The Great Successor

The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un
Narrated by: Olivia Mackenzie-Smith
Length: 11 hrs and 37 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (151 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The behind-the-scenes story of the rise and reign of the world's strangest and most elusive tyrant, Kim Jong Un, by the journalist with the best connections and insights into the bizarrely dangerous world of North Korea.

Since his birth in 1984, Kim Jong Un has been swaddled in myth and propaganda, from the plainly silly - he could supposedly drive a car at the age of three - to the grimly bloody stories of family members who perished at his command.

Anna Fifield reconstructs Kim's past and present with exclusive access to sources near him and brings her unique understanding to explain the dynastic mission of the Kim family in North Korea. The archaic notion of despotic family rule matches the almost medieval hardship the country has suffered under the Kims. Few people thought that a young, untested, unhealthy, Swiss-educated basketball fanatic could hold together a country that should have fallen apart years ago. But Kim Jong Un has not just survived, he has thrived, abetted by the approval of Donald Trump and diplomacy's weirdest bromance.

Skeptical yet insightful, Fifield creates a captivating portrait of the oddest and most secretive political regime in the world - one that is isolated yet internationally relevant, bankrupt yet in possession of nuclear weapons - and its ruler, the self-proclaimed Beloved and Respected Leader, Kim Jong Un.

©2019 Anna Fifield (P)2019 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Intelligent, insightful, sometimes comic, and also worrying: Anna Fifield has written a vivid, compelling, and, above all, illuminating portrait of a rogue family's rule over the world's most reclusive nation." (General David Petraeus (US Army, ret.), director of the CIA when Kim Jong Un became leader)

"A compelling mix of biography, cultural history, and political intrigue." (Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review)

"With a journalist's eye for detail and with the gift of a storyteller, Anna Fifield has written the quintessential bible on Kim Jong Un. No one working to solve the North Korean puzzle should let The Great Successor sit on a bookshelf; it's a must-read." (Ambassador Wendy R. Sherman, former undersecretary of state for political affairs and author of Not for the Faint of Heart: Lessons in Courage, Power, and Persistence

What listeners say about The Great Successor

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  • Overall
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Great book

I thought the book was great, the narrator was perfectly fine. Insightful analysis of KJU that takes him seriously as a biographical subject. Incidentally picks up right where Victor Cha’s “The Impossible State” left off, and does a great job carrying the ball. The reviewer that gave this one star is just a troll

8 people found this helpful

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Good background history on the terrorist

Interesting update on this leader of terror. Author did much research and investigation into this horrible leader. Great narration

1 person found this helpful

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Interesting and informative

Very well worth the read/listen. I knew so little about N Korea and the Kim’s

1 person found this helpful

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Great account of Kim's life and negotiations

I really enjoyed the details going through KJU's life and familial history. She has done an amazing amount of research and details it well.

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Lack of Focus Makes for Tough Reading

This book suffers from a lack of structure and focus. In the early pages we jump from back-and-forth through time as Fifield tries to acquaint her readers with the book’s subject, while providing some context for what the Kim’s have perpetrated in North Korea, namely a multi-generational autocracy lasting more than 70 years. We need that history to fully appreciate Kim Jong Un’s life, as a person and as a global figure, but it felt a little scattershot in the telling.

It also seemed more like Fifield didn’t get much new information about Kim, from the North Korean ex-pats that she interviewed, so she padded out the book with the information she DID get from those sources. There’s whole sections on computer hackers and hostage taking that had little to do with Kim - aside from everything in North Korea ultimately leading back to Kim. He doesn’t appear to have any real interest in those endeavors, aside from their function as a tools in his kleptocracy. Kim’s interests seem mostly focused on (in this order): 1) Basketball. 2) Eating. 3) Women. 4) Killing his enemies - real and perceived - in the most grotesque manner possible. 5) Raising money to fund his lifestyle. A million other things... and finally, the plight of DPRK citizens.

There’s also sloppy factual errors. According to Fifield, Eric Clapton was purportedly contacted by the CIA and asked to play a concert in North Korea, the better to gain entry into North Korea by intilligence operatives. Apparently KJU was a Clapton fan. The concert never happened, but in the telling of the non-event Fifield adds a throwaway line about Clapton’s tune “Wonderful Night.” She’s unquestionably referring to his song, Wonderful Tonight. It’s not a huge error, but it erodes the book’s credibility when something so easily verifiable (not to mention, widely known) goes uncorrected.

I don’t envy anyone trying to write about a KJU. North Korean defectors don’t know much about the guy. It’s certainly interesting to learn that his credibility in North Korea is in fact so low, but we don’t learn much about his feelings on that subject. We can glean his thoughts, as he consolidates power by making sure the millennial most likely to threaten his power in current and future days, are given opportunities for advancement not afforded earlier generations of DPRK citizens. He’s clearly a pragmatic cynic.

At any rate, I can’t bring myself to recommend this book.

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ughh, it was torture getting through this

bad writing, cringe worthy narration. I got to the last chapter and I felt like the north Koreans have it better than me listening to this book.

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Meh book with awful narration

I honestly thought this audiobook was just a text to speech program (with an Australian accent!) But according to the credits this is a real person. Their speech is so choppy and edited. I am not sure more than one sentence was read at a time... and you can really feel it.

As for the content... it’s ok. If you are unfamiliar with N. Korea and its leadership it will be very insightful. Though if you fall world news and old enough you will find few revelations. The author also repeats a lot of facts and has very little direction in the book. Kinda just hops around on times and facts, which is why so many things are repeated. Almost as if it’s a dozen different papers edited together. Overall a “meh” but probably worth a read/listen by those interested in the North Korea and the Kim Dynasty.

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Supremely Interesting and Immensely Enjoyable

This is one of the best pieces of nonfiction I've read. Not only is it extremely interesting, it offers a very rare expertise on the Kim family that I'm certain could come from only a very small group of people - Anna Fifield being the most prominent. I thought the audible narrator had a fantastic accent and I enjoyed listening to her pronunciations, as well. Glad I spent my audible credit on this :)

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A fascinating look behind the curtain

The Kim regime is one of the most fascinating and depressing regimes that continues to be allowed to exist. This is an interesting look behind the curtain, seeing how this regime came to power, how it hold a grasp of it's people, what it's people thinks of them and what we can come to expect from it.

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a bit short, too summarizing.

loved it.

however, over a number of years, Fifield skims through too much too important historical events.