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3.27  ·  Rating Details  ·  808 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
Ransom, Jay McInerney's second novel, belongs to the distinguished tradition of novels about exile. Living in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, Christopher Ransom seeks a purity and simplicity he could not find at home, and tries to exorcise the terror he encountered earlier in his travels—a blur of violence and death at the Khyber Pass.Ransom has managed to regain cont ...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published August 17th 2011 by Vintage (first published 1985)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,229)
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Glenn Russell
Jan 25, 2016 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I read this novel set in Kyoto, Japan featuring 26-year old American Christopher Ransom and his practice of martial arts three time when first published as part of the Vintage Contemporary series back in 1988 and I just did read it yet again. Why do I find this book so absolutely fascinating? On reflection, here are a dozen reasons:

Mishima-like Purity
Yukio Mishama’s novel “Runaway Horses” takes place in 1932 and features I9-year old Isao Iinuma who seeks purity through the code of t
Sep 20, 2011 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
McInerney, Jay. RANSOM. (1985) *****.
This was the author’s second novel, and came out as a paperback original. It is the story of Chris Ransom, a young man who is trying to escape from his father in America and create a life for himself. He is in Japan, in Kyoto, studying karate, and interacting with a few of the other gaijin in the neighborhood. His steady job, like most other Americans in Japan without a profession, is teaching English to groups of young salarymen who expect that they will ne
Jun 30, 2008 Emily rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So good until the final chapter basically ruins the entire book.
Oct 04, 2010 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was ready to give this a very positive review, to recommend it to my friends, until the last chapter. The book had that sense of insincere noir that's hard to hate. The easy jokes about Japanese English were there, but nothing overtly offensive. The characters were interesting, fun to be around/fun to hate. But that conclusion! So very disappointing, so anti-climactic.
But I suppose that fulfills a realistic ending to the very apathetic, aimless protagonist. In many ways I found Ransom himself
Jun 01, 2013 Catalina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's not a full 5, but neither 4, so I rounded up to 5 :D
It's incredible how this book reminded me not of 1, not 2, but 3 books I read and enjoyed: with the Japanese atmosphere, Yakuza, illegal emigrants prostituting themselves, strange strangers with a taste for violence and death, and the solitary main character reminded me of Murakami's After Dark and Ryū Murakami's In the Miso Soup. While with the situation of gaijins in Japan and the drug story, of Karl Taro Greenfeld's Standard Deviations
Justine Halligan
I've read and re-read this book many times. Every time, I feel that I am right there beside Ransom in Japan, walking past cherry blossom trees, sweeping tatami mats, tasting sake and blocking karate punches. If you are looking for a novel that you'll start reading and forget about everything else, this is it. It's a nearly flawless novel and in my opinion, McInerney's best.

Ransom is an American living in Japan and learning karate. To pay the bills, Ransom works for a Japanese advertising agency
Dec 30, 2013 Daniel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
McInerney's prose is straightforward, weighing heavily in favor of telling while showing mundane details that evoke less tangible emotions and impressions. At times, it felt like the story is reaching towards something that is not easy to capture. The ending left me puzzled, and more than a week later I find myself thinking about the book for short stretches of time, juggling this bit and that bit, seeing if I can't balance it out into a more concrete whole. For its inchoate sum, I hold this boo ...more
Lawrence Kelley
This book definitely had the mid-eighties, over-confident American vibe to it. A friend attending Dartmouth College recommended it to me. Many Americans, myself included, were in awe of the rise of Japan's industrial might, and this book allowed folks who couldn't actually travel to Japan to enjoy the experience vicariously. A nice period piece, for sure.
Blane Worley
Apr 21, 2014 Blane Worley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although dated, the style was refreshing, entertaining. The plot and characters may have been tinged with cliche every now and then (often), but McInerney's presentation offered the material in a new light, under which I eagerly bathed. The plot twist at the end is close to predictable, but not quite. But that's not the point of the book. Don't dive into its quick pages in search of mystery, because you'll find disappointment. Instead, keep track the motions of the spoon as it's inserted into yo ...more
doug bowman
May 29, 2012 doug bowman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So wholly different from previous works, there is a purity to "Ransom" that I found compelling.
ncn nothing
Feb 05, 2010 ncn nothing rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
best ending ever
Jul 31, 2016 Cari rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Boring. It's a kind of a slice of life in a world where life is messed up and oddly out of touch with reality. I read Bright Lights, Big City a long time ago and loved it for that same feeling but I wonder now if it would stand up to a reread. This book ends with more questions than answers, and the way that it is written; non-linearly, makes the reader think that things will eventually be explained. They are not.

Another thing I dislike is the protagonists unreliability. He has all these grand s
Ned Miles
Mar 15, 2016 Ned Miles rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan
Maybe the conceit of setting the story in Japan--paper houses and muted externalities--was intended to offset the lack of heft the characters carried. Maybe I just didn't get that part. But even with that taken into consideration, as well as the scriptwriting angle, the entire affair felt flimsy and I didn't care. The writing showed moments of flourish, but the story, woven of pure stereotype (again, I know that was 'the point'), never gripped me. Inoffensive for sure, though. Easy to read. Trit ...more
Oct 01, 2011 Cameron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book when I was in Japan in 1989 and marveled then at Mcinerney’s use of language and his deft delineation of character. Over the years the book stayed with me, not least because of its peculiarly painful plot twists and its unique setting.

