HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
Loading...

Orphan Master's Son (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Adam Johnson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,2092102,939 (4.06)305
Member:eo206
Title:Orphan Master's Son
Authors:Adam Johnson
Info:Doubleday Books (2012), Hardcover, 416 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:Fiction, suspense, multiple narrators, library, North Korea, prison

Work details

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson (2012)

  1. 90
    Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (kqueue)
    kqueue: A non-fiction account of people in North Korea. The hardships they endure at the hands of their government are jaw-dropping. It backs up everything in The Orphan Master's Son.
  2. 10
    The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters by B. R. Myers (bibliothequaire)
  3. 10
    Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle (Henrik_Madsen)
    Henrik_Madsen: Guy Delisle has based his graphic novel on his own experiences from North Korea - it is definitely also worth a read.
  4. 00
    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (aethercowboy)
  5. 00
    Decoded by Mai Jia (Limelite)
    Limelite: Complex tales and artistic novels about individuals trapped in a tyrannical state and forced at the whim of totalitarian government to do work they are morally, emotionally and spiritually opposed to.
  6. 00
    Sons of Heaven by Terrence Cheng (booklove2)
    booklove2: Main characters have similar personalities, also they both battle regimes.
  7. 00
    The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel by David Mitchell (Anonymous user)
  8. 01
    Number9Dream by David Mitchell (clfisha)
    clfisha: OK not really alike except in tone. A rollicking good adventure and playful narrative structure (Mitchell is more experimental).
  9. 14
    The Cider House Rules by John Irving (suniru)
    suniru: Although the settings are wildly different,the central figure in both books is the "head boy" in an orphanage. Also, "identity" is central to both books.
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 305 mentions

English (207)  Danish (2)  German (2)  Dutch (2)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  English (217)
Showing 1-5 of 207 (next | show all)
Update: I just finished my re-read of this book, and I enjoyed it as much this time as I did a year ago. I think what Johnson does so well here is evoke a real sense of place. His North Korea feels like a real, lived-in place. Is the plot far-fetched? In some (many) places, yes. But the very far-fetched-ness (we're going to pretend that's a word) of the plot is one of the elements that helps transport the reader to another place. The North Korea in this book is a place where the usual rules of logic do not apply. Plausibility flies out the window, if the Dear Leader says it must.



Original review: Wow. This book is a must-read. I can't really write a great review of it because I loved everything about it. When I was a kid, and I really loved a book, I used to immediately turn back to the beginning and read the whole thing over again, and that's the impulse I have right now. A really wonderful read. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
Amazing look at life in North Korea
  Smoscoso | Oct 30, 2016 |
The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson is an epic story of what it is like to be a North Korean under one of the most despotic of regimes that this world has produced. Throughout the story the author sprinkles evidence of how corrupt and totally controlling this government is. A strange story that wanders very close to being more of a fable than the absolute truth, nevertheless, this book paints such a strong and vivid picture of North Korea that the reader is spellbound.
As the strange story of Jun Do unfolds we learn that even following the arbitrary rules it is still almost impossible to avoid the violence and paranoia that is prevalent in this country. With elements of romance, mystery and satire the surreal plot points can be confusing at times but this is an important piece of fiction that stands out and well deserved it’s Pulitzer Prize.

This is the first book that I have read that really taught me what it would be like to live under the dictatorial regiment of this dynasty that currently controls North Korea. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Oct 12, 2016 |
TEDIOUS. FLAT. Wasted three days of my short life trying to stick with this book. The Book Junkie's Bill of Rights: if the book doesn't grab you, give it up. ( )
  briellenadyne | Oct 6, 2016 |
The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson won a Pulitzer Prize in 2013 so I expected it to be at least great. I was not disappointed. My reason for reading it was selfish; it is preparation reading for a writer-reader conference in Bali during the last week of October 2016. I will attend at least one meeting with an author who writes about North Korea and I would like to be informed with enough background information to ask questions. This book, although a work of fiction, presents some mind-boggling truths about the Hermit Kingdom. There is a reader’s guide at the end of the book as well as an interview with the author. Johnson informs the reader about his sources of information and inspiration. That is a good thing because from the beginning of the book information the reader receives defies belief.

