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"Totally absorbing...as gripping a tale of hatred and revenge as you will read...It is superb."
This is the story of Nicholas Linnear, half-Caucasian, half-Oriental, a man caught between East and West, between the sexual passions of a woman he can't forget and the one he can't control and between a past he can't escape and a destiny he can't avoid.
A sprawling erotic thriller that swings from postwar Japan to present-day New York in a relentless saga of violence and terror elaborately designed for the most savage vengeance of all...

509 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1980

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About the author

Eric Van Lustbader

159 books1,127 followers
Eric Van Lustbader was born and raised in Greenwich Village. He is the author of more than twenty-five best-selling novels, including The Ninja, in which he introduced Nicholas Linnear, one of modern fiction's most beloved and enduring heroes. The Ninja was sold to 20th CenturyFox, to be made into a major motion picture. His novels have been translated into over twenty languages.

Mr. Lustbader is a graduate of Columbia College, with a degree in Sociology. Before turning to writing full time, he enjoyed highly successful careers in the New York City public school system, where he holds licenses in both elementary and early childhood education, and in the music business, where he worked for Elektra Records and CBS Records, among other companies.


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5 stars
2,265 (33%)
4 stars
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3 stars
1,444 (21%)
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177 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 244 reviews
Profile Image for Peter.
2,494 reviews450 followers
July 17, 2019
Mighty saga full of love, hatred and the contrast between Eastern and Western world. Who is the mysterious ninja that kills people in New York? What is the link between those killings? Follow Nick Linnear through a multi-layered story covering the past and present times. It's nothing for short story enthusiasts but a mighty volume. Here you get so much insight into Japanese culture like in no other book I ever read. The characters are very well drawn and the plotting is excellent. There is much Japanese philosophy in the book, also well written sex scenes, some parts maybe are a bit too long winded for my taste. But overall it's a massive book absolutely worth reading!
Profile Image for Eric.
866 reviews74 followers
April 3, 2014
I decided to read this book for two reasons: The title grabbed my interest, and I recognized the author as the guy who took over the Bourne franchise after Robert Ludlum's death.

It starts out promisingly, with an intriguing assassination, but from there switches gears to protagonist Nicholas Linnear, who has just quit his job as an advertising executive, watching a drowned corpse being pulled from the ocean near his house, where he literally runs into his neighbor Justine. The next scene they share together ends with this sentence:
She licked at his neck as he used his hands on her, all over, increasing her pleasure, riding high within her, and at the end, when she found the tension almost unbearable, when the sweat and the saliva ran down her arms and between her breasts, pooling in her navel, when his frictioning against her was so intense that it took on a kind of third dimension, she used her inner muscles once, twice, heard him gasp, felt herself balancing on the brink, the thudding of their hearts heavy in her inner ear, whispering to him, "Come, darling, come -- ohhh!" gasped out as she felt his probing finger, slick with their mingled juices, at the opening of her anus and lost all control, filled with fire all the way up to her throat.
Let's set aside that this unwieldy chunk of text is one sentence that contains twenty commas. Let's also make it clear that I am not a prude and have no problems with sex in literature. But considering how little either of these characters are fleshed out at this juncture of the book, why should I be emotionally invested in one of them shoving their finger up the other's asshole?

This book, which I thought would appeal to my love of thrillers and Asian culture, may appeal more to females in my life that last read the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Wait, never mind. This book has archaic gender stereotypes as well, as evidenced by this later interaction between Nick and Justine:
Without thinking, he slapped her. The blow was hard enough so that she reeled backward against the wall. Immediately, his heart broke and he said her name softly and she came into his arms, her open lips against the tendons of his neck, her hot tears scalding his flesh; she stroked the back of his head.

He picked her up and carried her to the rumpled bed and they made violent love for a very long time.
I wonder if at some later juncture his hyper-masculinity causes her to swoon. But I'll never know, as I can't bring myself to read any further than the 11% mark I am currently stuck at. It's a shame, because there could be a great thriller hiding in that other 89%, but this story was ruined for me by this meaninglessly over-sexualized beginning.

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review.
Profile Image for Chloe.
348 reviews529 followers
March 12, 2016
I don't even know how to begin a review of this "book." It's a "book" only so much as it is a bound collection of words that form a "story" (I guess). Though to use either term in describing this incredibly juvenile masturbatory fantasy is an offense to books and stories everywhere. I started reading it at the behest of a neighbor with normally impeccable taste in books- he's previously turned me on to both Carson McCullers and Dow Mossman. Sure, I was forewarned that it wasn't very good but that he had "loved it when he was a teen."

Now, I love people's guilty pleasures when it comes to reading. The books that people don't really even want to admit to reading, let alone enjoying. I probably think that one of my guiltiest pleasures is the John Steakley human-in-powersuit-fights-giant-ants scifi schlockfest Armor. I like to think (delude myself into thinking) that if I read someone's guilty pleasure then I'll get some sort of insight or understanding into their character. My penchant for "me vs. the horde" tales like those in Armor or the countless zombie books I've read probably speaks volumes about my distrust for large groups or what-have-you. All I learned about my neighbor by reading Van Lustbader's The Ninja is that he was an exceptionally horny teenager (but who wasn't).

One would think that with a book titled The Ninja that the pages would be a blood-spattered mess right out of some John Woo spectacle. Instead the bulk of this 500-odd page book are filled with 75% porn of a decidedly uninteresting (or at least extremely poorly written) variety. Mailer and Updike are often derided as writing some of the worst sex scenes in print but they don't even hold a candle to the mess that Van Lustbader contrives here. I don't know. Perhaps he's unlucky in love and feels the need to write out rather than act out his various fantasies. After reading some of these fantasies I could definitely understand why he'd be unlucky. Still, why share this with the world? Is it really necessary?

I'm not even going to talk about the "plot" of this mess. I could easily deride the writer for his endless stereotyping of Asia, in general, and Japan, in particular, (I mean really how many times do I have to read that Japanese are "inscrutable" and "hard-eyed" or that tired old phrase "East meets West?" In fact, I am banning the use of that phrase forever more. Hollywood, take note!) but really what would be the point? Instead, I'll leave with a quote from the book that brought home to me within the first 30 pages just how bad the experience of reading this would be. I should have thrown my copy at the wall immediately upon reading "East meets West inside me like swirling currents and there is a kind of tug of war." Really?
Profile Image for Terence M - [back to abnormal].
490 reviews168 followers
August 31, 2021
4-Stars - I really Liked It!
I see no need to reduce my rating, despite the dnf, as this was actually a third-time read/listen of a book that I had previously rated @ 4-Stars.
Eric Van Lustbader - Nicholas Linnear #1 - The Ninja
Audiobook - 20:10 Hours - Narrator: Merwin Smith 1981
Listened to: 10:05 Hours - Balance: 10:05 Hours
DNF'd @ 50%

First read in the very early 1980's, the last time I read this was probably 1990's. This is a third-time read/listen for "The Ninja", but half-way through I'm afraid my enthusiasm waned😒 - it was sounding a bit 'tired' and, of course, predictable! So, I think, better now to choose one from my pile of brand-new audiobooks for my next listen😊!

