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King Rat (Asian Saga #1)

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  23,297 ratings  ·  509 reviews
The time is World War II. The place is a brutal prison camp deep in Japanese-occupied territory. Here, within the seething mass of humanity, one man, an American corporal, seeks dominance over both captives and captors alike. His weapons are human courage, unblinking understanding of human weaknesses, and total willingness to exploit every opportunity to enlarge his power ...more
Hardcover, 363 pages
Published March 1st 1983 by Delacorte (first published 1962)
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Steven Harbin I read them in the order published. That seemed to work for me, although it probably would work if you read them in chronological order as well. Sorry…moreI read them in the order published. That seemed to work for me, although it probably would work if you read them in chronological order as well. Sorry if that's an "iffy" answer :)(less)
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Community Reviews

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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 4 of 5 stars  ·  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

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 .

It is one of the most beautiful opening line in literature I’ve ever read. It evokes some delightful place , a mystery island .It's like a promise of some fantastic adventure . But it is not . Changi was the inhuman Japanese c
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
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
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
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
Nov 30, 2011 Karla rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Jul 04, 2007 Craig rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Mel Bossa
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
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.
Benoit Lelievre
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Harv Griffin
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
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
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
Cathy (cathepsut)
I read this a very long time ago, so my memory is very, very faint. I remember one scene, where the protagonist is hunting rats underneath his prison hut. The rest is pretty much gone. Maybe it's time for a re-read.
Martyn V. (aka Baron Sang-Froid) Halm
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
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.

Truly fascinating. Not only do the side-stories flesh out the characters and world, but the characters themselves are magnificent. You find yourself despising the character who seeks fairness for all, and rooting for the character who sees the others as tools. But because the man who seeks fairness is spiteful and hateful, you spite him. Because the character who uses others is generous to his friends, you like him. Had the setting been changed to Wall Street or another similar location, you mig ...more
Lawrence FitzGerald
I refer you to Wikipedia for the basics. Honestly, it's worth a look.

This is a deeply subversive novel as witnessed by the acts of the senior British officers.

Written in good clean prose that takes a back seat to characterization and story. In fact, as you might suspect, this novel is all about character and characterization. Clavell succeeds brilliantly.
T.A. Uner
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.
Andrew Obrigewitsch
What can I say, it's a book about a bunch of guys in a Japaneese prison camp and one of them figured out a way to profit from it. It would have been a lot better if it was a lot shorter. The story was interesting at times, but just seemed drag on and on, when the story is all about a prison camp there really is not a whole lot that can happen.
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...
This book is simply flawless!
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
Sep 14, 2014 Bookguide rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
"Daca-ti cunosti omul, si-a zis multumit King, daca-i ghicesti calcaiul lui Ahile, atunci stii cum sa-l joci, cum sa-i stabilesti locul in cadrul planului pe care ti l-ai facut." pag. 100

"- Sta scris ca putinatatea anilor nu e neaparat tot una cu lipsa de intelepciune." pag. 193

"- Ursul stie sa le ia albinelor mierea fara sa-si puna blana in pericol. Paianjenul poate umbla in siguranta pe sub pietre, caci el stie pe unde sa mearga si ce sa caute, i-a suras calm Peter Marlowe." pag. 193

"Imi amint
Jul 19, 2012 Evolots rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
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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 (6 books)
  • Tai-Pan (Asian Saga, #2)
  • Shōgun (Asian Saga, #3)
  • Noble House (Asian Saga, #4)
  • Whirlwind (Asian Saga, #5)
  • Gai-Jin (Asian Saga, #6)
Shōgun (Asian Saga, #3) Tai-Pan (Asian Saga, #2) Noble House (Asian Saga, #4) Gai-Jin (Asian Saga, #6) Whirlwind (Asian Saga, #5)

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“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.” 19 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!” 11 likes
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