Customer Reviews for

King Rat

Average Rating 4.5
( 36 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(19)

4 Star

(11)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(0)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

Powerful story from the East

This is an incredible story of a little known side of WWII, that of the plight of prisoners in a Japanese camp. The story revolves around a group of prisoners in Changi. The main characters are Peter Marlowe, a British pilot 'I believe', and an American nicknamed ...
This is an incredible story of a little known side of WWII, that of the plight of prisoners in a Japanese camp. The story revolves around a group of prisoners in Changi. The main characters are Peter Marlowe, a British pilot 'I believe', and an American nicknamed 'The King' because of his status in the black market area. Pilots 'Shogun's Blackthorne' and skillful, but honorable traders 'Dirk Sturan' are to become central in Clavell's other works. Besides the central characters, there is the gay actor that loves to perform in plays, the engineer who builds a miniature radio, the corrupt British officer, the Japanese camp commander, the Chinese trader, and the scheming prisoners seeking to dethrone 'The King'. To me there is much interesting subjects of discussion in this book, all the more relevant today. It is a microcosom of our world. Why is 'The King' able to have coffee, eggs, extra rice, even cigarrettes, while the rest are undernourished? Is that morally right? I think at the end of the novel, Clavell has the answer, but let's apply this to a much bigger canvas: why should people starve in Africa, Asia, while the people of rich nations are fat, way way fat? The elaborate accounts of various trades are fascinating. 'The King', and perhaps Clavell, seem to have an innate understanding of how 'things work' in Asia, and they are able to thrive. Clavell, the ex-prisoner, would go on to write masterful novels of Japan, he is skilled as an interpreter, really making us understand the cultural differences, and clearly you can see he got his start here with this book. I also highly recommend the audio book, by Lee I believe, he brings to life the various accents, Chinese, British, Aussie. I have to disagree with the previous comment at the end of a decent review, that seems to say, because of the claim that only 2% died in Changi, it wasn't as bad as Clavell writes it. Well, first, I take a little more authenticity from someone who was actually a prisoner in the camp than an armchair historian. Secondly, Clavell never writes Changi was horrific, they have their gardens, their plays, their rice, their card games, their work parties, and worse - please, this was no picnic. Part of the authenticity of the book is that Clavell was there, and that gives it the vibrancy and power that make this Clavell's strongest book. Maybe not as grand as Shogun, or with as many characters and subplots as Whirlwind, but one you put down and really think.

posted by Anonymous on May 25, 2008

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

The Will to Power

A book too long by about 100-200 pages, that basically reveals that certain people such as the main character 'The King', innately possess a greater will to power than others and that the majority of humanity is simply a pliant tool to be used by superior men to make t...
A book too long by about 100-200 pages, that basically reveals that certain people such as the main character 'The King', innately possess a greater will to power than others and that the majority of humanity is simply a pliant tool to be used by superior men to make themselves greater and more powerful in their environment over everyone else. Basically the laws of the animal kingdom, transposed upon an isolated human social environment, hence the name of the book 'King Rat'.

posted by Anonymous on June 9, 2006

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2008

    Powerful story from the East

    This is an incredible story of a little known side of WWII, that of the plight of prisoners in a Japanese camp. The story revolves around a group of prisoners in Changi. The main characters are Peter Marlowe, a British pilot 'I believe', and an American nicknamed 'The King' because of his status in the black market area. Pilots 'Shogun's Blackthorne' and skillful, but honorable traders 'Dirk Sturan' are to become central in Clavell's other works. Besides the central characters, there is the gay actor that loves to perform in plays, the engineer who builds a miniature radio, the corrupt British officer, the Japanese camp commander, the Chinese trader, and the scheming prisoners seeking to dethrone 'The King'. To me there is much interesting subjects of discussion in this book, all the more relevant today. It is a microcosom of our world. Why is 'The King' able to have coffee, eggs, extra rice, even cigarrettes, while the rest are undernourished? Is that morally right? I think at the end of the novel, Clavell has the answer, but let's apply this to a much bigger canvas: why should people starve in Africa, Asia, while the people of rich nations are fat, way way fat? The elaborate accounts of various trades are fascinating. 'The King', and perhaps Clavell, seem to have an innate understanding of how 'things work' in Asia, and they are able to thrive. Clavell, the ex-prisoner, would go on to write masterful novels of Japan, he is skilled as an interpreter, really making us understand the cultural differences, and clearly you can see he got his start here with this book. I also highly recommend the audio book, by Lee I believe, he brings to life the various accents, Chinese, British, Aussie. I have to disagree with the previous comment at the end of a decent review, that seems to say, because of the claim that only 2% died in Changi, it wasn't as bad as Clavell writes it. Well, first, I take a little more authenticity from someone who was actually a prisoner in the camp than an armchair historian. Secondly, Clavell never writes Changi was horrific, they have their gardens, their plays, their rice, their card games, their work parties, and worse - please, this was no picnic. Part of the authenticity of the book is that Clavell was there, and that gives it the vibrancy and power that make this Clavell's strongest book. Maybe not as grand as Shogun, or with as many characters and subplots as Whirlwind, but one you put down and really think.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2007