The narration by Merwin Smith is excellent, with limited use of Japanese and Chinese 'accents', but sufficient to maintain the mood of a book I already knew quite well.
Profile Image for Vincent Stoessel.
599 reviews28 followers
July 7, 2013
This book right here is not for anyone born after 1975. It's wrong in so many ways, it's 1980s through and through from Reagan America to our obsession with everything Japan. Lustbader took that Shogun/Bushido/Ninja obsession and ran with it on this Nicholas Linnear series and some of the other Asian based series that he wrote during this fertile period. Having said all that, I enjoyed this book.
Profile Image for Shannon.
885 reviews221 followers
May 24, 2014
Rather than just do a blurb, let me paste some points from a personal analysis I did of the story.

OVERALL FEELING: Excellent understanding of the Eastern life and culture; great pacing; lots of intricate weaving of plot

SYNOPSIS: Nicholas Linnear (notice the last name; straight as an arrow) is at a crossroads in his life; he has just left his job and met a younger woman with some psychological problems. To top it off, his old nemesis, who he doesn't know about, is on the prowl, wiping people out left and right. And, to make it even worse, he's a ninja. Nicholas, while trying to find Saigo, before he kills all his friends; disappears as we flash back to the earlier History of Nicholas' parents.

CONCEPT: First off, it was a timely time to come out . . . right when Japan was doing very well economically (they had started to beat the auto industry) and Americans wanted to learn more about the culture. Toss in a secret group of assassins (known as the ninja) and toss it in New York with promises of sex, corruption and intrigue . . . and we're off to a good start.

SPYS/GADGETS/SKILLS: This is where Lustbader excels. There's a plethora of information here about the History of Japan (and even a bit about China) in explaining the origins and continuation of the ninja.


PACING: Story moves along nicely. Lustbader knows how to build the story up to a cliffhanger and then use something big to perk our interest before he jumps back to a flashback/another era. Lustbader tries to jump around with lots of different stories and tends to focus on these areas: (1) dark subjects or mystery; (2) sex; (3) Japanese History/Asian History; (4) lovers conflict; or (5) seedy murder investigations. That seems to be his basic formula in the topics he chooses.

OVERALL STYLE: This guy has great metaphors; I must have marked over 60 in the book and it's only about 500 pages long! THE LITTLE THINGS: Great details about the outdoors; especially the waves of the oceans and the manner in which the sunlight plays on them. Good character actions during dialogue moments, too.

SCORING: Superb (A), Excellent (A-), Very good (B+), Good (B) Fairly Good (B-) Above Average (C+), Mediocre (C ), Barely Passable (C-) Pretty Bad (D+), Dismal (D), Waste of Time (D-), Into the Trash (F)


457 reviews12 followers
February 20, 2017
And sometimes, you know you're in trouble on page 1. (Well, page 17, in fact, but it's the first page of the first book, after a three page prologue.)

"On the way in, in the cab, his mind had been empty, his thoughts like ashes swirled in the dregs of last night's coffee."

Oh, they did, did they? His empty mind. With swirling thoughts. Like ashes. Coffee dregs.

But wait, maybe this momentary flourish isn't indicative of anything but a little "grab the reader with your ebullience" up front.


Nobody would ever talk this way.


Nobody would ever think this way.


Nobody would ever act this way.

OK, ok, I can still enjoy this, if just as kitsch. Wait, "lentitudinous"? The garbage trucks are traveling on their lentitudinous path? WTH is "lentitudinous"? Not in the dictionary. Wait, here's a word guy on Twitter. "Slow. In the preceding example - lengthy, as in the original meaning of lent: the lengthening of the daylight hours."

So. Wait. Are we just saying that the trash trucks are slow? That they have a long path to travel? Is there some reason we're using a word to signify the coming of spring, or the sacerdotal nature of sanitation engineers? Did you just go through the book and replace "slow" and/or "lengthy" with lentitudinous? WHY?

Sumbitch used it again. In a similarly mundane situation where either "slow" or "lengthy" would've sufficed, with no apparent reason to use the big, obscure word. In fact, he's the #1 user of the word, per Google, though perhaps it was a more popular word in the '70s than today (but not so popular as to have a dictionary entry in any of the common ones available today).

Sumbitch uses it three or four times. Just as he switches tenses from time to time. Just as he swtiches POVs without warning often enough to make you wonder who the "he" in the sentence refers to. Just as he drops in a detail that makes you backtrack paragraphs to find out if you missed some previous reference to that detail, which otherwise seems to add nothing and signify nothing. Just as he sometimes describes a person's literal-word-thoughts without identifying that they are the person's thoughts by quotes, by italics, by changing from the third person to the first; the reader is on his own as to who is thinking what, what is fact, what is feeling.

Although he does helpfully (and artlessly) just straight out say. "That upset him" or "He found that curious." Because, you know, that's why you care about characters: Because the author tells you stuff like "He missed his daughters." That way, you'll really feel it when they're murdered for no reason other than no one's been murdered for a while.

You think, "Well, maybe he's going after some kind of poetic/aural effect, ashes swirling in coffee aside." (I think. You thought. Someone's thinking that. Guess who?) But then you notice the weird pounding of the same words over and over again: It repeats like something that was repetitive. The words burned into his brain like something brain burny. It was, like, bad." As if the author got had one bag of tricks. And as if that bag were nearly empty. As if the only similes left could be constructed with "as if". As if.

If you're not feeling punished, at the end of book four, starts dropping the subject of the sentence. Tries to make action exciting but writing in fragments. Confuses the reader. Or at least irritates him.

Story is awful. Pornographic comic book. Except porno comic might be good.

I can't even keep up the parody. The story is about a half-English half-Asian (whatever) guy in a small community outside of New York City who is drawn into a murder case when one of his neighbors is murdered. This initial murder is actually never explained in 442 pages. It serves, literally, to kick off the action and makes no sense in terms of the primary focus of the murder, which is theoretically An Evil Tycoon, or in terms of our hero's battle with The Ninja.

New York City and surrounding areas being notably low-density population small worlds, our hero meets, has sex with, and falls in love with a highly psychologically damaged girl who just happens to be daughter of Evil Tycoon. We experience their relationship pretty completely, leaving us befuddled when, on day 2 (or 3, I forget), they squabble like an old married couple.

You're not afraid because you're you, she tells him. But we, the readers, know way more about him than she does, because we've been privy to his swirling-ash-coffee thoughts, and they've spoken about 200 words to each other.

200 words that no one has ever spoken to anyone in the history of speaking, as I noted earlier. Dialogue is just exposition; it doesn't matter who's mouth it is. Everyone's a cliche, at the best of times; at the worst, they're just spewing words the author didn't want to write as prose. Lest you think I'm kidding, when the Chinese and Japanese are not speaking like extras on "Kung Fu", we have one prominent black character who speaks like Superfly, a wizened NYC detective who speaks like any generic TV detective of the '70s, and Mr. Evil Tycoon who alternates between vulgar trash-talking and sounding like a Bond villain.

