I can't remember when I've read or listened to anything quite as stunning as The Orphan Master's Son. First, I listened to "Escape From Camp 14" -- the nonfiction account of the only soul ever to escape a North Korean prison camp. Then I moved on to The Orphan Master's Son, a superb novel that spoon-feeds its reader with the bizaare reality that defines life inside North Korea. This novel is transfixing, profound, chilling, beautiful. Do I recommend it? Oh, yes.
This story contains nerve grinding realism of the brutal existence in North Korea that I have not read anywhere else. It is immediately entertaining and yet so challenging to persevere. The main character is both inspiring and upon occasion, despicable. Hats off to this author. If this is not the masterpiece of his life, I look forward to anything else he writes. Not a book for everyone yet a very rewarding experience to anyone who can brave though it. To my father- a wounded veteran of the Korean War- I now take pride in the importance your fighting and wish it could have prevented the terrible totalitarian government that now rules there.
I finished the book, although I was tempted to stop a few times. Like many, I found the narration grating and I thought it added little to the story. So I wonder if I would have liked the print edition of this book better.
In general, when it was interesting, it was very interesting, but then there would be long periods where the story was going over the same ground and got tedious. It was also very confusing to follow at times. By the end, I was clear on who was who, but it was not always so as I was listening.
There are such impassioned reviews on here and I went into the book wanting to feel the same way, but the narration and the jumping about in the story made it a bit of a slog for me, I'm afraid.
I have not read the print version, but I believe having the voices doing a bit of accent / dialect make it much better than anything I could envision in my own mind.
This is like seeing Animal Farm or 1984 come alive. The sad part is that so much of it was based on research, that this could possibly be the life some people have to live, or at least an approximation of it, since it is fiction after all.
The intonation for the speaker announcements and the character voices were very colorful.
It is hard to pick any singular moment in the book. The main character is very touching, and it is difficult to stop listening, even though you know his life is essentially a long train wreck....the power of the story keeps you listening, and a curiousity about how this character can rise above everything that comes his way and yet continue to develop, and maintain his essential goodness and humanity in spite of it all.
Single Father, East Indian, Cook, and audiobook lover (due to all the time in my car).
This book has a wonderful story to tell but the time and narrative shift adds an element suspense which I didn't see the next turn in the plot. I've read 1984, All Quiet on the Western Front, Lord of Flies, Lolita, War & Peace and numerous others and this book has the right to be considered part of that list.
The characters drew me into a story of living in a grim place that I would not have wanted to hear about for hours and hours without the character involvement. I don't know much about North Korea but this story was very informative and though fantastical, believable.
Yes, it has images and pictoids in words that I would like to savour time after time.
The authenticity is unparalleled, the author captured the spirit and hearts of the people he wrote about.Ringing true and incredibly heart breaking , I found myself looking inwards to the deep reaches of my soul, throughout this book.
If I had just read this book, the words would not have flowed in the cascading stream they became when I listened.
Yes, I was deeply disturbed by the character of the young interrogator, who himself is searching for his own soul.
This book is a classic work of fiction that will become the authoritative simile of North Korea, The book itself defies description, as a work of art, the story told is the life that One feels is the truth about the cultural psychology of a true dictatorship.
This is an insightful and well written and exceptionally well read novel. I have always avoided books with multiple narrators (I don't know why), but these narrators were complementary and the reading was seamless.
It's hard to pick out a memorable or favorite part... that's not the way I assimilate a story. The insights, both factual/historical and fictionalized about North Korea were enlightening and explained a lot of the strange (what I thought were strange) reactions after Kim Jung Il's death... Re-enforced my gratitude for being born an American.
This is a great read... don't miss it. I've never read anything like it.
The realistic horror of North Korea was too much for me. I have traveled in Asian countries (not NK) and it just struck home so much I could see that this is probably an accurate portrayal of life there. It is so horrible that I couldn't take it after 1/2 of the book and just quit. This book is too real.
Probably many will like the book because of that. I just couldn't bear thinking about how these people live every day any more. No thanks.
Great narrator, well written.
One master-passion in the br east, like Aaron's serpent, swallows all the rest. A. Pope
I purchased the Kindle version of this when it was published. I gave up after 75 pages, believing it too dark and foreign for me to care much about it.
Then, Adam Johnson was awarded the Pulitzer Price in Fiction for 2013 for this novel, and I exclaimed, Good Grief! I bought the audiobook version, had to start over and gave up again around the same point.
For whatever reason though, I repurchased the audiobook, pulled out the Kindle version and made one more stab. Not 10 pages after my stopping point, I became interested and then I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN.
And, I cannot laud it highly enough to do it justice in my book. Excellent development of characters and subtext to perfectly place of the reader in another world and a wonderful story that seemed so real (based loosely on one that is). The representation of North Korean life and the dictatorship made the story all the more profound and effective. Consider, for example, the news within the past 6 months that the Kim Jong Un had 9 orchestra members executed to squash rumors that his wife, a singer, was "friendly" prior to marrying the Jong Un.
A quote in the book relating life in North Korea:
“I wonder of what you must daily endure in America, having no government to protect you, no one to tell you what to do. Is it true you're given no ration card, that you must find food for yourself? Is it true that you labor for no higher purpose than paper money? What is California, this place you come from? I have never seen a picture. What plays over the American loudspeakers, when is your curfew, what is taught at your child-rearing collectives? Where does a woman go with her children on Sunday afternoons, and if a woman loses her husband, how does she know the government will assign her a good replacement? With whom would she curry favor to ensure her children got the best Youth Troop leader?”
This novel has adventure, suspense, a great literary structure and even some romance:
“They’re about a woman whose beauty is like a rare flower. There is a man who has a great love for her, a love he’s been saving up for his entire life, and it doesn’t matter that he must make a great journey to her, and it doesn’t matter if their time together is brief, that afterward he might lose her, for she is the flower of his heart and nothing will keep him from her.”
I loved this book. The parts with Kim Jong-il gave me goosebumps and were scary funny.
This is the best book I've read/listened to in quite a few years. Sometimes perseverence pays, particularly in audiobooks. I probably wouldn't have finished this if I'd had to pick back up the book in print instead of just turning up the audio version on the way to and from work.