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Shōgun (Asian Saga: Chronological Order #1)

4.36  ·  Rating Details  ·  103,865 Ratings  ·  2,702 Reviews
Presents an epic saga of one Pilot-Major John Blackthorne, and his integration into the struggles and strife of feudal Japan. Starting with his shipwreck on this most alien of shores, this novel charts Blackthorne's rise from the status of reviled foreigner up to the heights of trusted advisor and eventually, Samurai.
Paperback, 1123 pages
Published 1975 by Hodder & Stoughton
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Pantha This book is definitely a stand-alone novel. It has nothing to do with any of the other books in this so-called saga. The only other one that is…moreThis book is definitely a stand-alone novel. It has nothing to do with any of the other books in this so-called saga. The only other one that is somewhat linked would be Gaijin, and only because it's also set in Japan. Gaijin is a sequel to Taipan though, and both of those are great books. Shogun was my first and has always been my favourite.

If you read that, this is actually the first of the series, so you're not missing anything. The next 4 are all related, but I've only read the first two.(less)
Joyce Fischer Yes, and thank you. My impression of Shogun has always been that it was a well research novel, but I never knew if this was just my idea. It…moreYes, and thank you. My impression of Shogun has always been that it was a well research novel, but I never knew if this was just my idea. It reinforces my theory that good historical fiction is well researched. Books like this do not come along often.

I go back and forth between biography and historical fiction. The two qualities of good writing and good research are seldom found together in one book. I wish the biographers would take a cue from the historical fiction writers and remember that good writing is an important part of a book. So, often the biographies read like a list of facts. That's fine if it's supposed to be a text book. But if the author wants to be read and enjoyed the book has to also tell the story well.(less)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Apr 08, 2009 Rob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: my liege Lord
Shelves: 2009
So sorry, I am not worthy of the honor of reviewing this novel. If however, my Lord insists it, then I shall endeavor to offer up some humble thoughts regarding its mighty, even epic narrative. Neh? The scope is so vast, the characters and settings are so many, the head is liable to spin at times, so sorry. But the arc it follows is like a peregrine's path through the sky: long but fast and with vicious twists along what might otherwise have seemed a predictable path. I'm sure my Lord would agre ...more
Feb 22, 2014 julio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to julio by: Number One Uncle
As a picture of Japanese history it suffers from what another reviewer hilariously called (I paraphrase, here) our "round-eyed western mythologized POV."

Which, okay—it was written in the 70's, after all.

But as a story? OMFG what a fucking story.

I fell into this book as a teenager and didn't come back out until I'd read 600,000 words and had a conversational grasp of transliterated Japanese.

Three days. Three days of bliss.

I dare you to read this and not—at the earliest opportunity—call someone a
May 09, 2009 Fiona rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Fiona by: Kandice Zelaskowski
I have had this book for quite some time in my collection, probably over five years in fact and it wasn't until recently I picked it up, due to a good friend here on GoodReads who prized it as a favourite book.

Strangely, I'd say that I have no real interest in Japan despite having read Memoirs of a Geisha and Tales of the Otori both which are set in Japan or Japanese based. I think Shogun has brought me out of the closet in that respect and I'm very interested now in reading more fiction set in
Mar 09, 2009 Manny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese
Japanese people tell me that it's all nonsense: samurai were not in fact ready to commit seppuku at the slightest provocation. They had a strong sense of honor, but were also interested in staying alive. Well, fancy that. Though I'm embarrassed to admit that I believed it when I read the book.

I wish a Japanese author would return the compliment, and write a similarly bogus historical blockbuster about a Japanese hero visiting Europe during the late 16th century and helping Queen Elizabeth I sor
Jul 04, 2007 Craig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
This is the Clavell novel that most people have read -- which is too bad, because in many ways, it is not his best.

Which is not to say it's not very good -- it is. It's amazing. It's... well, just ask anyone who's read it -- you'll not find someone who didn't like it. But the historical anthropology of the book isn't as well integrated into the narrative as it is in, say, Whirlwind or Noble House.

That being said, this is a remarkable work -- it is perhaps the most sweeping of Clavell's epics, i
Jul 27, 2012 Sophie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Yes. I read 1,152 pages of a book I liked less and less as the pages went by. I could have given this 3 stars, maybe, but I was so unsatisfied with it all that I can't do it.