Some readers may be aware of countries that broadcast information loudly and frequently throughout the day by means of public loudspeakers. The truth as the government sees it is impossible to avoid, paying attention is demanded of the citizenry and critical analysis or questioning of facts presented is strongly discouraged and may be life threatening. A visitor from a Western nation after being exposed to this system would never criticize elevator music again. In this novel, we look at North Korea. I have seen the same system in China, Cambodia, and Vietnam. North Koreas efforts as presented in this book are unique in the extremes reached that defy belief.

Immediately after the table of contents, before we are introduced to our hero and protagonist Jun Do, we get a chance to read one of these broadcasts. According to Johnson, many of these ridiculous claims typically broadcast as news were lifted from actual news articles published in a popular North Korean newspaper. A few examples:

(1) While the Dear Leader lectured to the dredge operators, many doves were seen to spontaneously flock above him, hovering to provide our Reverend General some much needed shade on a hot day. (p. 3)

(2) The shark has an ancient camaraderie with the Korean people. In the year 1592, did sharks not offer fish from their own mouths to help sustain Admiral Yi’s sailors during the siege of Okpo Harbor? Our national actress Sun Moon capsized in Inchon Bay while trying to prevent the American sneak attack (Korean War). It was a scary moment for all of us as the sharks began to circle her, helpless amid the waves. But did the sharks not recognize Sun Moon’s Korean modesty? Did they not smell the hot blood of her patriotism and lift her upon their fins to carry her safely to shore, where she could join the raging battle to repel the imperialist invaders? (p 5-6)

Our public information narrator in (1) above is referring to Kim Jong-il but the same could be (and probably is) said about the current leader, Kim Jong-un. In (2) above, reference is made to Sun Moon who will have an important part in this story as she is the love interest of Jun Do. She is possibly the love interest of the entire Korean male population much the same as American males were in love with Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, and on and on in the fantasy world. But Jun Do will never meet Sun Moon in his Jun Do persona. He will meet her as Commander Ga and how that comes about is as fascinating in its fictional creation as is the information we learn about North Korea.

Jun Do might be an orphan. We first meet him as a child in an orphanage. But Jun Do will never accept the label “orphan.” He presents his rationale of why he is not an orphan; the orphan master of the orphanage “Long Tomorrows” would never give him so much responsibility for and over other orphans if he were not, in fact, the son of the orphan master. But Jun Do also acknowledges that what is true in reality may conflict with the reality as prescribed by the government. And the Dear Leader, whether Kim il-Sung, Kim Jong-il, or Kim Jong-un is never wrong.

During a famine, labeled by the government as “The Arduous March”, the orphan master gave into the reality of no food and no way to survive other than distributing the orphans to other places, especially places with a government connection. Jun Do, at 14, went to the Army and became a tunnel rat. He learned skills enabling him to fight and survive in total darkness. He worked in tunnels that crossed borders where members of Jun Do’s team would surface to steal goods that could not be found in North Korea. Eight years later he was discovered by a man who would turn him into a kidnapper and a thief of other goods from Japan. During this job, he would learn seafaring skills. Jun Do also attracted the attention of intelligence officials. They noted that during his kidnapping adventures, he developed an interest in learning Japanese. Just as with the label “Orphan,” Jun Do refused to accept the label “Spy.” Again the government reality prevailed and while on a fishing boat Jun Do was tasked to listen for broadcasts from US and South Korean vessels. After an unfortunate incident with a US Navy ship and a South Korean officer, Jun Do was rewarded as a hero. As a form of reward, he was sent to the US as part of a diplomatic initiative.

Returning from the US, the team was deemed corrupted by western values. They had also failed to return with an item desired by the Dear Leader. The entire team was disciplined. Jun Do lost his hero status and was sent to the mines as punishment. Jun Do disappeared and was not heard from again.

Commander Ga was the Minister of Mines. He had to make frequent inspections of mines in a quest for certain rocks that made certain measuring meters click at a high rate of speed. The trips were lengthy and wife Sun Moon always expectantly awaited his return. Not with joy and love, but with fear, hate, and disgust. When he returned from his latest trip, she did not greet him with joy and love, but the fear, hate, and disgust were gone. It was as if he were a different man. And the love story begins. This is also where we meet our third narrator, an interrogator. A reader who also has familiarity with interrogation will discover a lot of points of comparison with western interrogation methods.

The improbability and coincidences in the fictional story are as amazing as the unreality that is depicted as North Korea. They are at the same level and are why the book works so well. There are many stories told that are woven together as skillfully as the quilt of the Senator’s wife (told during Jun Do’s visit to Texas).

