After seeing the movie "The Eiger Sanction" and reading "Shibumi" at least five times in print, it was really nice hearing it read aloud while in the car. Nicholai Hel should be real. He sure sounds like he's real from this reading of the book. (I actually listened to it twice.)
Way too many gaps in character and plot development. Lots of anti-climaxes. That being said, the concept was interesting enough to stick with it to the end. I read this and Eric Van Lustbader's "The Ninja" about 15 years ago. Eric's book is a much more complete, visceral, and satisfying "ancient warrior in modern times" thriller. Audible?
I can't say I'm particularly thrilled that I stuck with this book to the end, but it did have a few enjoyable/interesting moments. The whole life as a game strategy theory, the mind/body-control were intriguing. Too bad there were so many long digressions. And the constant bashing of Americans as well as other nationalities became so predictable and boringly negative. A book to pass on.
I must really be missing something. A quick internet search locates many favourable reviews of both this book, and of its author, Rodney William Whitaker (aka Trevanian), who apparently positioned himself as someone who read Proust, but not much else written in the 20th century. Consider this statement from Wikipedia: Shibumi is elaborately written, using a very extended vocabulary, based on a sound knowledge in history and geopolitics, switching easily from pessimism to wry humor, Shibumi is more than a mere thriller, and may be compared to other works such as Brave New World, Nineteen Eighty-four and Fahrenheit. And there is much of the same in other internet reviews. However, I have seldom read or listened to a more inept, poorly-written thriller, and the comparison to the three great works referred to is ludicrous. The characters in Shibumi are absurd stereotypes, the writing-style is awkward (clearly if the author indeed read Proust extensively, he absorbed little), and the plot-line is as weak as cheap coffee. While Joe Barrett does an excellent job as a narrator, he is in no position to rescue this book.
I would have given 2.5 stars. Decent but generic narrative. Perhaps back in the day this was a fast paced action thriller. To me it was dull, trite and overwritten.
I am not sure why people give this book 5 stars (cult followers of Trevanian?). I understand why there are those who give it 1 star (pissed that what is touted is a remarkable book could be so boring).
I would advise you to look elsewhere if you are looking for an entertaining, compelling action novel.
I first read Shibumi about 25 years ago, and so enjoyed it that I bought copies for friends, and recommended it to just about everyone I knew. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, and in this case I strongly disagree with any reader/listener who awards Shibumi less than 4 stars. Listen!!! You won't be disappointed.
Has to be the most boring book I've heard in a long time. The description makes it sound great but the majority of the book takes place in caves.
Recommend for anyone needing aid in sleeping.
This book has some fantastic aspects to it. Sure, the vision of women is pretty sexist, and the "futuristic computer" fat boy is now very retro, but Trevanian has some brilliant descriptions and includes some memorable bits of wisedom that come from the Go teacher and the Japanese General. His vision of the mother company and her control over various nations looks pretty visionary now.
The vision of Hel and his concubine's relationship has been a basis for polyamorous couples for years. The concept of Shibumi is one that modern society could benefit from. A great listen. Lots of great content.
I, too, read this book along with all of Trevanian's when first published. Fortunately, I have a bad memory for what I read so this was fresh for me. Just as then, I loved it! What impressed me is how current pieces of it are even though it is almost 30 years old.
AUDIBLE - PLEASE GET THE REST OF HIS EARLY BOOKS!
This book may be alright for what it is, but I couldn't get through 15 minutes of it, because it was not at all what I was after. It's a very campy, over-the-top takeoff on a spy thriller. The bad guys (that's everybody) are super-bad, and gifted with powers just this side of superhero implausibility. Some other reviews mentioned character development, but I couldn't see any chance of it from the way it opened.
If this is your bag, fine, but if you are looking for loosely reality-based entertainment, this is not for you.