes and that conflict threatens to dominate the entire book. Dozens of characters and sub-plots to keep track of, I couldn't wait to see how this all ended. Sadly, the result is not pretty. A truly shocking event happens which throws a wrench into the last part of the book and taints the rest of the story with melancholy as the brilliant political machinations, schemes, and conflicts that made the book so exciting in the first place practically vanish unfulfilled as the aftermath of the tragedy takes over. Worst ending ever. Or should I say worst lack of an ending ever? The epilogue is pointless and solves nothing. So much is unnecessarily built up at the end and then just left there to drive you insane long after the pages have ended. Well there it is; read it and love it, but just don't expect anything to be resolved. Just be happy that life goes on for these characters, even if you don't get to read about it.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Sweet Fancy Moses!, Sept. 3 2003
By 
"jalamdhara" (Fair Oaks, ca United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Gai-Jin (Mass Market Paperback)
The thought that kept churning through my head was, "Has Clavell lost his touch/mind? Was this written by some ghost writer pretending to be Clavell". I'm the chronological reader of Clavell's book, meaning I'm reading it according to the date it is placed in his historical saga.
Obviously, that means King Rat will be my next novel in that Saga.
Sho-Gun was a damn masterpiece, and Tai-Pan. . while not quite the masterpiece that Sho-Gun was. . Tai-Pan actually caused me to shed a tear or two at the very end when Dirk and May May died, whereas I didn't even shed a tear for Sho-Gun however I was riveted at the edge of my seat for both of those novels!
I can't express how frigging disappointed I was in Gai-Jin novel. It's approximately 1234 pages long of absolute DRIVEL. The characters never quite got the treatement that they were due. I guess it's just a misfortune case where you have 50 characters vying for attention, while the pseudo-star players kept on pulling prima-donna rules, they were simply A-list characters written by C-list novelist. Hell, I even lost track of which courtesan belonged to whom. I even thought that Andre's new courtesan was the same courtesan that Tyrer was [working with] at the same time under different names, like the stunt that Hirgana/Otami/Nakama pulled (at least I could keep up) (of course, briefly. . thank GOD for the "character description" at the end of the novel. .kept me on track.)
Clavell tended to use last name and first time, but mostly never together. So sometimes I got confused about who Phillip and Tyrer were (hint: they're the same person). There apparently was two different Chens. I'm not even going to go to that Aho-Soy-whatever chinese chicks ,hat share nearly similar names that I kept on messing 'em up that, apparently they love being cursed at like a bunch of machoist servants.
The book was awfully scripted together and I refuse to believe that Clavell wrote this book. This is totally beneath him. I can see where he might have had a touch or two, especially in the outline . .but the meat and the fat. . weren't his. I totally do not recommend this novel to anyone. ...
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3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Effort, from a past master, Aug. 20 2003
By 
charles ballew (burbank, ca United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Gai-Jin (Mass Market Paperback)
This book has all the flaws mentioned by other reviewers, but for me it was an enjoyable read, particularly as it neared the conclusion. James Clavell's literature is all about thwarted expectations. There are numerous assasination attempts in this story, and NONE of them come off as expected. That thwarts the characters expectations, but Clavell also intentionally thwarts OUR expectations. He expends enormous ammounts of energy to set up what appears to be an innevitable confrontation, then somehow that confrontation never materializes. Clavell is observing and depicting the way that humans are obsessed with controlling the future, in spite of the fact that it is impossible. Most of the characters are desperately trying to believe that they can predict and control events to their advantage, when in reality random chance is deciding their fates.
For me the most annoying thing about this novel is not the story or characters, as other reviewers have said, but the structure. I can only guess that Clavell was trying something new here to keep himself interested, because the structure is complicated and confusing. The novel is full of miniature flashbacks, so that at any given moment we can be switched instantly to some other time and place, sometimes numerous memories of various characters overlapping so that it is hard to keep track of who's pov is currently active. For instance, two characters are having a conversation. During that conversation one of them has a memory, transporting the story into a fully developed scene that can go on for many pages, so that it is often jarring when the novel returns suddenly to the original conversation. This happens again and again, in no discernible sequence. I think there were even times when someone remembered something, then during that memory they remembered something else taking the story into an even more distant memory. At other times one person's memory includes things that show someone else's point of view. I think even Clavell got confused by this structure, because the flashbacks are used less and less as the story progresses.
