Tinea's Reviews > King Rat

King Rat by James Clavell
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Jul 22, 2009

liked it
bookshelves: brain-candy
Recommended to Tinea by: Fidget
Read in July, 2009

Fidget is really good at recommending books that hook. I never read enough good fiction because I have a block that prevents me from picking up apolitical books. It's a good thing I hang with this kid.

We read King Rat one after the other while backpacking, and I think the word we came up for it was "thrilling." King Rat tells the story of English, Australian, and American WWII prisoners of war in a Japanese camp. They are mostly left to fend for themselves and what unfolds is a grown-up Lord of the Flies. The title character is the American who uses impeccable capitalist technique to scam and scheme his way into dominance of the black market (in cigarettes and extra eggs), and with it, dominance of the camp itself. Meanwhile, he somehow befriends a very ethical but disgustingly high class English guy, who confronts all sorts of moral dilemmas in their growing friendship and the material benefits that come with it.

Clavell captures the POW camp in all its ugly glory. He wraps the reader so tightly in the lives of the men in the camp that it becomes its own world, with all its own cruel logic. This book is a powerful commentary on the Human Condition, both imprisoned and free. And not in a hokey way. I recommend it.
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