Nicholas Armstrong's Reviews > Shibumi

Shibumi by Trevanian
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Apr 20, 10


It's hard to write a review for something I really loved, mostly because I think I'll F it up. I read that Trevanian was actually a really prominent, crazy smart lit professor and his goal was to write the 'perfect' book in several genres. This was his shot at spy-thriller stuff and it is, without a doubt, absolutely amazing. The characters, the story, literally everything is fantastic. So much so, that it is hard to know where to begin or what to talk about. Let's shoot down a 'graph and try one.

One of things which amazed me most about this was its portrayal of nations. Countries are portrayed not really as stereotypes, but the people as ideas or one general theme or concept, but the really amazing thing is that Trevanian isn't really biased, he goes after each one with an insight and an honesty that I think few could rival. He talks many times about how American's are merchants, valuing the dollar over anything else and how even our government and country were founded on this principle. I could argue some points, but he wouldn't be entirely wrong. The people of America might not be like that, but the country? How it's run? He's pretty spot-on. We have long been regarded as the place to go for businessman and entrepreneurs because of our emphasis on trade and the opportunities we provide for profiteers. How many other countries are so influenced by lobbyists? How many have lobbyists? We are known for our trends, our products, our economy, more than anything. The fact that these things merged seamlessly with the plot and the characters is further amazing, because it gave the book a worldly feel that is hard to rival.

Outside of that there was the characters, the voice, the tone, really, without blathering on for days, they are all superb. They are all consistent and without major leaps of faith or twists. The story itself is almost frighteningly possible and yet Trevanian incorporates a character like Hel, our protagonist, so perfectly into it.

The only thing I could complain about, the only thing I would, is that I wish there was more. Nothing was really rushed, but I wanted more. I wanted it spanned out even longer. It was a spy novel, and it went along with the rather ridiculous themes that are present in many, but it did it in such a way that it could hardly even be questioned. Sometimes we would wonder if James Bond really could woo women with a simple silly tag-line but Trevanian somehow makes all of his writing and intrigue somewhat plausible. I found myself nodding along thinking, "it could happen" even if it never could.

All in all, spy fan or not, this is a great book. Its social and political commentary is outstanding and it is remarkably written. It is a novel I would recommend to anyone of any age of any affiliation of any incline. Read it. Now.
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