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)
No. I certainly agree that North Korea is a terrible and oppressive regime, but it cannot have been accurately portrayed in this depressing story.
Several narrators, and they were good at their jobs.
Depression. I'm sure life in North Korea is bad, but this is not an accurate depiction; it's a horror story. The author gives an "Afterward" in which he pompously talks about how his fiction depicts (his thoughts about) what life is really like. I don't buy it. His imaginary scenes of torture and masochism are his own fantasy. I'm glad he had fun, but only a few readers are likely to share his pleasures. (Together with those whose hatred for North Korea leads them to take pleasure in this kind of fairy tale.)
Yes, and I bought the CD for my son. Though dark in the beginning, keep going and you will be rewarded with a great novel, and the very best performances of reading ever.
Maybe SHOGUN, if they could get great performers to record it too.
The narrators bring all the DIFFERENT accents of the Korean culture as well as the different accents of the Americans in the story. There are just a few well placed sound effects as well. You will not forget this story for a long long time.
Winner of the 2013 PULITIZER PRIZE in FICTION.
I read a LOT and this was one of the best books I've read in the 57 years that I have been an avid reader.
A highly gripping story; challenging with the multiple narrators and time jumps; ghastly narration from several of the readers who apparently tried to imitate a Korean trying to speak English and failing miserably (as did the readers!). Fortunately the readers of the two main characters, Pak Jun Do and Interrogator Number Six, were OK. I have no clue how accurate the descriptions of life in DPRK were. How does someone write accurately about what he has not really experienced? (Have the North Koreans put a price on his head yet?!?) I could not put it down even though the narration was often driving me crazy.
This book for the most part is not what it is advertised to be. You get a little bit about the dogs used by the SEAL's and a whole lot of history. Good luck staying awake!
The story was so depressing, it was difficult to read on.
That he felt compelled to write it.
Favorite?? There was no favorite scene; however, one memorable scene was the explanation of how lobotomies were conducted. Yeah, I won't forget that too soon.
The only reason I continued reading it was to rate it and discuss it with two friends who had recommended it. I'll question their suggestions in the future. I gave it two stars because of the narration.
professor. like great and VERY good books, fiction and history, mainly
I GOT THIS BECAUSE IT WON THE PULITZER. I WONDER WHY... IT BEGINS BEAUTIFULLY, BUT THEN INDULGES INTERMINABLY IN THE "MAGICAL REALISM" OF HORRENDOUS TORTURE TECHNIQUES. THE PORTRAYAL OF N. KOREA GETS STALE, AS DO THE CHARACTERS. COULDN'T WAIT TO GET TO THE END.
NO. TOO SELF-INDULGENT.
OK. THE CHARACTERS WERE FLAT, AND SO WERE THEIR VOICES.
DON'T LET PRIZES SEDUCE ME.
I could not finish this story. I tried several times to get back into it, but gave up after the third try. As another reviewer stated, there were very interesting parts, but they seemed to be dwarfed by long, droning, pointless sections that made no sense to me at all. A lot of times the dialogue was so juvenile as to be almost nonsensical. Very disappointing waste of a credit.
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