This is a remarkable book told by an author with limited access to a closed society. There is a narcissistic cult leader, a totalitarian government, and a repressed people (physically) who have to deal with an inherent evolution (mentally). How they succeed and fail in their struggles invites our emotional attachment and reflection. This is a great book not to be read quickly. ( )
2 vote ajarn7086 | Oct 1, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 207 (next | show all)
"Readers who enjoy a fast-paced political thriller will welcome this wild ride through the amazingly conflicted world that exists within the heavily guarded confines of North Korea. Highly recommended. "
added by Christa_Josh | editLibrary Journal, Susanne Wells (Nov 1, 2011)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Johnson, Adamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Powers, RichardAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
FOR STEPHANIE -
my sun,
my moon,
my star and,
satellite
First words
Citizens, gather 'round your loudspeakers, for we bring important updates!
Quotations
The darkness inside your head is something your imagination fills with stories that have nothing to do with the real darkness around you.
Compared to forgetting, did living really stand a chance?
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
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.

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.
Haiku summary
Disturbing account
Of North Korea under
Kim Jong-Il. Tough stuff.
(passion4reading)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0812992792, Hardcover)

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, January 2012

Adam Johnson on The Orphan Master's Son

When I arrived at Pyongyang's Sunan Airport a few years ago, my head was still spinning from a landing on a runway lined with cattle, electric fences and the fuselages of other jets whose landings hadn't gone so well. Even though I'd spent three years writing and researching The Orphan Master's Son, I was unprepared for what I was about to encounter in “the most glorious nation in the world.”

I'd started writing about North Korea because of a fascination with propaganda and the way it prescribes an official narrative to an entire people. In Pyongyang, that narrative begins with the founding of a glorious nation under the fatherly guidance of Kim Il Sung, is followed by years of industry and sacrifice among its citizenry, so that when Kim Jong Il comes to power, all is strength, happiness and prosperity. It didn't matter that the story was a complete fiction--every citizen was forced to become a character whose motivations, desires and fears were dictated by this script. The labor camps were filled with those who hadn't played their parts, who'd spoken of deprivation instead of plenitude and the purest democracy.

When I visited places like Pyongyang, Kaesong City, Panmunjom and Myohyangsan, I understood that a genuine interaction with a North Korean citizen was unlikely, since contact with foreigners was illegal. As I walked the streets, not one person would risk a glance, a smile, even a pause in their daily routine. In the Puhung Metro Station, I wondered what happened to personal desires when they came into conflict with a national story. Was it possible to retain a personal identity in such conditions, and under what circumstances would a person reveal his or her true nature? These mysteries--of subsumed selves, of hidden lives, of rewritten longings--are the fuel of novels, and I felt a powerful desire to help reveal what a dynastic dictatorship had forced these people to conceal.

Of course, I could only speculate on those lives, filling the voids with research and imagination. Back home, I continued to read books and seek out personal accounts. Testimonies of gulag survivors like Kang Chol Hwan proved invaluable. But I found that most scholarship on the DPRK was dedicated to military, political and economic theory. Fewer were the books that focused directly on the people who daily endured such circumstances. Rarer were the narratives that tallied the personal cost of hidden emotions, abandoned relationships, forgotten identities. These stories I felt a personal duty to tell. Traveling to North Korea filled me with a sense that every person there, from the lowliest laborer to military leaders, had to surrender a rich private life in order to enact one pre-written by the Party. To capture this on the page, I created characters across all levels of society, from the orphan soldier to the Party leaders. And since Kim Jong Il had written the script for all of North Korea, my novel didn't make sense without writing his role as well.

Featured Photographs

Anti-tank devices seen while traveling south from Pyongyang toward Panmunj
  DPRK soldier
  Air raid sirens
  Revelutionary Martyr's Cemetery on Mount Taesong

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:15 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

The son of an influential father who runs an orphan work camp, Pak Jun Do rises to prominence using instinctive talents and eventually becomes a professional kidnapper and romantic rival to Kim Jong Il.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
1 avail.
744 wanted
5 pay9 pay

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (4.06)
0.5 4
1 13
1.5
2 31
2.5 12
3 77
3.5 47
4 246
4.5 86
5 232

Audible.com

3 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

See editions

LibraryThing Early Reviewers Alumn

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson was made available through LibraryThing Early Reviewers. Sign up to possibly get pre-publication copies of books.

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 110,662,989 books! | Top bar: Always visible