The author simply does not believe in "Staying in the Phone Booth with the Gorilla" as Robert Newton Peck Secrets of Successful Fiction once advised, probably believing that this creates suspense (rather than irritation). At times, this trammels the already flattened suspension-of-disbelief, as when our hero stops on his way to the Final Conflict at a movie house to pump up with some Bruce Lee flicks.

The action is so poorly described that most of the details were not decipherable by me, and I could literally get up and try to act them out. (I am not inexperienced in martial arts.) I assume most people just go "That sounds cool" and never try to work out how, for example, the villain manages to be fighting the hero over the partition in a limo and yet is able to bring up his knee in some meaningful fashion against him. Or how the villain manages to be lugging around a body of his own approximate site for easy throwing out of a window later (or perhaps he planted that body earlier for easy catapulting—it's never explained).

Major plot flaws are no barrier here, either. In the Big Confrontation, the Hero and the Tycoon lure the Villain to a site of their choosing so as to surprise the Villain (who doesn't realize he's being lured). So, the point is that the Villain will think he's ambushing them but AHA! The Evil Tycoon even betrays the Hero on this point by alerting the Villain that they're on to him! (Spoiler?)

Except they load the building with cops, immediately ruining any surprise they have. No reason is given, actually, for The Hero notifying Buddy Cop about this. In fact, it's really well established that The Hero's Big Problem in fighting The Villain is going to be other people getting in his way.

But like the side-scrolling arcade games that had yet to be invented, we needed some easier fights in the low levels before we get to the Big Boss Battle.

In these angustate passages—what? What does "angustate" mean? It means narrow. What kind of writer would use the word "angustate" when "narrow" is right there and there's no particular reason to bring in a word that hasn't been in common usage for 100 years? Well, not a very good one, and so I apologize.

Sort of like I'd apologize for using six different words that, in essence, encompass the idea of "ki" or "chi" or the concept of spiritual awareness, especially one that is from a 19th century European philosopher and really doesn't fit, even when I didn't use the one that would really fit, like "chi".

As long as I'm apologizing, I'd probably apologize for dropping in pseudo-literary references to Raymond Chandler (whose name I would be profaning were I to drop it into such wasteful florid prose), to Cain and Abel—whom my main characters have literally nothing in common with, beyond a super-shallow "one's sorta good and one's sorta evil" take, to Shakespeare, and to all the people I'm referencing like an 8th grader who only has a handful of references he's aware of.

A handful of references and a thesaurus, that is.

We won't even get into the whole "Eastern mindset" thing. This reads like someone had heard the phrase "eastern mindset" without any concept of what it was. The characters constantly reference their eastern mindsets without any attempt to enlighten the reader. "You wouldn't understand," as Pee Wee Herman told Dottie. If you wanted to understand it, you'd be better off reading the Lone Wolf and Cub, Vol. 1: The Assassin's Road" series, which doesn't even try to explain it, but has the advantage of being authentically Japanese.

I'd be offended by the cultural appropriation, but I'm not sure on whose behalf I should be offended. Asians? New York City cops? Lipstick lesbians? (Don't get me started on that.)

The kick in the 'nads here is that it's not even a complete book. The story ends as a come-on for the second in the series.

The Hero and the Girl have a fight. 150 pages later (1/3rd of the book!), most of which is tedious backstory, we're supposed to remember that they had it (they're usually fighting), that it was serious (they're usually fighting), and that the perfectly normal response is for The Girl to go out trolling at a disco (they're usually fighting). Also, several minor characters are reintroduced and/or murdered.

I paid 50 cents for this in 1990 and I've just about gotten my money's worth by ranting here. It took me this long to read it because I would read passages over and over again trying to figure out what the author was trying to convey. Even after I realized there was a big case of Just Didn't Care going on, and "throw another simile on the barbie", I would reread entire chapters over and over trying to figure out if they had any relevance to anything. Some of them did.

5 months on the New York Times bestseller list, according to the cover.

Why I don't read more modern fiction? This is not only why I don't read it, it's why I'm afraid to write.
Profile Image for Michael.
186 reviews27 followers
August 1, 2021
I learned about The Ninja in 1995 from an acquaintance who said it was, in his opinion, one of the coolest books he had ever read. He regaled me one afternoon on the phone with a recitation of all the epic sex, sword fights, and Eastern mysticism that made it kick so much ass. Explaining in great detail about how the main bad guy disembowels a dude with a claw weapon so sharp it cuts vertically through a bullet-proof vest, Matt certainly piqued my interest in the story the way only a seventeen year old male can pique the interest of another seventeen year old male by describing all kinds of stuff you know your parents would prefer you never read.

I vowed to one day track down and read this book which had so enthralled him, then we changed the topic of conversation to something else: probably Magic the Gathering or Penn & Teller, two more of the vices Matt and I shared high-school-age laughs over.

Well, fast forward twenty or so years, and I finally found a hardcover floating around the used bookstore where I work. A litany of memories returned, and I realized that, while I had promised Matt I'd read it, I hadn't done so yet. I bought the book, took it home, and plopped it on the ever-growing mountain that is my TBR pile, where it languished for another several years.

Until I saw the memory posted by an old high school friend, talking about Matt, reminding everyone to take care of themselves, because Matt passed away in 2005 at the age of 28. It hit me: ten years after the last time I spoke to him on the phone or hung out with him playing cards, Matt had died. I never read the book he loved so much, never got to discuss it with him beyond what he told me that one day over the phone. So, twenty-five years after I first learned of its existence, I cracked the covers, not knowing what to expect, but having seen enough "American Ninja" movies to assume I had a fairly good idea.

* * * * *

Let's get one thing out of the way: The Ninja is an erotic thriller published in 1980. I was all of three years old when this book came out, so by the time I was old enough to be interested in reading something called "The Ninja", it was no longer tearing up the best-seller charts. It's about as thoroughly late-70's/early-80's as it's possible for a book like this to get, with characters visiting discos and New York holding its reputation for squalor along 42nd Street, filled with shady theaters and red-light clubs galore, the way an addict clutches his near-empty bottle of whiskey.

It would be easy to write off The Ninja as being yet another in those series of endless, cranked-out-for-a-buck stories you'd find crowding the Men's Adventure shelves of your local Walden Books of the day. Judged by its cover, it should fit right in with the exploits of Remo Williams from The Destroyer, or Mack Bolan from The Executioner. And, to a certain extent, The Ninja is just this sort of story: a protagonist who typifies the East vs. West mentality, having been born to a British father and Asian mother, never accepted by the Japan he calls home, but trained in its deadliest fighting techniques nonetheless; an antagonist named Saigo who is, yes, a ninja; a heaping dose of sex (not all of which is the garden variety either -- we've got lesbianism, men doing boys, and even some incest thrown in for good measure); a smattering of Japanese words amongst the English text; sayings attributed to Miyamoto Musashi and Ieyasu Tokugawa; and an overriding philosophy that states it takes a ninja to stop a ninja. If you were going to crank out an East-meets-West thriller in the late 70's, this is, at first glance, exactly how you'd do it.