But if you love Clavell, you must read this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Worthwhile Read, April 29 2003
By 
This review is from: Gai-Jin (Mass Market Paperback)
Of all the authors I have read books from in the past years, none have caught my eye like James Clavell. Gai-jin is the third book I have read by Clavell, and it does not disappoint.
I have never read a book with more depth and research evident in the topic. James Clavell has obviously spent many months studying the lifestyles of Japan circa 1850, and he captures the feeling perfectly. Every detail is explained, from the style of speak to eating habits and manners. The reader is immersed in ancient Japanese culture. The only author I can use as comparison is James Michener, when I read Hawaii.
If you have a bad memory, you may want to bring a pen and pad along for the ride. Gai-jin rivals The Lord of the Rings trilogy in terms of names and places, and it can become quite confusing at times. The sheer number of proper nouns, many of them Japanese, can overwhelm you, especially when the names are as similar as Ori and Shorin. With careful reading, however, it becomes apparent how deep the story is. It may dive to deep for some readers, though, and there are many chapters where nothing would be lost if they had been left out.
One thing that struck me as something Clavell left out was any kind of satisfaction at the end. The character left standing is not a role-model, and the heroic characters slip into obscurity. This left me feeling a bit cheated at the end, as the book did not give me the ending I wanted. However, I would recommend it all the same, as it delivers the same punch reminiscent of his earlier works. It is not up to the bar Shogun set, but it will live as a masterpiece for years to come.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Huge, complex and worthwhile...till the end, Jan. 8 2003
By 
RMurray847 (Albuquerque, NM United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Gai-Jin (Mass Market Paperback)
Many of the reviews express disappointment in the book. However, I found the many, many interconnecting plotlines to be wonderful and rich. I do most of my reading in bed at night, and as each day neared its conclusion, I was chomping at the bit to get to Gai-Jin.
You get a wonderful sense of the society of westerners that barely clung to their tiny foothold in Japan, always in danger of being overrun by Samurai. You also see that the various European nations represented barely remained civil to each other, and yet had to band together to earn some measure of cooperation from the Japenese, who also have about 20 different motives and agendas.
There are some great individual characters as well. I enjoyed Nakima, the "rebel" Japanese samurai who wants to kill Gai-Jin (foreigners) but ends up infiltrating them and slowly becoming fascinated with their ideas and actually developing a friendship with two of the Brits. The character of Malcolm Struan is complex as well, a young man who has inherited the title of Tai-Pan, but because he is recovering from a serious injury, is unable to fight for what he thinks is rightfully his. I could go on and on. If you like fast reads with easy to follow plots...look elsewhere. This novel, although it spans only a very few months of time, feels like a major, multi-generational epic.
Weak spots: Clavell often has his characters "thinking" things that really only serve to provide us with historical background, but it is stuff we need to know, and though the device is a bit obvious and pedestrian, I'm also not sure what else he could have done. The ending of the book is a bit much like NOBLE HOUSE (nature wreaks havoc like a deux ex machina), and many of the plotlines are wrapped up disappointingly thinly. We've invested a lot in these characters and plots, and some get very short shrift. After 1235 pages, what would another 30-50 of better wrapup have been, Mr. Clavell??
I highly recommend the book, but you MUST have read NOBLE HOUSE at least in my opinion (and although SHOGUN isn't all that essential, everyone should read that book anyway!).
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2.0 out of 5 stars A sad ending to a fine saga, Aug. 8 2002
By 
Gary M. Greenbaum (Fairfax, VA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Gai-Jin (Mass Market Paperback)
While this is the third book chronologically in Clavell's Asian saga, it was the final book he wrote. It is sad that his final effort was so week, especially considering some of the other wonderful things he wrote.