It isn't even that it was unreadable - considering its size, it was a fast read, even though I had to use some special motivational tricks in the end when I just wanted to get it over with. The main problem was that there wasn't a single character I really liked, and god, I hate Blackthorne from the bottom of my very soul. I
Amanda Clay
Jan 28, 2008 Amanda Clay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fun and fascinating read, not only on its own merits, but also as part of what I like to call the 'male romance' genre. This, along with other manly titles like 'From Here to Eternity', make me giggle because they so closely parallel women's romance novels in the point-by-point adherence to a checklist of what their reader desires. And Shogun hits all the points: a handsome, tall, well-endowed man is, by virtue of his awesomeness, the ONLY person who could succeed in a dangerous situat ...more
Dec 20, 2013 Yona rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'll sum up my review here in the combined edition.

It's more than 1200 pages long and it's not long enough. This book can be described with only one word - amazing. The first page sucks you in and keep you in the edge till the end. You never know what will happen next and what awaits in the next corner.

Shogun showed me a new side of the world, it changed my views on many things, and made me understand just as many things.

I had one more page till the end and I had no idea what will happen, the
The Dutch ship “Erasmus” is wrecked off the Japanese shores and its English captain, together with his crew, is taken prisoner by the Japanese, who also confiscate their ship and all their belongings. Here they will encounter the Jesuit Spanish and Portuguese priests who want to Christianize the whole country and the Japanese daimyo and samurai who are preparing for war.

Blackthorne, the English captain and also the main character, will face death, humiliation, prison and betrayal countless time
I remember back in the summer of 1976 my father was very ill. He spent most of that summer in the hospital and my mother bought him dozens of books to read. In 1976 cable was in it's infancy and VCR's were toys for technophiles and the wealthy. Mom focused on buying big thick books and Shogun was one of those books. I was eight years old at the time and utterly fascinated by it's massiveness. When the mini-series aired four years later I watched all of it with my parents. I remember the plot bei ...more
Whew! Finally done. This book was a roller-coaster from start to finish, even when it didn't seem like there was anything going on. It took me 24 days to read, which, despite the book's length, was about 17 days too long, give or take. I chose my timing poorly with this book, deciding to read it right before leaving for a major vacation, which meant that I had little to no time to read. :(

But, despite that, my enjoyment of this book was not lessened even a little bit. Clavell's depiction of Japa
Feb 27, 2010 Jon rated it it was amazing
Bloody brilliant - re read after a 20 year gap after GR peer group pressure and upgraded from 3 to 5 stars. Pleased to find memory of goldfish so remembered almost nothing from previous read and that had seriously done an injustice with previous rating,

The writing isnt always frist class but at the same time Clavell perfectly encaptures the delicacies of the Samurai code of honour and Japanese life at that time. Its gruesome and bloody and coarse but the plots and counter plots and intrigues kee
Melanie Zhang
Aug 23, 2014 Melanie Zhang rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
To be honest - I couldn't finish this book. It's so atrocious, on so many levels, that I got exactly 75% of the way through and then gave up. The only reason I got so far was because this book was recommended to me by a friend, but nothing could possibly persuade me to continue reading this racist, sexist, extremely problematic monstrosity.

Where to begin? This book is the standard white male fantasy. Glorious wonderful strong white male with a canonically-mentioned giant dick (so very crucial to
Nov 04, 2012 Gary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book a long time ago.....I was in high school,and I ate it up. I thought it was a wonderful book. I have always been interested in Japanese history. My father was there during WW II. I have my Dad's Japanese fan, and saki pitchers and cups that he brought home from the war proudly on display in my home. After hearing his stories,and seeing his pictures of living in Japan, I have felt a kinship with that country. He was actually there after the war was over.... driving a steam shovel ...more
Jun 15, 2013 Nate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Captain-Pilot John Blackthorne manages to will the horribly-undermanned Erasmus through a brutal storm and lands in on the Japanese coast in 1600. This would be an interesting story in and of itself but the country is on the brink of a single dynasty-birthing battle and with his big well-armed European ship and knowledge of the outside world Blackthrone quickly gets sucked into the boiling pot of intrigues and tensions that can only be resolved through the eventual deaths of thousands. Who would ...more
Jane Stewart
Apr 09, 2013 Jane Stewart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 23, 2013 JB rated it it was ok
Here’s the good: Clavell’s historical fiction is bright in that it draws the reader into a time and place with minimal effort. I was drawn to know more about the unpredictable protagonist—Blackthorn—as well as other thoughtful characters, and ended up learning a lot about 17th Century Japan and gained some nuances and insights into ancient Japanese culture.