And yet, when Eric Van Lustbader penned this novel, the ninja so commonly depicted in Western popular culture simply didn't exist yet. Years before American Ninja, Enter the Ninja, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and countless anime and manga turned 'ninja' into a mega-trope, Lustbader set out to explore the ideas and philosophies of bushido in a way accessible to Western readers, yet respectful to Eastern culture. That's not to say he doesn't take creative liberties along the way, but if Robert Ludlum could do so with Jason Bourne and Tom Clancy with Jack Ryan, it seems wrong to fault Lustbader for doing so with Nicholas Linnear.

Lustbader treads right through topics like Hiroshima, the US occupation of Japan, and the cultural conflict between not just Japan and the United States, but also Japan's relationship to much of the rest of Asia, especially China. The main antagonist of the book might be a full-blooded Japanese, but the crimes he is avenging stem from Western interference in, and misunderstanding of, Japanese culture, both in the present-day of the late 20th century and the post-War reconstruction period. Raphael Tomkin, the book's secondary antagonist (who is more responsible for the modern-day events of the story than the 'bad guy ninja'), is Western through and through, and arguably more corrupt and damaging on the whole than Saigo. Tomkin's scuttling of an international business deal with one of the Japanese zaibatsu (powerful industrial and financial conglomerates), and the resulting loss of face among the Japanese, may be what sets the novel in motion, but the conflict between Nicholas and Saigo has been brewing for two decades.

The Ninja is not a quick read. At least, it wasn't for me. I'm the kind of person who can tear through a 400-page novel in a day or two, but Lustbader's prose isn't built for this. It, like bushido itself, is meant for the sort of patient reader James Patterson has spent the last twenty years breeding out of existence with his punchy, one-chapter-every-two-pages style. It's filled with long, meandering passages where little of importance seems to happen, punctuated with scenes of what, at the time, would have seemed utterly immoral brutality and depravity. Fully half the book takes place in the past, dwelling on everything from Nicholas growing up in Japan, where his father is working with Gen. MacArthur to fundamentally change Japan's political and military landscape, to a secondary character's memories of fighting in the Pacific and encountering foes who defied every attempt the Americans made to understand who and what they were facing.

At first glance, this seems like a mistake made by a novice writer. Was Lustbader tossing in everything but the kitchen sink, pleased as punch with his ability to poke the keys on a typewriter and wear out the typesetter's italic font pieces, as some other reviews on here seem to think? Originally, this was my thought as well: The Ninja spends an awful lot of time talking about nothing in particular, mired in the past just as its characters are.

But then I realized that was the whole point. Much of the philosophy espoused by both Saigo and Nicholas comes from Miyamoto Musashi's The Book of Five Rings. Musashi's book is short, coming in well under 100 pages in every translation I've ever seen. You can read it in an afternoon.

But just because you can doesn't always mean you should.

Musashi didn't write his book for readers to finish in a single sitting, he wrote with the assumption the reader would contemplate each point he highlighted. His instructions and lessons conclude with statements like, "Medidate on this well," or "Think about this carefully," or "Take time to consider this." If you read The Book of Five Rings in a single day, you're robbing yourself of the single most important part of Musashi's teachings: simply finishing the text is not enough.

Lustbader, I am convinced, took this theory to heart with his prose, and crafted a story which demands the reader stop and think. Frequently. Western audiences, especially those of the 1980's, could not just be told, "meditate on this for a while". Instead, Lustbader put together a story which weaves and dances from place to place, point to point, time to time, filling a gap here, a clue there, forcing readers to slow down and engage with the story. You can burn through The Ninja in a couple of days and be mildly entertained with the blood spectacle and sexual escapades, but you'll do so at the expense of the experience Lustbader intended. Every backtrack is an opportunity to 'meditate' on the lesson at hand, drawn out beyond what any editor would allow today, because Lustbader's "translating" the experience for readers. Doc Deerforth tells Nicholas his long story about his own encounter with shadowy Japanese assassins and his personal witness of the kamikaze strikes on American naval vessels not because Lustbader wants to pad his page count, but because it lends that much more weight to Deerforth's later encounter with Saigo. Without the former, the latter is impossible. Such is it with much of the book: without the past, the present becomes meaningless.

You'd think a book written like this would have withered and died on the vine in 1980, but just the opposite was true. The Ninja spent twenty weeks on the NY Times Best Seller list, sold millions of copies, and to date Lustbader has produced five sequels. The public ate The Ninja and its protagonist up like starving orphans turned loose at a fancy buffet. And yet, it's the sort of book which you'd never see touched by any traditional publisher today thanks mainly to the demise of the ninja's pop-cultural credit and the aforementioned James Patterson effect on thrillers today. What Lustbader conjured in 1980 was a right-place, right-time phenomenon which I have a hard time comprehending even today. An awful lot of movies and books owe a debt of gratitude to this book, which treats the titular topic (and its audience) with far more respect than perhaps they deserve. It's not life-changing, it's not life-affirming, and it's very much the antithesis of today's disposable, interchangeable, one-and-done beach reads. And yet, it has a staying power other books in this vein wore out decades ago. In cinematic terms, "The Ninja" is 1974's Jaws compared to today's Marvel Cinematic Universe outings. Both are summer blockbusters, but both are profoundly different experiences, and the former would have an impossible time competing with the latter in this day and age.

* * * * *

I don't know what a seventeen-year-old me would have made of The Ninja. But I do know what a seventeen-year-old buddy made of it. He loved the hell out of it. Matt, I know you'll never read these words, and I'm sorry it took so long for this book to find me. But thank you for falling in love with it and regaling me with all the awesome bits on that phone call twenty-five years ago. It was one hell of a recommendation, big guy. I hope this review is repayment enough.

You were right.
Profile Image for Jayakrishnan.
488 reviews161 followers
January 9, 2023
This is one hell of an entertaining book with a lot of sex in it. It is like a more mainstream version of Shibumi. I wonder whether there was a committee involved in writing a book like this. A team to write sex scenes that caters to the fantasies of the masses. Just enough oriental culture to make some people feel like they're consuming interesting mainstream art. A lot of action. Some relative of mine left it in one of the cupboards in my house for me to discover. Jackie Collins. Eric Van Lustbader. Harold Robbins. Were they like hired guns to spread sexy American culture to the rest of the world? The cupboards in my house were filled with books by these writers. I have seen other Indian kids on social media who discovered these writers. My relatives did not bestow Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer upon me. The possibilities were endless.
Profile Image for Malum.
2,200 reviews131 followers
January 7, 2019
Lustbader's The Ninja is like a direct-to-video early '80s action movie. Its got gratuitous sex, brutal ninja violence, a white ninja hero (well, to be fair, he is half Asian but-according to the book-you can hardly tell) and a black cop that talks so much jive it will make you want to call your nearest NAACP.