Malcolm Struan, heir apparent to Struan's, goes to Yokahama to see what is going on with the newly-opened Struan's branch there (Japan was only recently opened to European trade). He is soon gravely wounded, and, as he tries to recover from the wound, finds himself at the center of an intrigue both among the Europeans and Japanese. To say nothing of a young Frenchwoman, who has set matrimonial sights on him . . .
As is not unusual in Clavell's books, there are several European and Asian stories running in parallel. While I was interested in finding out what would happen to the Struan-related characters and the other Europeans, I found the Japanese stories very difficult to get into. They made for sloggy reading.
Perhaps the problem is that, while Noble House and Tai Pan were enlivened by Hong Kong, pre-Meiji Yokohama just doesn't do it as an interesting venue.
Those who are into Clavell's novels will be annoyed by the legerdemain that he indulges in to fit a Tai-Pan named Malcolm Struan into a fairly detailed timeline laid down in Noble House. Oh well, what can you do?
Only for the true Clavell fan who is prepared to ignore a thick, muddy plot to take in the details of this aspect of the saga.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not up to Clavell's own standard, June 29 2002
By 
kresnels "kresnels" (Culver City, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Gai-Jin (Mass Market Paperback)
Having read and truly enjoyed Shogun and Taipan (as well as King Rat and even Noble House) I welcomed the opportunity to enter Clavell's well-researched and fascinating world of intrigue and inter-culture strategy set in 19th century Japan.
Fans of Clavell's will undoubtably be a little forgiving, but there's so much to be apologetic for the volume would strain anyone: 1200 pages in total with very small print, a very dense plot, characterization that approaches engagement but leaves you just short of knowing where your loyalties lie. Short of telling you the plot, it's enough to call Gai-Jin unsatisfying ... to say the least.
Malcolm Struan is the heir apparent to Struan's Trading, long a dominating force in Hong Kong, and now expanding into the insular world of Japan. At the same time, forces of renegade samurai called shishi are maneuvering to return power to the Emperor from the strangehold maintained by the military dictator - the Shogun. To further their cause, the shishi carry out a terrorist attack against Gai-Jin, (loosely - foreign devil, I believe) and Malcom is injured pretty greiviously. Arriving at the same time is a beautiful young social climber who has been shipped to Yokohama to seduce and marry young Malcom in order to restore her gambler father to his formerly wealthy state.
The rest is vintage Clavell: Lots of stuff happens, loyalties are earned, changed, betrayed; and there's plenty of sex, murder, intrigue, and gamesmanship set against the clash of the industrial West meeting the traditional and reclusive East, who is by turns repulsed and fascinated by the technology and opportunity of a seemingly less "civilized" people.
It's a pretty good start, but rather than the well-oiled Chinese puzzle of a plot of Shogun or Tai-Pan, Gai Jin has all the appeal of a well-oiled deli tray. Plot threads sit next to one another, only interact on a fairly superficial level; characters rub against one another but never quite enough to change each other's individual destiny or direction. Tess Struan, the matriarch of the Struan clan, and Malcolm's dominant motivating force, and one of the most interesting characters of the lot, never appears. We only read her letters and are treated to opinions of what she might do or think. And since you know that Malcolm is a headstrong young lad in the mold of his grandfather, well, the outcome is inevitable.
I don't know whether the passage of time affected me as a reader, or Clavell as a writer, but the use of language in Gai-Jin sinks to a pretty low level. One glaring example is - amongst a regular sprinkling of both Chinese and Japanese words, twice Clavell uses the word "siesta" to describe a short nap, which struck me as incredibly lazy and completely out of place. How hard would it have been to put nap into Mandarin, Japanese, or even French?
If you're a Clavell fan, you might as well read Gai-Jin to complete your journey through his body of work, but casual readers will be bemused, befuddled and bewildered by this less than noble finish to an otherwise pretty solid series.
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Gai-jin: A Novel of Japan
Gai-jin: A Novel of Japan by James Clavell (Paperback - Dec 2 1999)
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