The first several hundred pages of this behemoth are great. The next few hundred, not so much… was this guy getting paid by the word? Around
Nov 17, 2009 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Also a well done movie, but if you saw that first do NOT let it stop you from reading the book. It's fantastic. I don't know anything about the Japanese culture, but I hope he didn't get much wrong, because he makes me feel like I do. The in-depth look at the culture & times is very well done. There is plenty of action, romance & suspense.

I was totally sucked into the culture, the restrictions of the society & their ideas of honor, just as our hero was. Thankfully, I could emerge fro
May 02, 2016 Chloe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This fantastic book is exactly what historical fiction SHOULD be. It's sad that most efforts fail to live up to this standard. A rousing tale of a Dutch navigator who washes ashore in 17th Century Japan and proceeds to become caught up in the strife and war that would usher in the Tokugawa era, this book really has it all: intrigue, diplomacy, romance, tragedy, internecine warfar, and NINJAS. Who can resist a book with all of that?

If you like this book I would recommend reading Samurai William,
Scott Sigler
An absolutely spectacular tale of a stranger in a strange land, an epic example of world building at the highest scale, and a truncated end so defeating and abrupt it seems clear an editor called Mr. Clavell one day and said, "James, look, it's 1600 pages long and we can't sell that, so cut it down to 1,200. How? Hell, I don't know, how about you chop off the last 400 pages that include the giant battle you've been building up to in the first thousand pages?"

I wanted to love this book, and I di
Feb 25, 2012 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I will not give a synopsis of this book, just a story relating to the reading of it.

My college boyfriend and I had just graduated and commenced a long cross country road trip with friends. The couple we were traveling with were both English teachers moving back to Cincinnati from California. Having been immersed in our senior years and not the best sellers lists, we asked our friends what we should take on our long journey across country. Their unanimous first choice was "Shogun". As I had alre
Mike (the Paladin)
Well known and famous story. Runs hot and cold but all in all well done. Fictional account of the beginning of Japan's Shogunate.


I read this years (and years) ago. My attention was brought back to my rather abbreviated comments on this novel by a friend. (Thanks.)

The story here takes place in the 1600s primarily through the eyes of John Blackthorne an English Pilot on a Dutch warship sailing under "Letters of Mark" (basically a legal pirate much like Francis Drake) who is shipwrecked in j
Classic novel of western-Japanese interaction, but Clavell profoundly annoys me by falling into the Japanophile abyss. I don’t refer to the (forgivable) inaccuracies and anachronisms which are par for the course in this kind of historical fiction - e.g., language mistakes, the existence of martial arts that didn’t formally exist yet, the rewriting of major battles, etc. Others have already analyzed in painstaking detail how Shogun both adapts and botches history. No, what is more pernicious is t ...more
Marta Conejo
May 06, 2016 Marta Conejo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bueno, pues tras 1000 páginas de libro, ya lo he terminado. Aunque al comienzo el libro me pareció lento y lioso, el autor consigue que te introduzcas totalmente en la cultura japonesa. Siempre lo hace desde el punto de vista del personaje principal, un capitán inglés que es capturado en Japón. Es una visión omnisciente, pero conseguirás entender al punto de vista del personaje principal y tus pensamientos irán muy acorde a los pensamientos de él, tanto por la descripción como por la trama.

Jul 07, 2016 Sookie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, 2016, fiction
While Coldplay's new song is exploitation of exoticism, Shogun has a sailor from the west acting as a savior of people during 16th century Japanese civil war. Seriously. UGH.

It's very hard to like a book when one of its main protagonist starts by being annoying and evolves to be an absolute douche. Not just a run-of-the-mill douche but the one I really want to punch in the face variety. Everything is convenient to the character and the secondary characters (that are all Japanese) exist to show u
Aug 13, 2015 Kerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rutter - book containing the detailed observation of a pilot who had been there before and precursor to navigation chart. Pilot - a ship's navigator, in Japanese - Anjin.