The book excelled when it was reveling in its gratuitousness. When body parts were flying, it was a lot of fun. Where it gets bogged down is in all of its meanderings and flashbacks. If this were tightened up and about 100-150 pages cut out, it would have been a lot more fun.
Profile Image for David Graham.
Author 2 books12 followers
January 2, 2014
I remember my older brother bought The Ninja by Eric Van Lustbader in the mid ‘80s and I pestered him to let me have it. When he finally did let me read it I was blown away. The titular subject may have become a bit of a cliché since with everything even turtles adopting it but I still think with the story’s broad international sweep and large cast of characters it is an exemplar of a particular kind of thriller. When it was written, international travel was nowhere near as accessible and this added to the glamour of the book for the reader. Nearly all of Van Lustbader’s books of that period such as Shan, Jian and Blackheart followed the pattern of having two interlinked stories from different time periods where Lustbader brought the reader back and forth between the two. Later books in the Nicholas Linnear series featured more overt fantasy-like elements than Ninja but in that first book Nicholas Linnear was easily the equal of Jason Bourne, Nicholai Hel from Shibumi and more recently the likes Jack Reacher in terms of how lethal he was and how much of an enigma he presented. I actually think The Ninja has aged better than virtually all of its contemporaries.
Profile Image for Alina.
293 reviews9 followers
April 25, 2022
Definitely one of my all-time favorites and a must re-read every couple of years, even though I've pretty much memorized the key scenes by now (both the flawless action sequences and the original sex scenes). Even though I wasn't as charmed by the mystical, magical, ninja shenanigans as I used to be as a kid, the fights still read like a fine painting or a flowing piece of music. The writing itself might have gone off on random tangents at times and the dialogue was a little disjointed here and there (felt like the characters were talking to themselves more than to each other) but overall, I can't fault this book too much.

In fact, I must applaud it for giving me one of my most favorite book anti-heroes of all times. For all his sadistic cruelty and obvious madness, I loved Saigo from his very first scenes and I think entire novels should have been dedicated to describing in detail just how he was broken and... possibly... how he might have been mended.
Profile Image for Paul.
708 reviews61 followers
September 16, 2012
For 3000 years, love has been an art in the Orient. And so has Death

Here is the origin of Nicholas Linnear, half English, Half Oriental, who is about to enter a terrifying world of merciless assassins bound by the blackest codes of honour and skilled in the deadliest martial arts.

Caught between East and West, a past he can't escape and a destiny he can't avoid, he is trapped in a web of old lust and present passions that will converge on a terrifying moment of revelation and revenge...

Early this year I made the decision that I would try to re-visit some older books that I've enjoyed in the past. I was keen to see how well a novel stands the test of time. I think probably the toughest genre to avoid aging badly is thrillers. That's why for this review I decided to re-read a novel that I remember being a favourite, The Ninja by Eric Lustbader.

Nicholas Linnear is a complex character, the product of two completely different cultures but not really belonging to either. There is a quiet stillness and an introspective quality to him that I like. Every action or comment that he makes seems measured and entirely appropriate. The reader is slowly drip fed details of his childhood and also the important relationships he had in his formative years, especially with his parents. Linnear grows up in post war Japan during a time of great upheaval, and this ever-changing environment leaves its mark on him. Initially, and I suppose from a Western perspective, he does possibly come across as somewhat stand-offish/aloof but as the story unfolds, the multiple layers to his character are revealed.

The other character I really enjoy in this novel is the police detective Lew Croaker. There is a sub plot involving an unsolved murder and Croaker is introduced as part of this. He has a slightly down at heel, world-weary outlook and I warmed to him immediately. When he first meets Nicholas their different attitudes to life spark off one another. Croaker's introduction is a clever move on the author's part. It gives Lustbader the opportunity to properly explain basic concepts of Eastern philosophy, for example the concept of face, as Croaker learns about them for the first time.

What really intrigues me most about this novel is the examination of the differing attitudes towards culture, religion, gender and sex. Lustbader is clearly fascinated by the fundamental differences between East and West. It's the exploration of those differences that I think raise The Ninja above your standard by-the-numbers thriller.

The novel also has some first rate action as well. The skills of a ninja border on the almost supernatural and there are some great moments that illustrate the trained killer going about his deadly business. Throw in some suitably saucy sex scenes and you have an adult themed thriller that works on many levels.

How has The Ninja aged then? Not to badly as it turns out. I willing to concede that the chapters set in “the present’ do feel a bit dated. That said there is no doubt that Lustbader’s writing does effortlessly tap into the zeitgeist of the multiple time periods in which the novel is set. Chronologically the story covers around forty years, from the tail end of World War II right up until the early nineteen eighties.

Thinking about it the notion of tradition versus change is another of the novel’s main motifs. The ways of the secret societies of Japan are in direct conflict with the modern, Western way of life. Again it’s a surprise that this sort of insight can be discovered and a book that is packaged as nothing more than a standard thriller. On that particular point, I did notice is that the book blurb on the back cover really doesn't do the book justice. It just about manages to convey the bare bones of the story. Totally avoids mentioning some of the most compelling elements of the novel. Based on the blurb alone I can imagine that many people wouldn't consider picking this novel up. That's a damn shame because, as far as thrillers go, it's rather brilliant.

The Ninja is just the beginning of Linnear's journey. There are another five books in the Nicholas Linnear/Ninja Cycle, I've read them all, and I think they are well worth investing in. They are a great blend of action, adventure, philosophy and history.
Profile Image for Bob Mayer.
Author 153 books47.9k followers
January 20, 2019
This is an older book, but started a series for Von Lustbader that were kind of Jack Reacher-ish, but on a more international scale.

A lot of Japanese culture and history which adds to the story and doesn't take away. Rather adult and the female characters a bit two-dimensional, more window dressing.

Fans of John Wick would like this.
Profile Image for Gabby.
204 reviews42 followers
April 2, 2014
I received a free copy of The Ninja by Eric Van Lustbader from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. This book was first published in 1980; Open Road Media is re-releasing some of the titles in the Nicholas Linnear series. The Ninja is the first book in the series. There are two more books available for the Kindle. Before I was completely finished with The Ninja, I purchased both those titles.

It took a little longer than usual for me to get into this book, but once I did, there was no stopping until I was finished. I know very little about Ninjas insofar as what it takes to train oneself to become what is essentially a killing machine. I'd never even watched a Bruce Lee movie all the way through because martial arts never interested me very much. The closest I ever came to understanding what it takes to control one's mind and body to this kind of discipline was from watching The Karate Kid. After that I knew the difference between a dojo and a sensei, and I got the concept behind "wax-on; wax-off". None of that helped me one bit in fully understanding what it is a Ninja does. I'm still no authority, but I have a much clearer picture not only of Martial Arts but also the Asian background experience with it.

When the book begins, Nicholas Linnear is about to quit his job and completely give up the life he had made for himself in this country. He's walking toward his office to give his boss the news that he's leaving just as a body is being pulled from the ocean. Because he doesn't believe the body has anything to do with him, Nick proceeds with his plans for the day and ignores all the attention the discovery of the "floater" is attracting. Later he finds out that the dead man was someone he knew because the man lived a few doors down from him on the beach. The story then shifts back and forth from Nick's childhood in Japan to the present time when the dead bodies begin to accumulate. While the current state of affairs with the murders is interesting and well written on its own, Nick's background is equally as fascinating as we learn more and more about the Eastern mindset as opposed the the Westernized version of life as Nick it lives now. He is aware of a continuing conflict inside himself in trying to combine two very different ways of not only living but also thinking.

