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.
Probably the worst book ever written for the eighth-grade-boy reading level. Featuring a god-like hero who makes one stupid move after another, this exemplar of pompous blowhardery is marked by idiotic plotting, obnoxious characters, a story filled with cliches and no action or exciting plot developments. Add to that casual racism, stupid anti-American asides and repulsive sex scenes, and you have a book that leaves no doubt in your mind why the author chose to write pseudonymously.
Is there no other author to fill the shoes of Elmore Leonard or Don Westlake?
Whenever I rate a book 3 stars or less I feel obligated to let you know why. Shibumi had a lot going for it, but I felt like I was asked to accept alot. The hero was put in high risk situations and often times had horrible mental and physical stresses. Somehow, he always managed to come through it all -- just like James Bond. So there were excellent action sequences, over the top situations, and no good sex scenes to keep me coming back. I would rather read Ian Fleming.
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.
How did anyone ever believe this novel was written by Robert Ludlum under a pen name? The plot plodded. The funny parts weren't. I had a very hard time paying attention and suspending disbelief. And the stuff about the protagonist being some sort of "level four" sex magician was absurd and annoying.
Do yourself a favor - pass on this in favor of one of Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels, one of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, one of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's novels featuring Agent Pendergast, or anything written by Barry Eisler, James Lee Burke, or Nelson DeMille (if Audible ever gets those back in the collection!).
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.
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 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.