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The Orphan Master's Son

The Orphan Master's Son [Kindle Edition]

Adam Johnson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)

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"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. A brave and impressive book" (David Mitchell, author of THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET)

"A flamboyantly grim epic of totalitarianism. this larger-than-life, two-fisted picaresque manages to be a page-turner... an ambitious book" (The Sunday Times)

"One of those books where you know you've found yourself in the hands of someone who can really tell a story, and is yet not naïve about the artificiality of stories. The conceit is fantastic: a narration partly told through the loud speakers of the North Korean regime." (Zadie Smith)

"A clever, wildly original novel, with an ultimately thrilling plot" (Daily Mirror)

"Adam Johnson has managed to capture the atmosphere of this hermit kingdom better than any writer I've read. The Orphan Master's Son deserves a place up there with dystopian classics such as Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World" (Barbara Demick, author of NOTHING TO ENVY: REAL LIVES IN NORTH KOREA Guardian)


"A great novel can take implausible fact and turn it into entirely believable fiction. That's the genius of "The Orphan Master's Son. " Adam Johnson has taken the papier-mache creation that is North Korea and turned it into a real and riveting place that readers will find unforgettable. This is a novel worth getting excited about, one which more than delivers on its pre-publication buzz... I haven't liked a new novel this much in years, and I want to share the simple pleasure of reading the book. But I also think it's an instructive lesson in how to paint a fictional world against a background of fact: The secret is research...It's this process of re-imagination that makes the fictional locale so real and gives the novel an impact you could never achieve with a thousand newspaper stories. Johnson has painted in indelible colors the nightmare of Kim's North Korea. When English readers want to understand what it was about -- how people lived and died inside a cult of personality that committed unspeakable crimes against its citizens -- I hope they will turn to this carefully documented story. The happy surprise is that they will find it such a page turner." --"The Washington Post "
"Adam Johnson's remarkable novel ""The Orphan Master's Son"" is set in North Korea, an entire nation that has conformed to the fictions spun by a dictator and his inner circle...Mr. Johnson is a wonderfully flexible writer who can pivot in a matter of lines from absurdity to atrocity...We don't know what's really going on in that strange place, but a disquieting glimpse suggesting what it must be like can be found in this brilliant and timely novel." - "Wall Street Journal"
"Magnificently accomplished...Part thriller, part coming-of-age novel, part romance, " The Orphan Master's Son" is made sturdy by research...but what makes it so absorbing isn't its documentary realism but the dark flight of the author's with a sense of discovery...The year is young, i

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 796 KB
  • Print Length: 465 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0812992792
  • Publisher: Transworld Digital (16 Feb 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006UIUJ2A
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #5,281 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking yet often humorous story 17 Jun 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Set in North Korea, this book follows the life of the orphan master's son, Jun Do, as he becomes a tunnel fighter, kidnapper, spy and national hero.

The book has the air of a fable, and also tells the story through propaganda, imagining the way it might actually be told in North Korea. Often the story assumes a humorous, almost tongue in cheek air, yet when you consider it as a work of fiction that is actually based on a lot of research into a real nation and its people, it becomes very tragic. Families are punished for the perceived misdeeds of one member, fathers refuse to trust their own sons, and people will risk their lives for a meal of flowers.

Despite carrying out some horrible deeds, Jun Do manages to remain a compelling and sympathetic protagonist, a good man forced to commit atrocities by a cruel state that will turn on him all too quickly if he doesn't comply. The story leads him in picaresque fashion from one adventure to another, supported by a rich cast of characters who all have their own tragic stories.

This book can be taken on two levels, as a simple tale of one man's journey through life and suffering, but also as a very intelligent exploration of a secretive nation that is unfamiliar to many. Entertaining yet extremely thought-provoking, made all the more compelling by the notes that reveal the level of research carried out by the author, and his own travels in North Korea.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars one hell of a good read 22 May 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Fantastic story that took me by surprise. It takes a good 200 pages before you really get the gist of what is happening but it feels great when it all fits into place. Also I think Adam Johnson deserves an enormous amount of praise for tackling this incredibly difficult, yet often ignored, problem that is N.Korea. American audiences no doubt hear a great deal about N.Korea but here in the UK we only hear about it when there is another missile test. It's incredibly disturbing to think a regime as backward as this has lasted so long. I was too young to witness the fall of the Berlin Wall, I'm optimistic though that I will live to see the end of the DMZ.

Bearing in mind this is fiction, the narrative still projects a powerful real life message - something I an unlikely to forget anytime in the future.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Tommy Dooley TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Let me start by saying I was so impressed with this novel that I am going to come across like Adam Johnsons' mum, publisher, editor, best friend, paid acquaintance or a combination of any of the above. I was actually lucky enough to get a copy and just read it. The blurb makes it sound like a sort of comedy set in North Korea, in actuality it is a staggering achievement as to what you can do when you truly love the subject as Johnson does.