Nick's father was instrumental in helping to rebuild Japan after World War II. Nick's mother was Japanese, and she saw the worst of the war when her husband was killed before her eyes. Nick grew up combining the best of both cultures in his home. It was only when he became a young man that he was drawn into the complexities of two very different cultures.

I am not a huge fan of gratuitous sex scenes in books or anywhere else for that matter. I usually end up trying to figure out if the couple groping and slobbering all over each other could really perform all those acrobatic moves in real life. Eric Van Lustbader indulges himself in some wordsmith creativity when it comes to bedrooms, living rooms, or wherever is handy to do some bodice ripping and sexual contortionist tricks. It added absolutely nothing to the story and was distracting. Once I got past all that though, the book improved enormously. Van Lustbader had a very involved plot that was full of historical detail as well as explaining what the art of Kenjutsu entails. Given that this book was first published in 1980, it is very much to the author's credit that the story held up with the passage of so much time. There really was life before cell phone texting and Twitter.

This was not a quick read. There is a lot of background content to cover in understanding how all the bodies do relate to one another. For me, the more I read, the more deeply involved I became with the characters. I look forward to following more of Nick's storyline with the other characters who survived this first book of the series. I'd recommend this book to people who enjoy reading about vastly different cultures along with interesting historical references to Japan's involvement in World War II.
Profile Image for Manosthehandsoffate.
96 reviews1 follower
June 8, 2014
I wanted to like this book. It has some of the goofy trashiness of an 1980s ninja movie -- sword battles, wall climbing, hypnotism, throwing stars, all that good stuff.

Unfortunately for a book about ninjas it is overwritten and takes itself way too seriously. There's an overabundance of back story for the main character and there are too many unnecessary characters. It takes the focus from the sweet ninja action I want from a book titled "The Ninja." A good editor could easily chop 25% out of the book and lose nothing.
Profile Image for Bon Tom.
854 reviews55 followers
February 4, 2019
I wanted to read this book ever since I was kid, somehow couldn't get my hands on it. One of the reason I found it so attractive, besides obvious (ninjas), was that it sounded like great, pulpy, trashy, action movie spanning across many pages - all good stuff for 12 yo.

I was wrong. This is not kid's book. It's epic, complex, and very ambitious. Maybe even too ambitious for its own good. It's not for attention challenged. It jumps through decades, from intra to interpersonal, to global, international, cultural and political. But if you can afford to give yourself gift of old school, slow reading rare soul does in this age of too many books - too little time, and toss that bad skimming habit of yours for a while, you'll be awarded with great reading experience and many cosy evenings.

I think it's from the period Lustbader didn't outline his books, and it shows. But what it lacks in structure, it makes up in content and depth.

You also need to try to place it in the context of time when it was written. If you can't, then the person who said it isn't for those born after 1975. might be right. Sex scenes are well ahead of their time, for a big, mainstream book. Also, it was decade of cheap, choreographed martial arts movies. And no matter how cheap, everybody was binging in them. So the very idea of trying to do something more serious and ambitious with ninjas might have been quite a stretch of imagination.

And to finally experience how well was it realized... I'm grateful I did.
Profile Image for Calum Inglis.
23 reviews2 followers
October 6, 2019
A Ninja fantasy set in the 70s and 80s. Typical 70s erotic scenes described by the author. A martial arts that was pure fantasy and magical stuffs. A book written in the tradition of B Grade action movies of the 80s. A book written before the mobile phones and the internet . A good read to kill time .
Profile Image for RunRachelRun.
291 reviews6 followers
October 19, 2010
I read a lot of Van Lustbader's books as a teenager. Always a little shiver of "whoa, I don't think I should be reading this at my age". Sigh, that innocence is long gone.
Profile Image for Michael Armijo.
Author 2 books26 followers
March 7, 2020
THE NINJA was first published in Great Britain forty years ago (1980). It ended up in my hands as I bought it after reading the book “BE” by A.C. PING last year (2019) because he used a quote from the book that I thought was quite profound. In fact, it was a test for myself to read THE NINJA to see if I would find the excerpt in the book and underline it to see if it had the same impact on me. It did...here is the part that drew me to the book:

“One cannot learn wisdom by sitting at another’s feet. One must live one’s own life, make one’s own mistakes, feel one’s own ecstasy to learn the true meaning of existence, for it is different in each individual. Fall down, get up, do it all over again in another context. Experience. And learn. That is the only way.”

THE NINJA flows like a movie. It’s a gripping a thriller (with all of that revenge, love and murder intertwined) that was way ahead of its time when you consider when it was written. I understand now why the auther (Eric Van Lustbader) was the chosen writer to takeover where author, Robert Ludlum, had left off with the Jason Bourne (The Bourne Trilogy) series. Ludlum died in 2001 and Eric wrote his first Bourne book (The Bourne Legacy) in 2004. Eric has already written 11 BOURNE books and his 12th is due to be released in September 2020, THE BOURNE NEMESIS. Now that would be the ideal 2020 Christmas gift for me (hint-hint).

Sadly, THE NINJA, was almost made into a film but it still has not made it into the screen world. I’d love to see the pace of it on film happen one day. And besides this one there are five other sequels to THE NINJA with two additional short stories...not sure if/when I will get to read them as I have other choice picks on my plate right now.

I had so many lines that impacted me from THE NINJA but I think I will just share the first and last line (as to not spoil the surprises):
1. “I’m tired lately. I’ve been waking up, feeling like Count Dracula.”

2. To come to know your enemy, first you must become his friend. And once you become his friend, all his defenses come down. Then can you choose the most fitting method for his demise.
Profile Image for Perry Martin.
Author 14 books9 followers
February 25, 2018
I loved this book when I read it back in the 80s, and had I reviewed it then I probably would have given it four, or even five stars. I remember being completely engrossed in, and enthralled by the Eastern philosophy, mysticism and martial arts mystique contained therein, as well as the epic tale that jumps back and forth between post-war Japan and present day (1980s present day) America. It stuck in my mind over the years as one of the best books I had ever read.

Fast forward to 2018 and, after reading it again many years later, I came away with a slightly different opinion. While it is still an entertaining story, I personally found it not to have withstood the test of time. While Lustbader's knowledge of Japanese martial arts, philosophy and history is impressive, and the action sequences described are pretty gripping, I found some of the writing a tad pretentious - - especially his penchant for using words that would have even the brightest Mensa members scratching their heads and reaching for their dictionaries. I also found the steamy sex scenes rather long and drawn out and, for me, they did nothing to drive the plot along. More important, they did nothing to help establish an emotional connection between myself and the characters. And there, perhaps, is where I was most disappointed. With all the author brought to the story in terms of rich detail, he failed to really involve me emotionally with the characters.

