Chris's Reviews > The Manchurian Candidate

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon
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's review
Mar 03, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: suspense
Read in March, 2008

I must say, it's interesting reading a book where the author seems to have contempt for nearly all of his characters. At least that was the impression I got when the book started. The Manchurian Candidate is populated with patently unlikable characters, beginning with the central character himself, Raymond Shaw. A sergeant in the US Army during the Korean war, Raymond is utterly unlikable. It's not because he's ugly or stupid or foolish, but rather because he just has no desire to be liked at all, and has a personality to guarantee that he'll be left alone. In modern parlance, he would probably have one of the more functional forms of autism - not quite as bad as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, but similar. The first thing you know about Raymond is that you're not supposed to like him.

That goes double for his mother, a power-mad harridan whose only motivation in this world is to fulfill her own ambitions,using anyone she can to do it. As the driving force behind her husband, once an unknown junior Senator, she pushes him into the national spotlight as a kind of Joe McCarthy analogue - a scary example of what McCarthy might have achieved if he'd been at all competent.

Raymond and his family are truly, truly dysfunctional, in every sense of the word, and so Condon has given himself an uphill battle by trying to make us care about this poor wreck of a man. The good news? He succeeds.

The plot is probably familiar to everyone by now - a US soldier is captured by Communists in the last days of the Korean War and subjected to a massive brainwashing project. Now, without his knowledge, Raymond is their weapon, an assassin who is beyond suspicion and devoid of guilt. And he's on a terrible mission that must be stopped....

It's a really enjoyable read. A quick one, too. And like I said, by the end of the book, you really do feel bad for Raymond. You can't help but feel bad for him.... Pick it up and enjoy.
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