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The Orphan Master's Son (2012)

by Adam Johnson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,0802423,009 (4.05)386
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.
  1. 100
    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 Accusation by Bandi (alanteder)
  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. 10
    The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters by B. R. Myers (bibliothequaire)
  5. 10
    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (aethercowboy)
  6. 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.
  7. 00
    Sons of Heaven by Terrence Cheng (booklove2)
    booklove2: Main characters have similar personalities, also they both battle regimes.
  8. 00
    A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power by Paul Fischer (Meredy)
    Meredy: When I read The Orphan Master's Son, I sensed that it was telling the truth in a way that only fiction can. This view of the DPRK regime seems to corroborate Johnson's surrealistic narrative to a degree of literalness that I did not anticipate.
  9. 02
    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).
  10. 15
    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.

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» See also 386 mentions

English (232)  Danish (2)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (2)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (242)
Showing 1-5 of 232 (next | show all)
Ouch. This compelling read is a journey through a putrid hell of a North Korea that strips from the majority of it's people no only any prosperity but from all of them the ability to express any identity not constructed to suit the state and may take everything instantly from anyone. There is a dark humor folded into the descriptions of the benevolence with which this is accomplished. ( )
  quondame | Jun 17, 2020 |
Interesting, but it's difficult to stomach the complete weirdness without having a sense if this is an accurate depiction of life in North Korea. ( )
  tombrown | Feb 21, 2020 |
The Orphan Master’s Son reads like one of the most horrifying dystopian novels I’ve read, but it isn’t an imaginary place. The setting is North Korea. Adam Johnson spent years compiling research based on defectors testimonies, info released by the US government and one trip to Pyongyang to craft a heartbreaking story. It follows one character Jun Do who lives through so many various experiences but through them shows the desperate lives of the millions of people who live there. I had no idea how crazy it was and to read the author interview at the end to learn how much was true blew me away.
I’ve now read all the Pulitzer Prize fiction winners since 1999. Out of all the prizes out there I think I agree most with the Pulitzer. There’s rarely one I haven’t liked/recommended. ( )
  strandbooks | Oct 30, 2019 |
The Orphan Master's Son is brutal, depressing, dark, unbelievable, harrowing, surreal and yet it also has elements of humor and, in the end, self-sacrifice and even love. Many have questioned the authenticity of the depiction of North Korea and criticized the author for writing about a country that he visited only once and the world knows very little about. Personally, I think that the accounts of defectors have documented the depraved nature of the rule of the Kim dictators very well, and the details in this fictional work are taken from actual accounts of life in North Korea.

Perhaps the most intriguing concept highlighted in this book is the idea that the regime-approved story is the "truth" and the individual has no meaning, no history, and no future of his/her own. The life of Jun Do (John Doe) is entirely shaped by these stories until the reader isn't sure who he really is or what is real. Also, the constant clamor of the state-sponsored "news" in every home seems humorous to us because it is such blatant propaganda, but I think anyone could be brainwashed by lies if that's all they hear over time. I have to say it seems a lot like the fanciful nonsense we hear from our current president every day, and I hope we don't lose our grip on reality. ( )
  NMBookClub | Oct 19, 2019 |
4.5 ( )
  chauveaux | Sep 11, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 232 (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

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my sun,
my moon,
my star and,
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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.

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