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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 1997
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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on September 3, 2003
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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on July 29, 1998
I was very disappointed to discover that a novelist as famous or hyped as James Clavell appears to be could produce such trite, hackneyed prose which merely serves to perpetuate rascist stereotypes. As a Chinese who has lived in Japan for a number of years, I was dismayed at this poorly researched effort which presents Westerners as implicitly superior to the "natives" who appear spouting pidgin in bizarre and often historically inaccurate situations. Let me give you an example of this: On pg77 of the paperback version, a typical Chinese comment on a European woman is described as "Ah, haughty young Missy who feeds on unrequited lust, Lim thought with vast amusement. I wonder which of these smelly Round Eyes will be the first to spread you wide and enter your equally smelly Jade Gate? ...By all gods great and small, I shall know soon enough because your maid is my sister's third cousin's daughter.." and so forth ad nauseum which is probably not w! orthy of being reprinted. Needless to say, this juvenile, puerile writing is often highly offensive to Asian readers like myself.
Clavell's so-called "Asian" vocabulary is also a constant irritant. As far as I know, I have never heard any Chinese say "Ayeeyah". His Japanese characters also seem to have a few set phrases such as "Eeee", "Baka" (stupid) and "So sorry". Clavell seems to have dreamed up dialogue which comes mostly from condescending stereotypes. It would have been easy enough to research this aspect properly. What if some Asian writer wrote a so-called historical romance of the West where a typical English or American comment was only confined to a choice of "Gee whiz","#@!-hole", or "a thousand pardons"? And if these comments appeared not once, not twice but liberally everytime a so-called native character appeared? I think many Westerners would protest that few people con! stantly use such limited, stilted, and peculiar vocabulary.! They would be up in arms that Westerners were portrayed in this crude and one dimensional manner and would be rightly offended.
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on October 22, 2002
A big fan of Clavell, I was thoroughly disappointed with Gai-Jin. This novel does not hold up to the other books in the Asia Saga. Although Noble House was one of my favorite books and I usually enjoy Clavell novels, it was an effort to finish this book. Clavell does a fine job recreating ancient Japan (I know, I lived there for many years) and the character development is sound.
The problem is the reader never knows who to root for and the ending is a letdown. There are a few wonderful twists that truly surprised me and I couldn't put the book down through the first 500 pages, but the story went downhill from there and fell flat.
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on June 11, 1999
This book was unfortunately rather bad. It was full of cliched characters, so-so plot twists and offensive racial stereotyping. There seems to be little attempt to explore the culture and plenty of ways in which it exploits it. Clavell introduces all the possible racial stereotypes he can e.g. the beautiful, lustful French woman, the suicidal Japanese spy, the greedy and conniving Chinese servants, the upright English man. The list goes on. Some of the dialogue appears to be straight from a B movie. As an Asian, I felt quite offended by certain sections of the novel.
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on February 24, 1999
This is probably the most excruciatingly boring book I have ever read. Were it not for the $22.95 that I spent on it and my previous joy with Clavells' work, I would have detached myself from it and thrown it in the trash. The characters are shallow beyond belief, with the men fawning over the resident bimbo with nauseating chivalry. Having read it some time ago, I'm now struggling with any memory I have of this ridiculous story to vent here. Don't waste your time or money!
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on August 20, 1999
Gai-Jin, the last of James Clavel's books and in my opinion is his worst. If you are a James Clavel fan and have not yet read this book I suggest that you don't and if you are a first time reader start with "Shogun" or "Taipan". Pathetic, is the best word I can use to describe this novel. It really brought down my opinion of James Clavel as a great author.
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on February 3, 1999
I used to be a fan of Clavell and now could not go past the first few chapters of this book. Authors need to write from their heart and not follow a particular theme or fad just because it seemed to work before.
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