That said, I did enjoy the book enough to want to travel down memory lane again and read one or two more Lustbader novels that I recall enjoying in my youth. (I am currently reading "Shibumi" by Trevanian - - another book from my youth I recall reading just before reading "The Ninja" - - and, so far, it seems to be holding up despite the passage of time). I may give "The Miko" a go next.

FINAL NOTE: If you do decide to read "The Ninja", please be aware that the sex scenes are quite graphic - - borderline pornographic, in my opinion.
Profile Image for Elliott Bignell.
316 reviews29 followers
April 11, 2015
By turns tranquil and explosive, this is the pinnacle of martial-arts fiction writing. I must have read it ten times and will doubtless return to it again. Linnear is the most compelling and believable of characters in a genre that is usually packed with exaggeration and circus acrobats. The book is not entirely free of magic and mysticism, but in these proportions it fits perfectly. It is a pity that the later books tended to degenerate into oriental sorcery, but this is a stunning opening to the series and stands perfectly well alone.

Linnear is a man who stands between East and West, the son of an American diplomat raised in Japan, Western on the outside and Japanese in his heart. Nicholas Linnear takes up the burden of learning bujutsu as a child and becomes one of the greatest living masters of the Japanese fighting arts. With the pain of a broken relationship with a sexually insatiable lover blighting his life, and a conflict with the "black" side of ninjutsu which he has tried to leave in his past, Linnear has come to live in the US and taken a Western lover. The lover's life is bound up by deeper fate with his own, however, and a series of martial-arts-style murders points to a murder contract on her father being executed by a ninja. As an expert on this art he is drawn into the police investigation. As the events spiral closer in towards Linnear and his difficult relationship with the police investigator mutates into friendship, he is forced reluctantly to the realisation that his conflict has come back to pursue him, and he must take up the sword again.

This is some of the most graceful and lyrical writing that I have ever encountered; reading "The Ninja" is like entering a dream. The action scenes are absolutely rivetting, and still have me writhing in my seat trying to block as the blows fall. It is the masterpiece of its kind, entirely unique in my experience.
Profile Image for David.
15 reviews
February 5, 2021
I read this book for the first time when I was 15. I'd walked into a library and asked the librarian for a book about ninjas. I'd read about them in a book about martial arts and wanted to learn more. She dutifully searched the card catalog, then came back with this book, saying, "This was the only book I could find." It was 1980.

Needless to say, it was an eye-opening experience for a 15 year old boy. I remember reading a jacket review that I've never forgotten: "Lustbader writes sex scenes so steamy, they'll send you writhing to your therapist in agony." That stuffy old librarian never had a clue.

I owned the book for a while, but it disappeared somewhere along my journey. I still own "The Miko", but I've never felt it lived up to the first of the series.

It's amusing now, reading the reviews, so many of which come from people who are reaching their adulthood in today's world of intolerant social justice. People who review everything through the lens of a SJW are sad to begin with, sojourning through life collecting injustices like we used to collect beer cans in the 70's. But watching them try to apply their measuring stick to a novel like "The Ninja" is nothing short of comical.

So if you're that person, I'm tempted to say that I'll save you the trouble. This book will trigger and disgust you on every level. But since I know that, deep down, you LIKE being triggered and disgusted because it makes you feel superior and strong, firmly supported by the mass hysteria with which you and your kind have filled the world, I know you won't listen.
Profile Image for Juan.
Author 16 books26 followers
February 15, 2021
Puede ser que, para un tiempo determinado y unos gustos determinados, este libro se pudiera considerar bueno. Si no hubiera sido así, ni siquiera habría podido ser el primero de una serie de un montón de libros más. Cuarenta años después de su publicación, no. Ni de coña.
La edición que yo tengo es de 1984. Los Jet de Plaza y Janés, 895 pesetas. Debo tenerlo en mi pila dese los 80. Esa razón, y no otra, es la que me ha llevado a leerlo al final. Sus páginas presentan ya la pátina de lo usado, y eso sin que nadie lo haya usado. Además, no sé dónde leí que en este libro salía una visión un poco peculiar de España, así que dije, venga, por qué no (spoiler: es en otro libro de la serie, que tiene un montón).
El libro es una mezcla de thriller erótico-artes marciales que chirría por todos lados. Aparte de la parte ochentera del asunto, con mentalidad ochentera, es que no vienen muy a cuento ninguna de las escenas eróticas ni aportan mucho a los personajes que participan en ellas. Algunas son realmente desagradables. Pero eso no es lo peor.
Lo peor, realmente, es la traducción. Es el tipo de traducción hecha a toda prisa para sacar un libro al mercado, y uno se harta de leer "borbotar" que será una palabra, pero no la usa ni el tato, y frases que no hay por dónde cogerlas. La traducción ha contribuido no poco a convertir la tarea de leer este libro, a ratos, en algo desagradable.
La trama, en sí, está bien. Ninja malo malísimo y poderoso poderosísimo que empieza a cargarse gente que rodea a Nicholas Linneer, el prota, que ha pasado mucho tiempo en Japón y sabe mucho. Se suceden escenas que no se sabe muy bien a cuento de qué vienen, personajes ce cuya vida aprendemos un montón pero que perecen a manos del ninja dos o tres páginas más tarde, y escenas de combate, más bien pocas, porque como digo, nadie tiene ni media guantá para el ninja que ha estudiado en ryus de lo más granado, el MIT de los ninjas. Cuando alguien súper poderoso se enfrenta con alguien que no lo es... Pues no le dura ni un ratico. Así que tampoco hay mucha intriga más allá de "a este se lo va a cargar con las garras ninja o con el golpe ninja o con la mirada Magnum del ninja".
Por el camino, algo de filosofía oriental, pero o yo no entiendo mucho o hay un pequeño lío entre diferentes tipos de filosofías orientales, que están empaquetadas al servicio de la acción y del gusto occidental.
Por otro lado, la novela tiene buena factura; no se puede decir otra cosa de los escritores de bestsellers americanos más que que son verdaderos profesionales. Hay plot twists, cambios de ritmo, y todo lo que tiene que tener. Muchas escenas están bien construidas, y sobre todo las piezas individuales merecen una mejor trama que la lleve. Pero más allá de eso, el maniqueísmo de los personajes y sobre todo la excesiva exposición y atención al detalle me llevan a preferir la película, siempre que no tenga yo que verla. Así que habiéndome leído esta novela sólo del autor, no creo que me lea ninguna otra. Que le aproveche a quien lo haga.
Profile Image for Alex.
186 reviews1 follower
January 17, 2022

Still great. I first heard about this book from a YouTube video that mentioned it as the piece of media that really kickstarted the 80s ninja craze in America and I definitely get it. Every single trope and crazy ability is in here. The only reason it doesn't get 5 stars is because the so called erotic thriller element is by far the weakest part of it.
Profile Image for Yui.
Author 5 books3 followers
March 27, 2022
Die Bewertungen fällt mir etwas schwer, da der Schreibstil teils etwas schwierig für mich war, mich aber das Wissen und die Geschichte überzeugt hat. Als Japan-Fan kam mir allerdings mein Japanisch zu Gute und daher gebe ich doch 4☆. Immerhin war es mega spannend.
Profile Image for Leslie.
588 reviews38 followers
April 5, 2014
Although this book wasn’t what I thought it would be, it was still a wonderful and entertaining read for me. It wasn’t like other suspense/thriller books that I’ve read. It still had that element but the story went beyond that. This was a book that told a story of a man who is searching for his place, his home whether that’s here in the West or back in Japan. This was a book that gave due respect to the philosophies and culture of China and Japan. All of this was put together by beautiful and poetic writing by Eric Van Lustbader.

