By Adam Johnson
Goodreads Rating: 4.06
Genre: Contemporary North Korea?
Publication Date: January 10th 2012
Format Read: Audiobook
Goodreads Summary: 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.
I cannot even logically explain to you how this could possibly be described as a great book, let alone “part breathless thriller”. It actually put me to sleep. Like, I listened to it as an audiobook and realized that I wasn’t even listening to what they were saying anymore. The writing was SO SO DRY AND BORING and practically nothing interesting happened in the plot.
The book was terrible, and that’s disappointing because I was really excited to read it, after seeing reviews and stuff. But I only made it 40% through and then I had to stop because I was boring myself literally to death.
The main plot is of Jun Do, which I think is the North Korean version of John Doe, a basic person that could be anyone. He is an orphan and then goes through a bunch of different jobs, including a kidnapper, before getting stuck in basically an internment camp, and then his story ends.
It picks back up with Commander Gah being interrogated, but it’s not the real Gah (I’m guessing on the spelling, so let’s just change his name to Blah) so I think we’re supposed to assume he’s Jun Do. So blah/jun do are being interrogated to find out what happened to Blah’s wife, and the interrogators know he’s not Blah but need him to be because that’s what everyone says he is. And that’s where I stopped reading.
I read that it gets better, but I couldn’t do it. Honestly the author could have condensed all of part I into about 20 pages rather than 100, and it would have been far better.
Jun Do was the least relatable character in the history of relatable characters. I LITERALLY DIDN’T CARE IF HE LIVED OR DIED. It was completely irrelevant to me, that’s how poorly developed he was. I didn’t give a shit about him or his life and just wanted him to get on with it. There were plenty of details about the sky, but none about the person.
I wanted to love this as a North Korea insight book, but I couldn’t. If you like dry literature that may or may not be historically accurate (I heard it wasn’t) then go for it.
It’s boring. The writing style is bad. The audiobook guy drones in an asian accent and speaks too quietly to hear even on full volume on my phone.
Everyone was Asian!!!!!
Jun Do is a disowned orphan, women are taken advantage of, there are kidnappings, life basically sucks, but don’t worry because there’s no details about anything so it’s never that dramatically triggering.
Don’t read this book. Or do, and use it to fall asleep at night. It won a lot of awards, but honestly I don’t know how. I’m lost. (I also want to note that this is only the 2nd time I DNFed a book in my entire life)
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Have you read any other books about North Korea that would be better that I can read? What did you think of this book? Should I have kept reading?
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