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Orphan Masters Son by Adam Johnson

Orphan Masters Son (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Adam Johnson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,5691714,663 (4.06)242
Title:Orphan Masters Son
Authors:Adam Johnson
Info:Random House Export (2012), Paperback, 416 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:North Korea, Pak Jun Do, defection, orphan

Work details

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

  1. 80
    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
    Sons of Heaven by Terrence Cheng (booklove2)
    booklove2: Main characters have similar personalities, also they both battle regimes.
  5. 00
    The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (Anonymous user)
  6. 00
    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (aethercowboy)
  7. 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).
  8. 13
    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.

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» See also 242 mentions

English (169)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (2)  Danish (2)  Italian (1)  German (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (178)
Showing 1-5 of 169 (next | show all)
OK, I finished reading Orphan Master's Son today at midnight - it took me 24 hours to read it. I am pretty disappointed with the ending, it seems like the author could not thought of any better way to finish the book. Though I'm just whining now, the book is great.
I still can't believe some things I've read. I think they'll haunt me in my nightmares.

“Eleven years I procured for those prisons. The uniforms come in children’s sizes, you know. I’ve ordered thousands of them. They even make a half-sized pickax. Do you have children?”

Little boy is growing up an orphan with his mother torn from him on a whim by the Party and with his father alive, but unable to officially recognize him as a son. A famine, that took lives of at least 240 thousands people, was called Arduous March by the Party. The loudspeakers are everywhere, so that no one can forget ideas of Juche, even if you are starving to death.
Some actions of the main hero rise questions, I couldn't understand him fully. But I guess that was the idea of the author, to show mysterious oriental soul.

When the dogs returned, the Senator gave them treats from his pocket, and Jun Do understood that in communism, you’d threaten a dog into compliance, while in capitalism, obedience is obtained through bribes.

The price of human life is 0 bucks 0 cents in this country, and yet somehow people manage to find love, make friends and create a family. I can't get it.
Read more at BookGeek.ru!href> ( )
  otikhonova | Dec 8, 2014 |
4.5 stars. Incredibly interesting thriller. I have no idea how accurate Johnson's imaginative rendering of North Korea is, but this is the rare novel that motivates me to read some non-fiction and research the subject to help answer that question. The plot's use of American gov't agents is overly simplistic and a touch gungho, but the heart of the book is its evocation of the crushing weight of NK's surreal totalitarianism. ( )
  AThurman | Dec 7, 2014 |
Ich habe, glaube ich, noch nie ein Buch gelesen bei dem ich so oft darüber nachdachte: Was hat der Autor jetzt erfunden und was ist realistisch? Schon mal vorweg: Für die Menschen in Nordkorea hoffe ich, dass der fiktionale Teil deutlich überwiegt.
Johnsons Roman, der gerade erst den Pulitzerpreis erhalten hat, erzählt das Leben des Jungen Jun Do, der in einem Waisenhaus in Nordkorea aufwächst. Es ist ein überaus karges und hartes Leben, geprägt von Wilkür, immer (über)bewacht durch den Geliebten Führer Kim Jong Il. Die Menschen leben in ständiger Not und Angst, ein falsches Wort kann einen ins Arbeitslager bringen. Das Einzige was zählt, ist der absolute Glaube und die Hingabe an den nordkoreanischen Staat und seinen Geliebten Führer. Wer davon abweicht, zählt als Verräter. Doch Jun Do beginnt plötzlich andere Dinge zu entdecken, die für ihn von Bedeutung sind: Freundschaft, Vertrauen, Liebe.
Was dieses Buch so eindringlich macht, ist die detaillierte Beschreibung des Lebens in Nordkorea. Menschen werden nicht als eigenständige Subjekte angesehen, sondern sind nichts anderes als Objekte, mit denen der Geliebte Führer verfahren kann wie er möchte. Männer bekommen Frauen als Gattinnen zugewiesen, stirbt der Mann, bekommt sie einen Ersatzehemann. Liegen Gefangene im Sterben, wird ihnen zuvor noch ihr Blut für Blutkonserven abgezapft. Braucht man Leute für Ernteeinsätze, werden sie auf den Straßen 'gefangengenommen', auf LKWs verfrachtet und zum Arbeitsort gebracht. Nach ein, zwei Tagen sind sie wieder daheim. Denunzierte werden so lange gefoltert bis sie gestehen und landen dann im Arbeitslager oder werden durch Elektroschockeinsätze ihrer Vergangenheit beraubt. Schöne junge Frauen vom Land werden in die Stadt verschleppt, wo sie als Hostess arbeiten müssen oder einen Ehemann zugewiesen werden. Undundund - es gibt so viele solcher Beispiele und ständig spukte mir die Frage im Kopf herum: Ist das alles tatsächlich möglich? Auch wenn ich weiss, dass der Autor für dieses Buch sehr viel recherchierte (unter anderem auch vor Ort), kann ich mir noch immer nicht vorstellen, dass solch ein Ort tatsächlich existiert, an dem derartige Dinge möglich sind.
Und doch lässt einen die Lektüre nicht trostlos zurück: Jun Do findet nicht nur Menschen die ihm zur Seite stehen und helfen, er entdeckt Vertrauen - und die Liebe. Und nicht nur er: Auch Andere befallen Zweifel ob der Richtigkeit ihres Handelns, ihres ganzen Lebens. Und ziehen ihre Konsequenzen daraus.
Ein Buch, das lange nachwirkt!! ( )
  Xirxe | Dec 2, 2014 |
Wow. I can understand why this amazing novel won a Pulitzer Prize. Set in modern-day North Korea, it depicts a dystopian society more frightening, brutal and repressive than any any found in pure fiction -- yet it has great humanity and heart and underscores the basic humanity we all share. Very long, but so beautifully written, I couldn't put it down. ( )
  DonnaCallea | Nov 29, 2014 |
I discovered from reading The Orphan Master's Son that I know precious little about North Korea. I can say with a fair amount of confidence that I know a whole lot more after having read this book. (Yes, I know it's fictional but a good majority of it is based on the realities of that country and its people.) I have to admit that it was slow going at the beginning. I didn't feel the push to keep going that I usually do when reading something that is really interesting to me. However, this wasn't because the characters lacked depth. I think it stems from what I mentioned at the top of this post: I was completely in the dark about North Korea and found it hard to connect. I have since done some research into the topic on my own and I am blown away by the mastery of Adam Johnson. This is a story of a man without identity. His true self is stripped away again and again by those in power. He is not the master of his own life...and yet...His spirit will not fully submit. For the entirety of this novel, I was waiting for this man's redemption because his suffering was so great and so complete that I felt that it was unfair that he not get his happy ending. I can't say if I was rewarded at the end or not because to do so would rob you of the experience yourself. If you enjoy contemporary historical fiction and/or have an interest in a part of the world that to me has always seemed shrouded in mystery (and really it still is) then this book is for you. ( )
  AliceaP | Sep 14, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 169 (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)

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Powers, RichardAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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my sun,
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Citizens, gather 'round your loudspeakers, for we bring important updates!
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?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:55:18 -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

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