This writing is perhaps the major reason for why I enjoyed this book as much as I did. It is the one aspect of the book that brought the action, suspense, history, characters and everything else together. From the first pages I got the sense of the story unfolding as though it was being narrated by an actual storyteller. The story had this certain flow that made me feel like I was reading a fairy tale. This feeling was enhanced by the narrative style of the story. It wasn’t very direct and simplified. Lustbader injects a lot of descriptive details and philosophical musings to tell the story. This aspect may not appeal to very many people, perhaps feeling that it slows up the pace and creates too many lulls in the action which is very understandable. However, for my own personal taste, it was beautiful. I enjoy these lyrical and poetic narratives. It enhances the story in a way that it goes beyond just telling what is happening and instead narrates the feelings and the heart behind what is going on.

I also enjoyed those moments where you get to learn about the complex world of the samurai and of the ninja. Considering the story is about a ninja, it really added to the book’s ambience, helping emphasize the mysterious and dangerous tone of the book. The book overall did a wonderful job of immersing into the culture of the East and everything that it encompasses. It gave the book a certain mystical feeling.

Nicholas was a great leading man. You certainly understood the strength that he carries, but you also got the sense of his inner conflict which made him vulnerable. I think he is a character that many of us can relate to in terms of figuring out where you belong and being pulled in two different directions by two different cultures and finding the balance between them.

This book may not be for everybody. It is a suspense/thriller but unique in its own way. This book was able to weave a story about honor, revenge, love using very beautiful and lyrical writing. The action scenes were very well written, keeping me on the edge of my seat to eagerly waiting the outcome. The book wasn’t what I thought it would be, but what I got was something different and gripping making want to continue Nicholas’s story.

*Received copy from NetGalley
Profile Image for Alexander Engel-Hodgkinson.
Author 19 books35 followers
May 12, 2020

I didn't make it far. I read one of the five 'books' in this novel, and my experience was far from enjoyable. I picked this up thinking I was gonna get fun ninja action, cool (or at least amusing) Japanese cultural insights and/or stereotypical characters as told through the mind of an American pulp writer from the 1980's, and possibly some sex on the side, because why not.

100 pages later, all I got was a slog full of badly written sex and a pseudo-intellectual protagonist whose lack of interesting or respectable qualities greatly bring down literally everything that might have been worth salvaging in this (which wasn't much). Nicholas Linnear just sucks. He does nothing but preach and act superior about his background and his sexual prowess and how he's such an expert on all things Japan. And how is it that I know more about Nicholas's sex life and his parents than I do about Nicholas? First he's looking at his current girlfriend's eyes in the morning while they're still under the covers, then he's thinking about his past love--suddenly he's staring into his current girlfriend's "folds" while her lips are wrapped tightly around his "sword". Awesome. There are no smooth segues from one scene or incident to the next. Lustbader just throws in whatever he wants, and if that means cramming four sex scenes into the first sixty pages then, so be it.

The prose and the dialogue is choppy and slow at best, and rambling nonsense at its worse, filled with words I never even knew existed until I picked this up. Clearly Van Lustbader needs to sweep that mountain of thesauruses off his desk into a trash bin or something, because he consulted them far too often and sacrificed vital pacing and comprehensibility in order to make his 80's ninja pulp seem more intelligent than it is.

The characters are dull and lifeless. The sex scenes are over-written like everything else and filled with meaningless, senseless metaphors that just got more and more irritating the further I read. The segment about Nicholas's parents meeting in WWII started off strong, but even that was ruined by Lustbader's tendency to slide his prose into the least enjoyable kind of mediocrity you can imagine, with six whole pages of wall-text that are mostly made from a long, pointless rant by a Japanese elder in Singapore, who just talks in circles and ultimately says nothing important.

I can't remember the last time it took me two weeks to read a hundred pages in a novel, but I'm stopping now. I got a gratuitous ninja book, alright, but it's gratuitous in all the wrong ways--gratuitously boring. Sigh.
March 24, 2018
I was first introduced to Eric Lustbader's work in the mid 90's, reading Jian, then White Ninja, and then finding a copy of The Ninja.

When I first read White Ninja, then The Ninja, something didn't quite 'sit right' with me, which it's taken me 20 years and a re-reading to finally put my finger on.

Nicholas Linnear is a dick.

An overly-intellectualizing, pretentious jackass, who, rather than having normal conversations with Yukio and Justine, just preaches and sermonizes to them. If I had spoken to my now-wife, when we were dating, the way Nicholas does to Justine, we would definitely not be married now...

I've seen commentary that Lustbader 'is a hack', and, while I think that's being _somewhat_ too harsh, it's really not far from the truth. Nicholas Linnear, Jake Maroc, Michael Doss, Jason Bourne; All the same character (and what Lustbader has done to Jason Bourne, is a travesty)

But there _are_ moments of subtlety in the writing. When Saigō puts Nicholas down at the ryū when they're youths, he is actually saving him from a beating from the others. Was that intentional on Lustbader's part? Or was he just trying to have Nicholas be a victim? A chump who, thinking his cousin will help him, just gets a beatdown instead? I might put this question to Lustbader via social media, and see if he answers...

But for all my dislike of Nicholas, I still find the story entertaining (if cliched) I understand why it isn't necessarily to everyone's taste, but that doesn't diminish _my_ enjoyment of it, nor dim my affection for the lovely, if troubled, Justine Tobin
74 reviews62 followers
August 22, 2011
I re-read this one. The first time i read it as an ebook during my office hours and i really had to skip a lot of pages fearing someone might mis-interpret the sensual descriptions :( In the process i also missed out on huge chunks of the story, losing the plot totally by the end of it all. Hence the re-read.

My views this time around are totally confused, initially i liked the book, say for the first 100 pages or so. I found the description of the first couple of murders were written very well. Also the sensual descriptions of the love-making between the lady and the ninja is beautifully done, or so i felt then! But when i started reading the next 100 pages, i felt like am re-reading the same line and the same happened with the next 100 pages and the next 100 pages too :( The sexual sadism of the bad-black ninja defines the word 'disgusting' at least among what i have read till now. And inspite of all that i still can't help but like the east-west comparison. Overall it's a pretty one-dimensional novel, the author has hardly a couple of points to write, but the repetition over the course of the novel sort of irritates you towards the end. Still i recommend this novel to those who don't mind the meticulous but repetitve descriptions of the ninja fights, the love-making scenes etc.
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