Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “King Rat (Asian Saga #4)” as Want to Read:
King Rat (Asian Saga #4)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

King Rat (Asian Saga: Chronological Order #4)

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  26,625 Ratings  ·  621 Reviews
With powerful, never-before-published material from the original manuscript, here for the first time is the complete, uncut edition of King Rat, the fourth novel in James Clavell's bestselling Asian Saga. Set against the seething backdrop of a World War II prison camp in Japanese-occupied territory, King Rat is an epic novel of savagery and survival - and of one man's all- ...more
Hardcover, Book Club, 380 pages
Published 1962 by Nelson Doubleday, Inc.
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about King Rat, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Kathy Gilbert I recommend chronological order. After Tai Pan, Gai Jin more or less continues the story of several Tai Pan characters. Understanding these…moreI recommend chronological order. After Tai Pan, Gai Jin more or less continues the story of several Tai Pan characters. Understanding these characters' history and personalities as outlined in Tai Pan added quite a bit for hubs and I as we listened to Gai Jin together. Couldn't connect anything or anyone from Gai Jin to King Rat, though. The Noble House and the Struan family figure prominently in both Tai Pan and Gai Jin, so we are looking forward to listening to Noble House next. King Rat was sort of a break for us, much easier to follow than TP and GJ. I think it would be confusing to reverse the order of Gai Jin and Tai Pan. We read Shogun together years ago, so I can't comment on any connections or whether they exist. I have no idea why Clavell published these books so far out of chronological order. They can obviously be read in publication order; I just think they make more sense chronologically.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details

Changi was set like a pearl on the eastern tip of Singapore Island, iridescent under the bowl of tropical skies. It stood on a slight rise and around it was a belt of green, and farther off the green gave way to the blue-green seas and the seas to infinity of horizon.

This beautiful opening line is like a promise of fantastic adventure, exotic trip, it evokes some delightful place, a mystery island you always dreamt about but it is anything but it. Changi was the inhuman Japanese camp for the
Сега знам защо тази книга е толкова популярна, защо е класика.
Защото е драматично-иронична песен за войната, мъжеството, приятелството, смъртта и дома. Защото в нея има всичко. Има страх, примирение, безразличие, има надежда и любов.
Любимият ми цитат:

Питър Марлоу се придвижи между Дънкън и корееца и прикри капитана така, че той да поизостане от хората си и да излезе отстрани. Колоната се точеше по пътя, но майката и детето не направиха никакъв знак. Когато Дънкън се изравни с тях, погледите им з
John Wiswell
Jul 29, 2007 John Wiswell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History readers, WW2 readers, literary readers, culture clash readers
The beginning of Clavell's truly epic series of culture clash novels is a curiously autobiographical book. King Rat takes us to Changi, a Japanese prison camp during World War 2, where British and American soldiers are held in dire conditions. We watch as people cling to honor, duty and any semblance of structure for their own mental health and survival. Every observation about humanity in these conditions is more interesting because Clavell himself was held in a Japanese prison camp during the ...more
I read this once decades ago, but Mom & I were talking about it one morning. When she got her hair cut later that day, she found a copy in their free book rack & loved it. My library has it in an audio edition, so I listened to it. It's a great fictionalized account of American, British, & Australians in Changi, a Japanese POW camp during WWII.

This audio edition has extra material from the original manuscript that's never been published before including an introduction written by Cla
Jan 03, 2009 Manny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese
It's not cool to praise James Clavell - and indeed, Shogun is extremely silly. I recall a couple of Japanese people cringing when I once was foolish enough to mention it (I believe they showed the series on Japanese TV).

But this book, which is based on Clavell's own experiences as a World War II prisoner of war, is pretty damn good. There's something universal about his description of camp life. He doesn't try and draw any moral, and there are no obvious symbolic associations, but at the end I
Dec 03, 2007 Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first volume in Clavell's "Asian Saga," and was written about the Japanese prison camp of Changi located in Singapore, where the author himself was held as a POW during the late stages of World War II. "The King" is a successful wheeling and dealing American. Using capitalistic initiative, he concocts many money-making schemes, the most shocking of which, involves breeding rats to sell as "rabbit" meat. He generates feelings of hatred or envy in others, but everyone wants to be close ...more
Plamena Nikolaeva
Feb 22, 2016 Plamena Nikolaeva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-love
Не 5, ако имаше как и 10 звезди щях да ѝ дам... Разкошна книга. Не ми се искаше да свършва. От тези, които после ти оставят книжен махмурлук... просто стоиш, гледаш в точка, не можеш да излезеш от историята и да се върнеш към реалността.
Oct 06, 2011 Karla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of gritty ambiguous food for thought stories
(4.5 stars) After a stretch of the book crankies, this one finally broke the bad luck. That's probably due in no small part to the fact that the 1965 movie "King Rat," with George Segal and James Fox, is tremendously awesome and one of the best war or prison pictures I've ever seen. It's the complete flip side to the jaunty and fun "The Great Escape" (the screenplay of which, oddly enough, was penned by Clavell.)

Clavell's style here isn't exactly my cup of tea: so many run-on sentences, and I th
Oct 29, 2007 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brutally realistic account of soldier's survival in a Japanese WWII prison camp.

