The Orphan Master's Son
An epic novel and a thrilling literary discovery, The Orphan Master’s Son follows a young man’s journey through the icy waters, dark tunnels, and eerie spy chambers of the world’s most mysterious dictatorship, North Korea.
Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother—a singer “stolen” to Pyongyang—and an influential father who runs Long Tomorrows, a work camp for orphans.
This is a book that's set in North Korea, and its protagonist is cleverly - perhaps overly so - named Jun Do (that is, 'John Doe', the North Korean everyman,...more
I wasn't 30 pages into this farce (and I'm not speaking of the story stylings) when it became quite clear that all the praise being heaped upon this pile of literary poo (I am forever mindful that kids may be reading these reviews) was the work o...more
Pak Jun Do never knew his mother and is raised in the orphanage his father runs. Because of this, he is constantly mistaken for an orphan for the rest of his life. Eventually Jun Do winds up as one of the tunnel fighters who work in secret passages under the DMZ into South Korea, but he’s recruited to be part of a team that goes out in boats and snatches random citizens from Japanese or South Korean beaches. F...more
I'm glad I read The Orphan Master's Son, however, so thanks, Mike.
Why wouldn't I have read this novel without Mike's recommendation? Well, I'm leery of any book about another culture that hints of an uplifting, inspirational tale about overcoming obstacles or whatever. I hate that shit. It's not that I hate feeling uplifted but those stories, in my eyes, tend...more
ETA: I keep thinking about the fact that Jun Do chooses his own identity from the beginning. Is he ever told he's the orphan mas...more
The book is darkly comic and desperately sad, always teetering on the brink of complete absurdity but true in...more
But I couldn't get past the use of North Korea as a setting, which seemed like a meretricious trick to me. There's certainly a lot of superficial North Korean trappings, loudspeakers, prison mines, references to starvation, and the theater of Kim Jong I...more
Do you enjoy political satire? Then this book will be right up your alley. But I don’t.
Do you enjoy a puzzle? Would it be intriguing to you to figure out what is fantasy and what is real? Again, if you answer in the affirmative, you will most probably enjoy this book. Me, I like to have a firm handle on the events. I want to understand what is definitely happening. You see in North Korea what Kim Jong Il sai...more
I realized that in my excitement after reading this novel, I had not stopped and taken the time to add a few words about the experience. I rushed to add my five stars to the mix and then stepped back.
The fact is I didn't know where to start and I did not want to spoil anything. I have a feeling that getting immersed into this book without knowing anything of the plot must make it an even more dazzling literary experience. Its colorful and surreal world should be entered without any preconceptio...more
The author opened my eyes to North Korean culture through a fictional narrative based on factual research. Throughout the story a loudspeaker was used to disseminate propaganda throughout Korean homes. Kim Jong-il, the rec...more
The Orphan Master's Son is about the dystopian world of North Korea today. One might think you'd have to know a bit...more
While getting my thoughts together and perusing the...more
It’s hard to imagine that this book is entirely fiction. It is as fragmented and terrorizing as real life can be at times. North Korean Loudspeakers blare out the Communist “party line”, while different points of view come shooting in from multiple directions. The narrative is sometimes stultifying. I didn't read it all at one sitting and had to re-read to follow the multifaceted journey that is Jun Do’s (aka John Doe) life.
The average American who hasn't experienced cultures outside th...more
I found Johnson to be particularly careful when dealing with oppressive propaganda which is portrayed mostly in the daily "news" (i.e., w...more
This book was a strange experience. I started out listening to it on audio and found myself completely unable to follow it. The character's in an orphan home. The character's a kidnapper. Wait a minute -- the character's on a ship -- how did he get there? And the rowers -- where do they come into this? Suddenly there are shoes, and Americans boarding the ship, and some kind of problem......more
In the powerful non-fiction book Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, a satellite photo shows South Korea heavily lit up, but North Korea in almost complete blackness.
A scene in this book is a riff on that photo, as imagined by a North Korean: “The American citizen, however, is wide awake. You should see a satellite photo of that confused nation at night—it’s one grand swath of light, glaring with the sum of their...more
Like a lot of Holocaust literature, it is not a novel you can recommend without reservation. The main character, Jun Do has had to participate in many reprehensible actions, starting from his boyhood in the orphanage that his father managed and later in his work on a government...more
Of course, you have to be open to that sort of thing, and should in this case.
The author, Adam Johnson, as per his own account, bathed in North Korean culture, history and politics until they were expunged from his being in the form of characters. He traveled to the strange land of Kim Il Sung, smelled it, saw it, breathed it, and lived to come back and put it all dow...more
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He founded the Stanford Graphi...more