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The Orphan Master's Son: A Novel…

The Orphan Master's Son: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Adam Johnson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,7032733,009 (4.06)1 / 417
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.
Title:The Orphan Master's Son: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)
Authors:Adam Johnson
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2012), Paperback, 480 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Tags:Audiobook, Contemporary, Asia, Politics, Romance, 2014, Korea

Work Information

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

  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 417 mentions

English (263)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (2)  Italian (2)  Danish (2)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (275)
Showing 1-5 of 263 (next | show all)
First edition signed, as new with remainder mark.
  dgmathis | Mar 25, 2023 |
I've been dying to read this book ever since I saw Johnson speak at the National Book Festival. Let's just say he's really brilliant and really compelling in person.
This book was a really tough one for me to rate. There is a part of me that wants to award five stars out of respect for what Johnson tried to do - - the part that recognizes the amount of research that went into the book and the brilliance at recreating a believable North Korea. I see why it won the Pulitzer Prize - - the ending was very dramatic and really did make the book. The book truly had strong themes that were well developed - - love, identity, freedom - - all were addressed without telling the reader what to think. The author used three voices, and I think how he used them was unique and clever.
All that being said, I just didn't find the book enjoyable to read.
The plot focuses on one man, an orphan, trying to survive in the very oppressive North Korea. It follows him from his first career as a kidnapper to spying from a ship to a diplomatic mission in Texas. We also see North Korea through announcements made via loudspeaker to the citizenry and through the eyes of an investigator/torturer who works for the state.
The book has a lot of action, yet I really wasn't grabbed by it until the very end. Dare I say I found it a little bit boring. Maybe I just couldn't relate to what the main character was going through because it was so far out of my experience. Maybe it was because he didn't really come across as human until he had something to lose.
Another issue is that the book is just filled with horrible scene after horrible scene - - lots of torture. I actually like dark books, but in this case, I didn't relate enough to the characters to feel moved so I mostly just felt disgusted.
The love relationship that develops and finally makes the protagonist come alive just didn't read realistically to me.
The part that really cemented the three star rating for me though was the structure of the book. This book is not written in a linear way, and the author doesn't give a whole lot of clues where you are in time or in the story. David Mitchell did this well in Cloud Atlas. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is also not linear, but gives you dates as heading chapters which helps a lot. This book has two GIANT chapters and that's it. It's disorienting. I think the author wanted the reader to feel disoriented, but it distracted me from key points in the plot, and I felt myself getting confused. I hesitate to say this, but for some reason I felt a LOT like I did when I read One Hundred Years of Solitude. Somewhat lost and not really wanting to read slowly and carefully enough to be found.
All in all, I'm glad I stuck it out because the ending was strong, and I did, on some level, appreciate it the book for its literary prowess. But I can't see myself actually recommending this book to many people. ( )
  Anita_Pomerantz | Mar 23, 2023 |
NA ( )
  eshaundo | Jan 7, 2023 |
An astonishingly great novel. Confusing in bits and a bit long for my ADHD tendencies, but wow. Scary, funny, beautiful, haunting, melancholy, weird. ( )
  steve02476 | Jan 3, 2023 |
paints quite the picture of North Korea...well written, dark story, don't read this looking for an uplifting tale but really well told ( )
  LAJG13 | Jan 2, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 263 (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,
First words
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?
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

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.

No library descriptions found.

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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