Twenty-two years later the book has lost some of its charm and McInerney’s use of language is less innovative, but the story of a heartbroken young American seeking redemption through self-discipline in a Japanese karate dojo in Kyoto in 1984
Jan 02, 2011 Barry rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After discovering McInernery via 'Bright Lights, Big City' I was disappointed in this book. There is still some worthwhile writing here but the book struggles to overcome cliché and a fairly daft kung-fu movie style nemesis. Modern readers are probably much more familiar with Japan and aspects of Japanese culture than when the book was published and it does seem very dated in places.

McInernery's prose is still very easy on the eye and this is a very easy read but whereas I found the voice in Bri
May 04, 2013 Judith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ransom is the name of a young man, Chris Ransom, living in Japan at the start of this novel. Having traveled in several other eastern countries, Ransom decides to stick it in Japan for a while, teaching English. His days are spent mostly on this work; nights and weekends are devoted to the study of karate. Karate, in fact, defines his life.

Initially, the book seemed lightweight. Funny, intelligent, a bit of a curiosity. It is set in the 1970s, which I suspect were years that McInerney himself do
Eric Kirkman
Sep 15, 2015 Eric Kirkman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
A fun, quick read that is set in both Kyoto and Pakistan, the novel follows Christopher Ransom, a ex-pat son of a famous hollywood producer who is both a martial arts student and english-language teacher. The book starts funny, gets very sad, and ends in one of the most bizarre ways imaginable. Solid writing, well paced, and while many seem to have serious qualms with the ending, it really did not bother me.

A working knowledge of Kyoto and its' culture, as well as Japanese culture at large reall
Chris Louie
This is a quick-enough read with a competently structured plot. A lot of the book might seem a little racist or at least "Western-centric," though I doubt that was the author's intent.

The highlight of the book? The vivd details about life in Japan, both in general and as a student in a karate dojo The writer obviously lived there for quite some time to be able to recreate such an authentic setting.
Great  Writers Steal
I liked the book a great deal and thought that it offers writers some good advice with respect to how to write very visual scenes and how to shift point of view in an acceptable manner.
Nov 20, 2011 Ugh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This novel did fall prey to the sophomore slump, as far as McInerney was trying to distance himself from his first novel. The humor is still there, and I enjoyed the balance he made of the divide in Japan between the past and the modern, if there is anything wrong with the novel - it is that too much reliance is put onto the mysterious.

The last third of the book is a twist, but not an unfair one. I wouldn't say there were hints as to what was coming but I don't think any of the characters acted
Jan 26, 2013 Preston rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So disappointing for a Jay McInerney book. While I enjoyed the setting of Kyoto and reading descriptions of what it perhaps was like to live in Japan in the 1970s (a subject close to my heart for personal reasons) I feel that McInerney is at his best writing about actors, screenwriters, young professionals, etc, in New York or L.A. in the 1980s. This book is very sad, but one doesn't feel sympathetic enough with the main character--I think we're supposed to--and is always wondering why he's maki ...more
Jan 13, 2016 Andy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read the last thirty or so pages in the bathtub. Partway through my bath, the hot water stopped working--but fortunately, things in the book were really heating up.
Jul 29, 2008 Mira rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, I didn't mind the matter of fact style of this story. I think it made it better than if the main character was overly pensive and analytical - it would've cut out a lot of the funnier descriptive moments.
Ransom is an ex-pat American who goes to Japan to train in the martial arts after some more than shitty experiences trying to score along the steady line of drug trafficking through the east.
I have to admit, both the descriptions of local Japanese punk and jazz in the 70s and Ransom's mart
In the 80s, everything Japanese was cooler, and there were lots of books about American expats "finding themselves" by going to Asia and learning Asian martial arts and Asian philosophy and basically being more Asian than the Asians. So this is about an American expat who hangs around with other expats even though he's "gone native" in Japan. It's got a decent pace and better-than-average writing, but the story was self-indulgent (like the main character), and an ending that left me thinking tha ...more
Eleanor Schmidt
cannot remember a thing.
Aug 18, 2014 Ian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Sun Also Rises in Japan.
Sep 23, 2012 Daniel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
i'm not sure how much more i was expecting from this. the book starts off great, and really paints a vivid and disturbing picture of ransom's life in japan and his troubled past until the climax disappoints on every front. it's not just the abrupt ending, it's the half-assed way that everything gets resolved. but i guess that may have been the point. still, mcinerney is a blast to read and it was bold of him to switch up the setting and tone from bright lights so markedly.
Jul 16, 2012 Terry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
Interesting book to read because it concerns a traveler who studies karate and teaches English in Japan after visiting Asia. His problem is that he left two friends dead Kyber pass and is in Japan trying to straighten out his life. His outward appearance is one of a cool dude, but inside he feels destroyed. A very evil man kills him to finish the book. The book was interesting, but the writing seemed unprofessional. I am inspired to write of my own experiences.
Aug 20, 2013 Alex rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-reads
Thin characters. Seems like an early draft rather than a finished product. That said, McInerney can, now and again, churn out some provocative prose, and his observations of expat life in Japan are well-observed.

“It would have been better, he thought, if the earth had been flat, if you could arrive at the point where the known stopped and the unknown began, where you could finally say- this is the end, or the beginning.” - one of my favorite lines in the book
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John Barrett McInerney Jr. is an American writer. His novels include Bright Lights, Big City, Ransom, Story of My Life, Brightness Falls, and The Last of the Savages. He edited The Penguin Book of New American Voices, wrote the screenplay for the 1988 film adaptation of Bright Lights, Big City, and co-wrote the screenplay for the television film Gia, which starred Angelina Jolie. He is the wine co ...more
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