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4.4 out of 5 stars96
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 3 March 2014
I enjoyed this book. I had seen Steven Spielberg's film of the story a couple of times and while looking for another book, I saw this one and decided to get it. It goes along at a good pace and is fairly autobiographical as it tells of the 2nd World War adventures of the young J. G. Ballard in Shanghai, though as we find out in notes at the end of the book that Ballard had changed some things from his memory. These changes don't spoil the book in any way though and I recommend it.
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on 17 November 2001
This book has a gripping view of the war taken from a ten year old boy about the war between Japan and the U.S.A. The boy lived with his family in China, Shanghai when the war started, he gets separated from his family and tries to reunite again. I find it the best British novel about the second world war. It tells you about how people are treated by the enemy and how they forget everything including there manners, friends and any relationships as they struggle to live. J.G.Ballard has his own magical way in writing tragic books. He uses lots of amazing vocabulary to interest you. A summary of what I have written now is that in my opinion I find the book an unputdownable book.
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VINE VOICEon 30 October 2008
A very moving and, in places, quite horribly graphic fictionalised account of the author's childhood privations in an internment camp outside Shanghai. The three dimensional descriptions show how deeply the author is drawing on his own experiences - no-one who had not gone through all this could describe it so vividly. In places the author enters an almost dreamlike state in his writing. He becomes the perpetual prisoner who actually comes to welcome the security of his prison walls as representing almost the only home he knows - a particular haunting tragedy for one so young.
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on 4 July 2013
Most of us have seen Steven Spielberg's film of this book - but some things in it are hard to understand. Reading the book makes it all clear. It starts with a vivid picture of the relaxed and privileged life led by western expatriates in the Far East before World War 2, then moves on to life as an internee - and this is Ballard's own story. In hindsight, it seems bizarre that the people living in Shanghai (and the same goes for Hong Kong and Singapore) were blissfully unaware of the apocalypse about to unfold.

Watch the film and read the book - you won't regret it.
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on 27 November 2009
This book is very good and is a must read.

Could not put it down. Having seen the film in my youth i, as is always the case, found the book much better.

To say the events were put to paper years after the event, the author tells his story using his ideas, feelings & knowledge of the situation he had at the time which i think gives the reader a very detailed perspective of what the war in the far east was like through the eye's of a young boy.

Vey well put together, well written, all round book i will no doubt read again in years to come.
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VINE VOICEon 10 August 2012
The shocking brutality of life in and around a Japanese Internment Camp. The bookends of the story are Pearl Harbour and Nagasaki.

The triumph of this novel is to tell this horrific story through the eyes of young Jim a ten year old boy separated from his parents and effectively an orphan. The harrowing details of, inter alia, forced death marches, being literally worked to death in the construction of an airstrip, casual and extreme brutality, starvation, are all perceived from a child's viewpoint.

This is a child who is so hungry he 'sucks his own knuckles, grateful for the taste of his own pus' yet who still admires the Japanese pilots and, extremely controversially, regards the British 'as passive as the Chinese peasants'. Because it is told from the child's viewpoint it almost acted as a defence mechanism for the reader, otherwise it would have been tempting to avert one's eyes in disgust.

This gripping novel shows what happens when the veneer of civilisation is removed and Jim pursues his extraordinary childhood without any parental or moral authority.

The fact that much of the content is autobiographical adds gravitas. Highly recommended.
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on 16 September 2012
An exraordinary story of how a young and priveleged boy manages to survive - and even thrive - almost alone, the privations of a Japanese POW camp. This is the first book that I have read by Ballard and this part autobiopgraphy, part novel has left me wanting more. A simply facinating story, well told; although I did find it a little long in that the final section became slightly tedious as the war ended and we awaited his inevitable return to normality. For that reason alone I have docked one star!
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on 22 September 2000
Empire of the Sun is arguably the authors best work. The images Ballard creates of a POW camp and and the feeling of displacement throughout the novel brings the reader closer to the truth of war than any other writer has done.
Empire of the Sun also shuns any pretence of morality and good and evil that hinder so many accounts of war experiences. Ballard provides a harrowing but beautiful account of deprevation and survival. All in all a fantastic read. Truely deserves the 5 star rating.
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on 14 June 2000
Put simply- this book is a masterpiece. In contrast to other, more lauded war novels such as "For Whom The Bell Tolls" and "Slaughterhouse 5", Ballard's effort seems much more soulful and life-like. It is no surprise then that, during the writing of this novel, the author drew heavily on his own childhood experiences of the Second World War. Set in China, "Empire of the Sun" offers a fresh perspective on the Pacific front and conflict in general through the hardships of a young English boy at the hands of his Japanese captors. Despite his problems though, 'Jim' still respects the fearsome Japanese fighters leading to some divided loyalties as the plot progresses. While maybe a little rambling near the middle, the book's beginning and end are strong enough for me to rate it as one of my all time favourites. On the whole I recommend "Empire of the Sun" to anyone with an interest in war literature and anyone with a taste for good British writing.
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on 10 April 2014
At once a coming of age story and a piece of historical reportage (however fictionalised obviously, since it's a novel), the book brims with emotion (but not self-pity) and authenticity. What could be a grim prison camp piece turns into an ode to life and survival despite everything, of friendship in the most trying circumstances, of redemption, even of the 'bad guys'. Very human and very uplifting, in a paradoxical way.
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