Clavell doing what he does best; making history come to life with very interesting and entertaining fiction.

Back for more...

i just found out that King Rat is in part autobiographical. Clavell was apparently a POW himself. That explains are great deal. i was very much awed that a fictional book could be so incredibly detailed and convey the day to day struggle of the characters so well. JC was writing from experienc
Jul 04, 2007 Craig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
In King Rat, James Clavell succeeds in doing what countless other authors usually fail at: taken actual experiences from his life and distilled them into a gripping dramatic narrative.

And this praise is perhaps the most damnable understatement the book can receive -- Clavell isn't writing about "experiences," he is writing about the cauldron from which he was "reborn" -- his time in Changi, a Japanese POW camp in Malaysia during WWII.

And yet, the book is mostly comedic -- filled with the hopefu
Jennifer Lynn
Oct 15, 2016 Jennifer Lynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I thought his novel was just fantastic! (However, the entire saga of the King and the diamond was a lot of build up for a lot of nothing in the end, wasn't it?)
Mel Bossa
May 07, 2013 Mel Bossa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was apparently written by Clavell in six weeks during a screenwriters strike in 1963. The story feels rushed and is messy at times with this sort of disconnected feel to it, but yet, I absolutely loved it. Maybe it's Clavell's urgency to tell the tale that gripped me.

This book is not as macho as I thought it would be. There's actually a lot of tolerance and genuine emotion in all of the characters. I was moved by them and I wasn't expecting that. I've read Shogun and Taipan, and thoug
Benoit Lelièvre
Aug 30, 2014 Benoit Lelièvre rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish every first novels had such ambition, scope and gusto. KING RAT is about the manliest, most violently existential novel south of Hemingway. It's full of dudes lost without the structure and the social status that normal life usually provides and completely adrift, not knowing the faith of the free world during WWII. KING RAT depicts the microcosm that was formed by all this doubt and confusion and follows the faith of men who used to live by the rules and the men who decided to create the ...more
Sep 02, 2007 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clavell is better known for his later Shogun and other Japanese history novels, but this earlier novel about the lives of Americans and British POWs in a Japanese prisoner of war camp is a classic. The title character is an American with a true gift for survival in the underground economy of the camp, and the book raises many questions about what the most ethical road is to take in an impossible moral situation.
aPriL does feral sometimes
The story takes place in an enclosed small wartime POW camp with imprisoned English, Australians, and some Americans. Japanese soldiers guard the camp which is surrounded by jungle and Malay villages.

There is not much food, no medicine, incredible heat and biting insects. Soap is rare, privacy almost nonexistent. Men die every day from disease and despair. Clothes have rotted away and sarongs and rags are all that's available so rank is made known only by arm bands and a slight difference in li
T.A. Uner
Nov 03, 2013 T.A. Uner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: timeless-books
As an Author myself I trace my roots on why I wanted to write back to "King Rat." After "Shogun" this is probably my favorite Clavell story, and rightfully so, as this was written based on Clavell's own experiences in a POW camp in WW II.

What I take most from this book is that it directly inspired me to pursue writing, not for writing's sake, but to leave something worthwhile behind to inspire future generations.
Jun 19, 2012 Evolots rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Evolots by: Vasil Tonev
Клавел наистина има добри попадения изледвайки живота в един лагер на военнопленници по време на втората световна война.

Жаждата за живот и омразата към високопоставените изяжда душите на всички. Благодарение на приспособилият се към живота в лагера Цар и сечащият му като бръснач ум преживяват и всички останали. Но те са твърде заслепени от завистта си, за да оценят факта, че дължат преживяването си на Царя. С черна търговия и хитрост той винаги съумява да е на ръба между охолният си живот в лаг
Harv Griffin
Feb 28, 2013 Harv Griffin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, own
pic of my copy of King

At one time or another I've read most or all of James Clavell's novels. KING RAT is by far my favorite. I've lost count of the number of times I've read this novel. I also own the movie version of the story on DVD; and yes, I've lost count of the number of times I've watched the movie. I like the book better.

Clavell survived as a POW in WWII. The sub-story is that the Peter Marlowe character in KING RAT is a fictionalized version of James Clavell and that the Corporal King character is a fictio
Mar 31, 2009 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Martyn Halm
Aug 31, 2013 Martyn Halm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My interest in Japanese culture was just blossoming when I came across this powerhouse of a book, which I have re-read since at least three times. The story, about a friendship between an American soldier and a British officer in a Japanese POW camp, and the way the two men influence one another, is interesting enough on its own, but the book also gives insight in how the camp strips the occupants of their civilization and shows the lengths people go through to survive. Recommended not only to t ...more
Aug 12, 2013 Todor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
След толкова много фентъзи време беше да прочета някоя класика. Впечатлен съм от Клавел, разбирам защо книгата е толкова харесвана. Най-важното, е че научих доста неща за живота от нея... Препоръчвам я на всеки, който търси отговори :)
От тук тръгна любовта ми към Джеймс Клавел...
Zlatina Nyagolova
Може би, защото знаех, че автора пише от личен опит или просто защото пише дяволски добре, "Цар Плъх" ме грабна адски бързо. Той те удря с гадната си реалистичност, с многопластовите герои, всеки с различна вътрешна борба и те оставя като ударен с мокър парцал.
Усещаш, че харесваш персонажи, които не трябва да харесваш.
Усещаш, че разбираш действия, които не искаш да си предствяш, че биха ти се наложили да разбереш.
Чудиш се как автора е погледнал през погледа на всеки един от тях и е намерил нег
Bodosika Bodosika
Review coming
Sofía (Софья)
Главная тема этой книги - нравственный выбор. И клянусь, это одна из лучших книг на эту тему.