It is in two parts, the first chronicles the life or rather endurance and suffering of Jun Do; he is the son of the Orphan Master, after his mother was taken away to entertain the big wigs in Pyongyang, they were left alone. All beautiful girls from the provinces are taken away like this. It is also shameful to be an orphan and they have their real names ignored and are replaced with the names of fallen martyrs. This way they will always carry the mark and shame of being an orphan. Jun Do's father pretends he too is an orphan and treats him more harshly than the others, it is an existence of grinding poverty - made worse by the compulsory loud speakers that spout blatant propaganda all day and act as brain washing devices.

In turns he becomes a tunnel assassin in the Demilitarized Zone, a kidnapper and reluctant and not very good spy. He also ends up on a fishing boat where he gets the love of his life's image tattooed over his heart - the `best actress in the world' Sun Moon - not her real name, but chosen for her by The Dear Leader Kim Jong Il; or the fat tyrant who is famous for his song `I so Ronery', as we know him in the Imperialist West.

Then Part Two deals with the Taekwando Champion of the World and husband to the best actress - Commander Ga. He is famous for many things including ridding the army of homosexuals.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, humourous insight into North Korea 19 Jun 2013
By Max
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Orphan Master's Son isn't the easiest book to get into - it took 100 pages or so until I felt I understood the thread of the narrative and even then the reality of North Korea kept encroaching on what is, surprisingly, a deeply humourous tale.

My persistence was rewarded, though, with a fascinating narrative and a compelling insight into what life must be like within North Korea.

I'm not sure this is worthy of a Pulitzer Prize - in fact it seems very much that the prize was awarded for the book's not-so-subtle political stance, rather than the quality of the fiction - but its a great read all the same, and well recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Orphan Master's Son - Adam Johnson 4 May 2013
By RachelWalker TOP 500 REVIEWER
I admit, if i had read about this book a year or two ago I probably wouldn't have been quite so intrigued by it. If there's any book that can be said to be topical and follow a resurgent trope, this is it. Not in any kind of exploitative way, needless to say. But through a series of unpleasant coincidences, this really should be the book of the moment, the one on everyone's lips. Not just for its topicality, but for it's quality also.

This is the story of a North Korean orphan boy, and his journey from the orphanage to the interrogation bunkers of his nation's Dear Leader. The structure is complex, and certainly not linear. The first couple of hundred pages tell of our orphaned young man's early adventures in his homeland, and the second tell of his fantastical reach into the echelons of the mad power structure of the country under the guise of one Commander Ga. The first section is [relatively] straightforward, the second is the more challenging, but once you get your head around what's going on, it is by some distance the more rewarding of the two sections (not that the first is not of high quality). It also becomes the most compulsively gripping, interesting, frightening, and dangerously strange.

This is a book about many things: identity and stories predominantly, however (characters lie, act, pretend, say what they expect the leaders want to hear, change names, change personalities, change husbands, change life-stories). The narrative message that's what is conveyed by narrative is true, whether or not it is the truth, is one of the overarching messages here. Certainly in terms of life in North Korea.

Perhaps the most touching aspect of the story is the humanity of some of the characters, the citizens of Korea.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars My new favourite book
One of my favourite books. I couldn't put it down.
Published 12 days ago by AJM
5.0 out of 5 stars Read with 'Nothing to Envy' by Barbara Demick, a ...
Read with 'Nothing to Envy' by Barbara Demick, a journalist's factual account which supports everything in Johnson's book. Read more
Published 17 days ago by P
5.0 out of 5 stars but as a piece of literature it surely become one of the great works...
I can't know how accurate a portrait of North Korea this is, but as a piece of literature it surely become one of the great works on the how the human spirit survives in a... Read more
Published 26 days ago by Henry Smith
3.0 out of 5 stars Times but on the whole a good read.
An unusual twist on the normal North Korea nightmare. Got confused a few. Times but on the whole a good read.
Published 28 days ago by Jennifer Fisk
4.0 out of 5 stars into the North Korean regime
Very insightful on what dictatorship / totalitarism can do to the human mind
beyond getting a glimpse at how North Korean (probably) live, it is a very emotional and... Read more
Published 2 months ago by JulieInLondon
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, compelling, unpleasant and brilliant
How can you sympathise with a kidnapper and a murderer? How can it feel like freedom to lose everything and be tortured to death? Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mr Tired Eyes
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthy but depressing
As one reviewer put it "the author is acting with the best and noblest intentions, i.e. to expose the human rights abuses, degrading and dehumanising that he alleges are... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Athinadi
5.0 out of 5 stars It could not have been more perfect.
It was just what I wanted at a good price and arrived safely.. i couldn't be bothered to search for it in a bookshop.
Published 3 months ago by Mrs Carol A Boorman
5.0 out of 5 stars even if you have no interest in the hermit kingdom, this is an...
Easily the best novel I read in 2013; this really deserves all the praise it can get. An epic engaging novel which also offers deep insight in to the lives of ordinary people... Read more
Published 3 months ago by James
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gospel according to the prophet Kim il Jong
A picture of despair dressed up like a parable of life imagined like George Orwell's 1984, only in Orwell's vision Big Brother hadn't managed to brainwash his subjects as... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Max Pallas
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