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Publisher's Summary

The time is World War II. The place is a brutal prison camp deep in Japanese-occupied territory. Here, within the seething mass of humanity, one man, an American corporal, seeks dominance over both captives and captors alike. His weapons are human courage, unblinking understanding of human weaknesses, and total willingness to exploit every opportunity to enlarge his power and corrupt or destroy anyone who stands in his path.

This enthralling masterpiece about life as a prisoner of war will keep listeners spellbound from the first chapter to the last.

©2015 Blackstone Audio, Inc. (P)2015 Blackstone Audio

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • J.B.
  • Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States
  • 08-12-16

Lord of the Flies; Lord of the Rats. One Together

“King Rat: The Epic Novel of War and Survival,” by James Clavell. Narrated by Simon Vance. The Asian Saga, Book 4. Clavell is one of the more interesting and noteworthy novelists telling tales of Asian continent happenings. His descriptions are educational in that they often explain the oriental milieu and therein mindset. He is one of the best at creating characters one can associate with and find intriguing. He does not fail us in King Rat; it is a great read (or listen).

Audible calls his compilation of works the Asian Saga, although there is no single or universal saga in Clavell's works. They tell of no one heroic and detailed account of a single epoch. Nevertheless, with few exceptions this “Saga” is well worth the read; at least for King Rat, Nobel House and Shogun. They are outstanding works of literature– while the rest are merely good. I would suggest Audible’s Book numbering is way out of kilter. King Rat is his first novel and it should be read first (although its societal teachings discern the distinctions between the British, Australians and Americans rather than in his later books which can be classified as comparisons between western and oriental values).

King Rat is a marvelous read. The setting is a Japanese prison camp for captured World War II ally combatants. From its initial opening lines there is one happening after another in how the weak, the shrewd, the moralistic and the depraved interact under the control of the Japanese to create their own camp or sub societies and conduct commerce among themselves. Clavell manages to put tension and meaning into every sub story and they all culminate into a cliff hanger circumstance by the end of the book. Clavell is a philosopher and through his characters and their personalities he reveals philosophical truths about capitalism and personal honor. He gives the reader much to think about and his stories always leave you with long lingering feelings after the read.

In this work though he takes on much more than mere political concepts. I was surprised that at even this early date (1962) Clavell defends transvestites long before our western societies matured and learned to understand and accept the sexual drives of others. There is more here though; for example he is able to study the place of husbands and wives in enduring long and unknown separations. He does this by at various points in the story, when the story focuses on a particular imprisoned character he often will follow that chapter with a chapter on what did or very well might have happened to their lovers at home while they were in war detention. At the very end of the book we actually learn the truth about many of those sojourns into the lives of the separated spouses.

The main character is the “King,” an American imprisoned soldier modeled after an Ayn Rand entrepreneur type who sets us a moral but very capitalistic system of trade in the camp. The King then meets and takes up a friendship with Peter Marlowe, a British officer with some family ties to the upper middle class, and it the Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn friendship and adventures of the two that make this story great. Truly a fine and engrossing read.

That alone would give this book 5 stars but after the story ends, there is another small story that begins, when the camp is rescued by the allies when Japan surrenders. Remember Clavell, himself, was a prisoner of the war during WWII in a Japanese encampment. He gives us a stunning understanding of the mind of the liberating soldiers, their compassion and total misunderstanding of what three to five years in captivity means. Then Clavell shows us how the inmates react and most of all how the King becomes an ordinary man once the world is put back into its rightful place and we are left to consider who these men we came to know so well are and where they saved or further destroyed in being liberated? This book is very much in the character of a Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Excellent!

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Clavell is a Master

This is my second-favorite Cavell novel, behind Shogun. This story of WWII POWs in the Pacfic Theater both humanizes and brings to life the sub-human conditions that these heroes were foced to endure. Clavell himself had been a POW during this period, lending a personal level of authenticity and unique detail to the story. Highly recommended.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • SB
  • Maryland
  • 08-02-18

it is an interesting story, work the listen!

An I teresrong books about the things men do during their internment in a Japanese POW camp. I have read a great many histories of the real life experiences, and while this takes some license, it has a solid basis in historical fact and is an enjoyable read/listen. I was recommended to read this book by the son of a Japanese camp survivor whose Father suggested he read it. what I would give to be able to chat with his Father about his experiences now that I have read it!

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Great book and captivating narration.

This story takes you right inside a World War 2 POW camp. It's really a masterpiece and reflects Clavell's knowledge of the subject having been a POW himself in the Pacific theater. Highly recommended.

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Excellent book and reading

Great story. You feel what the captives are living. Excellent performance by Simon Vance as well

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Excellent book.

Would you consider the audio edition of King Rat to be better than the print version?

I would have to say yes. My accents aren’t as good as the narrators. I found both to be equally enjoyable.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Peter Marlowe. The struggle for him to try to understand the King and his ways versus his British upbringing was interesting to listen to.

What does Simon Vance bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His accents and the feelings he gave to each of the characters.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The entire situation from all sides who were victims of the war and how they coped never ceases to amaze me.

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Doesn’t get any better than this

Of my seven years on audible and hundreds of books, this one is in my top five. Excellent on all fronts. If the topic interests you, then get it.

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A KING MUST BE STRONG YET COMPASSIONATE

I read this book as required reading for business success and I was delighted to see such characters rise over the coming chapters. That even in Changi ww2 prison there can be prosperity for the few if they are consistently looking for and creating the right business deals. Apart from the capitalist american spirit that was the only cure in the pow camp. the characters were very much alive and the author was a grand master of story telling

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How not to behave as a prisoner of war

I read this decades ago and remembered it as a gritty counterpart to Stalag 17, but it has more in common with The Bridge over the River Kwai. It’s set in a Japanese prison camp in Southeast Asia, with a few Americans among thousands of Brits and Aussies. The King, an American corporal, knows how to survive handsomely, and garners a lot of power., just like the William Holden character in Kwai.
Clavell clearly prefers the values of the British officer class, but not many of them come off any better. Simon Vance imparts just the right Pommie inflections. The few deflections to the home front don’t add much. It’s hardly an “epic novel of war” but nevertheless a very good read. It won’t make you feel proud to be an American.

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Human condition

Ah, the human condition! Where would you fit under those conditions? Food for thought and a look into the human soul surviving the unthinkable.