Englishman John Blackthorne sails to Japan with stolen Portuguese rutters, the English and Dutch having yet to explore the newly discovered oceans in order to create their own charts. The voyage is brutal and all ships except his own ship Erasmus are sunk or missing. The surviving ship washes up on the shores of Japan and the
Shehreyar Khan
I first read this book when I was thirteen, a gift from my elder brother, who I'm sure forgot my age. Shogun is a masterpiece of Japanese-oriented literature, and I do not have the skill or knowledge to possibly give it the justice it deserves. It is a sprawling epic that sweeps across Japan, gazing into the minds of leaders, soldiers and people driven by loyalty, love and greed. It is a tale brimming with intrigue, action, romance and betrayal, and despite the fact that there are many anachroni ...more
William Galaini
Jun 11, 2013 William Galaini rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
Shogun is a juggernaut of an epic novel. While clearly a work of slick fiction, there is enough truth within this novel that the reader will feel enriched and educated after completing it. Perhaps it was my ignorance, but I felt like I had a candid glimpse at the powers at play in 16th century Feudal Japan. And what an entertaining, enticing glimpse it was!

A majority of the novel follows an English sailor, Blackthorne, of sharp mind and tall stature as he survives and even thrives after landing
Feb 11, 2013 Ton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating look into feudal Japan of the late 16th century. Blackthorne, an Englishman in service to the Dutch East India Company gets stranded in Japan with the remnants of his crew. A stranger in a strange land, Blackthorne (pronounced Brekfon by the Japanese, who quickly rename him Anjin-san for his profession) has to navigate a veritable quicksand of enemies and danger, in order to win his freedom and a chance to return home. In the background is the political upheaval in Japan, where the t ...more
Deborah Pickstone
1100+ pages flashed by very fast! I am sure there are historical howlers in here but the narrative is very engaging - perhaps a little much in the way of descriptive passages but then it's set in another time and a very foreign culture to ours. I remember really enjoying the mini-series on TV also. This is a blockbuster novel in the truest sense. I wonder if it would have been at all possible for Blackthorne to have integrated into the culture to the extent he does in the story? On balance, anyt ...more
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What does everyone think of this book? 40 371 Jan 19, 2016 04:31PM  
Need Recommendations 42 156 Aug 27, 2015 04:58AM  
Something Old, So...: April - June 2015 Quarterly Chunkster - Shogun by James Clavell 11 11 May 21, 2015 04:49PM  
Nothing But Readi...: Clavell, James ; Shogun (Asian Saga #3) ; Informal Buddy Read ; Start Date: February 2, 2015 5 178 Nov 22, 2014 10:19AM  
Reading order 7 135 May 20, 2014 04:43PM  
Reading the Chunk...: Shogun 27 77 Jan 05, 2014 09:52AM  
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  • QB VII
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  • Shinju (Sano Ichiro, #1)
  • Pawn in Frankincense (The Lymond Chronicles, #4)
  • The Winds of War (The Henry Family, #1)
  • The Mauritius Command (Aubrey/Maturin, #4)
  • The Cruel Sea
  • Time of the Dragons (Shike 1)
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)
  • Tai-Pan (Asian Saga, #2)
  • Gai-Jin (Asian Saga, #6)
  • King Rat (Asian Saga, #1)
  • Noble House (Asian Saga, #4)
  • Whirlwind (Asian Saga, #5)

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“Karma is the beginning of knowledge. Next is patience. Patience is very important. The strong are the patient ones, Anjin-san. patience means holding back your inclination to the seven emotions: hate, adoration, joy, anxiety, anger, grief, fear. If you don't give way to the seven, you're patient, then you'll soon understand all manner of things and be in harmony with Eternity.” 189 likes
“Always remember, child" her first teacher had impressed on her, "that to think bad thoughts is really the easiest thing in the world. If you leave your mind to itself it will spiral you down into ever-increasing unhappiness. To think good thoughts, however, requires effort. This is one of the things that need disipline –training- is about. So train your mind to dwell on sweet perfumes, the touch of this silk, tender raindrops against the shoji, the curve of the flower arrangement, the tranquillity of dawn. Then, at length, you won't have to make such a great effort and you will be of value to yourself,…” 117 likes
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