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The King's Last Song by Geoff Ryman
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The King's Last Song (2006)

by Geoff Ryman

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
This was pretty amazing. Not at all the kind of thing I usually read but I loved his other books so I picked this one up despite the lack of sciencefictional elements.
Half of it takes place in modern-day Cambodia, and half is about 800 years ago. I really didn't know much about Cambodia before, so it was cool to learn a bit about it. Also, his writing as usual is evocative and compassionate. I definitely recommend! ( )
  JenneB | Apr 2, 2013 |
Ryman's novel, The King's Last Song has to be one of the best novels I've read in some time. Beautiful, spare language married to skilled character development and impeccable historical research all converge in a tragic, desperate telling of Cambodia's ancient and modern history. Here is an author, and a novel, worthy of awards, proof that small presses throughout the world are publishing jewels overlooked by the giants. And this novel certainly is a jewel. If you haven't read The King's Last Song, you should. ( )
  fiverivers | Jun 24, 2010 |
This is a very interesting book: a look at Cambodia past and present, and the repetitive, recurring nature of its troubles. The discovery of King Jayavarman's gold leaf memoirs should be a great thing for Cambodia, but it is stolen and some of the recent conflicts come back to the surface. I especially enjoyed reading about Luc with the texts (some of which are shown in the book) and the historical scenes of Jayavarman's life. All the characters, Kings to moto-boys, are portrayed with a raw, real sympathy that makes understanding easy. Most importantly, Ryman is not a blundering white man writing about an exotic land; he is careful and considerate, and this book is a pleasure (though sometimes difficult, because of its subject) to read. I recommend this book to anyone interested in a part of the world that receives little coverage in Western media or literature. ( )
  alexdallymacfarlane | Jun 2, 2009 |
An interesting book mixing history and current day Cambodia. The different warring fractions in the 1100's and current times took some getting used to. The story alternated between the different time frames, with interesting stories and descriptions. The second half of the book was definitely better than the first as the story flowed more and became clearer. ( )
  BethanyG | Mar 1, 2009 |
When I first heard about The King's Last Song, I immediately knew that I wanted to read it. I love learning about other cultures and histories through my fiction reading, and Cambodia is a place I don't know much about. Plus, the description of the book lists Angkor Wat as a major locale in the novel - Angkor Wat is one of my top "places to see." It was originally built as a Hindu temple complex in the jungles of Cambodia and was later abandoned. I think it's one of the most beautiful structures I've ever seen on paper and would love to visit it one day.

In order to appreciate the novel, it is necessary to have a very basic understanding of recent Cambodian history. Cambodia was occupied by the French for over a century and was secretly bombed by the United States during the Vietnam War. When it finally achieved its freedom from France, the Khmer Rouge took over under Pol Pot and ended up murdering about 1/5 of the country's population in just four years. It still hasn't recovered from this tragedy.

This is the backdrop for The King's Last Song. It takes the reader through ancient Cambodian history as well as present-day Cambodia, in which we are able to witness the scars left on the country. While the novel is slow, it is full of details and very rich in history. Anyone interested in learning more about Cambodia should pick this novel up immediately.

The most beautiful aspect of the novel is the tribute within it to Cambodia. It is a torn country that still hasn't fully healed from the ghosts of its past. The people are tired of war, though many have known nothing else during their long, exhausted lives. The author obviously has a great affection for Cambodia and The King's Last Song is his attempt to tell its story to the larger world. However, it's not just a tribute to the past; inside the novel is contained hopes for its future, for peace and prosperity.

One of the things I appreciated most about the novel was the extended afterword in the back of the book. In it, Ryman painstakingly takes the reader through the historical accuracies of his novel. As an avid historical fiction reader, I can't help but be very grateful to him for his efforts in this area. It is always frustrating not to be aware of what is true and what is the author's conjecture when reading historical fiction; in this case, that isn't a problem.

I really enjoyed reading The King's Last Song. It is richly layered, comparing past and present day Cambodia and is full of details and tidbits about Cambodian life that any reader will enjoy. It's definitely piqued my interest in the country and I will be trying to find more books about it in the future.

From S. Krishna's Books ( )
  skrishna | Jan 5, 2009 |
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Book description
An immersive novel of epic proportions that interweaves two Cambodian stories: Archeologist Luc Andrade discovers an ancient manuscript inscribed on gold leaves but is kidnapped — and the manuscript stolen — by a faction still loyal to the ideals of the brutal Pol Pot regime. Andrade's friends, an ex-Khmer Rouge agent and a young motoboy, embark on a trek across Cambodia to rescue him. Meanwhile, Andrade, bargaining for his life, translates the lost manuscript for his captors. The result is a glimpse into the tremendous and heart-wrenching story of King Jayavarman VII: his childhood, rise to power, marriage, interest in Buddhism, and the initiation of Cambodia's golden age. As Andrade and Jayavarman's stories interweave, the question becomes whether the tale of ancient wisdom can bring hope to a nation still suffering from the violent legacy of the last century.
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Archeologist Luc Andrade discovers an ancient manuscript inscribed on gold leaves but is kidnapped -- and the manuscript stolen -- by a faction still loyal to the ideals of the brutal Pol Pot regime. Andrade's friends, an ex-Khmer Rouge agent and a young motoboy, embark on a trek across Cambodia to rescue him. Meanwhile, Andrade, bargaining for his life, translates the lost manuscript for his captors. The result is a glimpse into the tremendous and heart-wrenching story of King Jayavarman VII: his childhood, rise to power, marriage, interest in Buddhism, and the initiation of Cambodia's golden age. As Andrade and Jayavarman's stories interweave, the question becomes whether the tale of ancient wisdom can bring hope to a nation still suffering from the violent legacy of the last century.… (more)

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Small Beer Press

An edition of this book was published by Small Beer Press.

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