Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2013
An epic novel and a thrilling literary discovery, The Orphan Master’s Son follows a young man’s journey through the icy waters, dark tunnels, and eerie spy chambers of the world’s most mysterious dictatorship, North Korea.Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother - a singer “stolen” to Pyongyang - and an influential father who runs Long Tomorrows, a work camp for orphans. There the boy is given his first taste of power, picking which orphans eat first and which will be lent out for manual labor. Recognized for his loyalty and keen instincts, Jun Do comes to the attention of superiors in the state, rises in the ranks, and starts on a road from which there will be no return.
Considering himself “a humble citizen of the greatest nation in the world,” Jun Do becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the shifting rules, arbitrary violence, and baffling demands of his Korean overlords in order to stay alive. Driven to the absolute limit of what any human being could endure, he boldly takes on the treacherous role of rival to Kim Jong Il in an attempt to save the woman he loves, Sun Moon, a legendary actress “so pure, she didn’t know what starving people looked like.”
Part breathless thriller, part story of innocence lost, part story of romantic love, The Orphan Master’s Son is also a riveting portrait of a world heretofore hidden from view: a North Korea rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love. A towering literary achievement, The Orphan Master’s Son ushers Adam Johnson into the small group of today’s greatest writers.
From the Hardcover edition.
©2011 Adam Johnson (P)2011 Random House Audio
“An addictive novel of daring ingenuity, a study of sacrifice and freedom in a citizen-eating dynasty, and a timely reminder that anonymous victims of oppression are also human beings who love - The Orphan Master’s Son is a brave and impressive book.” (David Mitchell, author of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet)
“I’ve never read anything like it. This is truly an amazing reading experience, a tremendous accomplishment. I could spend days talking about how much I love this book. It sounds like overstatement, but no. The Orphan Master’s Son is a masterpiece.” (Charles Bock, author of Beautiful Children)
“Adam Johnson has pulled off literary alchemy, first by setting his novel in North Korea, a country that few of us can imagine, then by producing such compelling characters, whose lives unfold at breakneck speed. I was engrossed right to the amazing conclusion. The result is pure gold, a terrific novel.” (Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone)
The narration, hands down, is outstanding. It adds so much to the book.
As much as others have reviewed this book as being about the horrors of North Korea, to me, at its core is a love story. The interregator's love for his parents...and a man's love for "his" wife and children... And the lengths they will go to for that love. What would you do in a land of no hope and oppression for the ones you love?
This is one of the few books that I have listened to that I would enjoy listening to again to enjoy all of the literary nuances one more time.
My favorite so far
The end, describing the main characters feelings and new paradigm
I haven't listened to any other of his, but this one was excellent
The writing in this book was excellent. After acclimating to the darkness of the subject matter, the writing drew me in and didn't let go. The author takes a gloomy setting and is able to insert humor and life. It's a love story at it's heart - love of life, of surviving, of freedom. I recommend it wholeheartedly.
This is a horrifying story from North Korea. It is still fiction, but it could certainly have happened in that strange country, which must be slowly falling apart. This book picqued my interest in NK and I have read up on the country since and almost all stories told by those who have fled the country back up the general picture and the key elements in this fictional story.
It was virtually impossible to put my iPhone down, and I think I completed this story in less than 3 days (I normally listen only for an hour or so per day), since I just had to listen to it at every free moment I had. The suspense is great. And it is well narrated.
Nazi Germany was entertaining, it was exciting and it was shocking. Now we get to do it all again, but with an even more evil villain. The narration of this book is top notch and takes it beyond just good.
There are moments of peace and then things that mirror life so closely that it speaks volumes for the research and thought the writer has injected into what could have just been horrible.
If you're tired of zombie survival stuff, then this is a welcome partner for people who like real survivalist fiction.
no other - unique
hard to pick, but final scene with CDR Ga and Dear Leader was epic
Epic Tale of a North Korean
Outstanding realistic fiction with fascinating plot. Extremely well written. Not excessively violent or gross, but may not be for the squeamish - it is about North Korea.
What an amazing story! Excellent storytelling. It may take a bit to get into due to subject matter but if you stay with it, it is so rewarding. Easily my favorite audio book in a LONG time.
Fascinating. I recommended this to all of my friends within the first quarter of the book. It's well-written, an interesting story, and jam-packed with details about a society I'd previously not really considered. In the same way that "Memoirs of a Geisha" made me obsessed with geishas, this book prompted me to google "North Korea" to fact-check what I was reading. The story is epic; Adam Johnson does a great job weaving all the threads together. I could see some people losing patience with it, but it's a pretty elegant book.
"If a man and his story are in conflict, it is the man who must change.”
The print version could not be as entertaining as the voice work in the audio version.
In the preview I thought that the narration sounded very cliche or a caricature of Asian accented English but this was not the case in the book. After a few hours I came to enjoy the different voice work.
The Great Leader...just for the hell of it
I found that the book began to drag a bit in the last third
This story was just not for me. Listened for about 5 hours and just could not get into the book. My book club was reading it and I guess that it was pretty much divided between liked it and hated it. I just don't have time to listen to something that would take me so long to get into.
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