Представьте себе: 1945 год, Сингапур, и вы в лагере для военнопленных. Вам нечего жрать, вас одолевает жара, насекомые, полицейские и заболевания вроде малярии и дизентерии. Люди мрут как мухи, и смерть считается избавлением от страданий. Все ходят голыми и справляют нужду у всех на глазах. Вонь от пота и испражнений стоит такая, что скручивает. Но не все находятся в одинаковом положении. Социум вещь пр
Oct 10, 2013 Bookguide rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Empire of the Sun
This could almost be billed as the serious, Asian version of the movie 'The Great Escape', and so I was not entirely surprised to discover that James Clavell wrote the screenplay for that film, and the book has a cinematic quality to it. POWs in barracks and digging trenches or tunnels are a feature of both. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the film or book 'Empire of the Sun', the TV series 'Tenko' or even the film 'Bridge Over the River Kwai'. This is full of incident, great charac ...more
Apr 22, 2014 Randee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asian-books
I've meant to read this for 20 years and one book or another jumped ahead of it. Or, I'd forget my intention to read it every now and then. But a recent trip to the library in which I could not find anything I was looking for brought "King Rat" to my attention again. And, it was on the shelf. Score! Years and years ago I remember the actress, Jamie Lee Curtis, stating that this was her favorite book and she often gave it out to friends. I liked "Shogun" and I like "King Rat" even more. I, myself ...more
I will admit to a certain undying love for James Clavell, mostly due to the many miniseries done of his books inthe 80's. I will also admit that I adore Richard Chamberlain for this same reason. So there.

King Rat is actually a lot different from his other books set in Asia, partly I think because there are no women to speak of. The man in his other books displays a very early 80's chauvinist attitude: he loved to make a big deal about the women's lib movement, in a very patronizing "aren't they
Jun 12, 2012 Trax rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the kind of society and social hierarchy, that of a WWII POW camp, that would not be out of place in a science fiction novel about a dystopian world. The story is structured in a way to perfectly juxtapose the classism, corruption, and hypocrisy of the various groups. All the while that these factions exist within the camp, and the hierarchy exists within, the Japanese maintain the camp and are literally the real enemy. It is a really great book about survival under prison conditions and ...more
Aug 04, 2007 Thannasset rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably the best book about WWII prison camps written--and there were/are a myriad of them. This author is worth reading, always was. Many know him only for Shogun. This book struck me as probably intensely autobiographical, tho I never went and researched whether Clavell was actually an inmate of Changi prison camp during WWII. Recommended to readers of historical fiction, those interested in the WWII Pacific theater, and anyone interested in the decline and fall of the British Empire.

« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Looking for a book - Not King Rat 1 6 Feb 21, 2017 01:37PM  
WW II Spy Novels: You die soon, imperialist weaklings! 12 16 Mar 17, 2014 02:00PM  
King rat 23 110 Oct 07, 2013 07:10PM  
  • Време разделно
  • Battle Cry
  • Осъдени души
  • Преспанските камбани
  • The Grass Crown (Masters of Rome, #2)
  • How I Won The War
  • Kastel Awan Burung Gereja (Samurai, #1)
  • Sharpe's Sword (Sharpe, #14)
  • The Covenant
  • The Berkut (Beau Valentine #1)
  • The Cruel Sea
  • Крадецът на праскови
  • Taiko: An Epic Novel of War and Glory in Feudal Japan
  • A Ballad for Georg Henig
  • Das Boot
James Clavell, born Charles Edmund Dumaresq Clavell was a British novelist, screenwriter, director and World War II veteran and POW. Clavell is best known for his epic Asian Saga series of novels and their televised adaptations, along with such films as The Great Escape, The Fly and To Sir, with Love.


James Clavell. (2007, November 10). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
More about James Clavell...

Other Books in the Series

Asian Saga: Chronological Order (6 books)
  • Shōgun (Asian Saga, #1)
  • Tai-Pan (Asian Saga, #2)
  • Gai-Jin (Asian Saga, #3)
  • Noble House (Asian Saga, #5)
  • Whirlwind (Asian Saga, #6)

Share This Book

“And Adam ruled, for he was the King. Until the day his will to be King deserted him. Then he died, food for a stronger. And the strongest was always the King, not by strength alone, but King by cunning and luck and strength together. Among the rats.” 24 likes
“Guard yourself and your conscience no one else will and know that a bad decision at the right time can destroy you far more surely than any bullet!” 17 likes
More quotes…