    A reviewer

    The setting is a Japanese POW camp near Singapore in early 1945. After years of Japanese neglect, near starvation diets, tropical diseases, and increasing hopelessness of liberation, British, Australian, and American prisoners are dropping like flies. A young and idealistic British pilot, Peter Marlowe, forms an unlikely friendship with a clever, street-smart enlisted American, 'the King'. While all the prisoners are literally walking skeletons suffering from every disease the tropics have to offer, the King inexplicably manages to eat, live, and dress normally. The King's secret? Trading. However, in Changi trading is a zero-sum gain and absolutely forbidden. (In this strange world, the commanding British officers strictly enforce Japanese orders against their fellow inmates.) For one prisoner to eat, another will go hungry (ier). And the King is the master at not going hungry - looking out for No. 1. The king even outtrades his captors. Life is comparatively sweet for the King, albeit lonely. After all, the entire camp burns with covetous envy regarding the King. Nearly, everyone depends on the King, though, to make a life-saving trade - a watch for a bowl of rice, $20 for an orange, etc. The King decides to take the unaffected Marlowe under his wing as a sort of junior partner. Marlowe is decidedly fascinated by this dynamic man (without a conscience?). And the King, in turn, remains mystified by Marlowe's idealism and self-sacrifice. The King lets Marlowe in on his adventures and his secrets, something the whole camp would like to know, too. The ever imaginative King comes up with a brilliant scheme to both make money AND get revenge on his camp enemies. And this perverted world comes to a surrealistic end with the closing of the Pacific War. Though some survive Changi, the experience will haunt the survivors for the rest of their lives. The question is who will survive. This is an outstanding book, which I read in the space of two days, barely able to put the book down. Clavell's book - based on his actual imprisonment in Changi - describes the truly surrealistic world of an actual Japanese POW camp and the men within it. However, it is strictly a fictional account - only 2% of the prisoners held in Changi died according to the Australian War Memorial's Creation of Changi Prison Museum article by Kevin Blackburn.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2003

    Amazing!

    This is the first Clavell book I have ever read but I'm now sure that it won't be the last! I was so intrigued by the storyline itself. Not only that, but also the way the diverse cultures, which I am not fond of, were brought to life. It is so hard to write a story like that without giving a whole lot of background. He does an excellent job of presenting all the background you need to know as the story goes along without breaking the flow!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2012

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2012

    The 1st Book I have read by James Clavell. This is one of the Be

    The 1st Book I have read by James Clavell. This is one of the Best Books I have ever read. To me...It's not so much about the war, but about Human Survival and Character....A true Eye Opener. ~ I really enjoyed this Book and put it on my Top 10 List.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 18, 2009

    Why waste your time?

    This has GOT to be one of the all time WORST books on the market! There is almost ZERO character development, no plot of which to speak, and all-in-all a waste of time and money. I am sorry I purchased it. Mr. Clavell's book Shogun was most definitely an instant classic. This book cannot claim to be in the same room as Shogun, let alone on the same bookshelf or in the same series. There was no reason for the book. Only after I put it down and began the painful experience of reading the next novel in the series, did I realize he meant this as a transitional novel. Some of the characters reappear in that novel, but to what end? If you are looking for books by James Clavell, stick to Shogun and go no further. There's no point in King Rat or any of the others he wrote in this "Saga". Let the buyer beware. A Two star rating is far too high a rating. But then, I'm feeling generous today.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2006

    The Will to Power

    A book too long by about 100-200 pages, that basically reveals that certain people such as the main character 'The King', innately possess a greater will to power than others and that the majority of humanity is simply a pliant tool to be used by superior men to make themselves greater and more powerful in their environment over everyone else. Basically the laws of the animal kingdom, transposed upon an isolated human social environment, hence the name of the book 'King Rat'.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2003

    one of the best books i've read in a while

    I liked this book so much I couln't put it down. Unlike in a lot of books, I actually found myself wanting the characters to survive e.g: as far as I'm concerned, Phillip Carey (Of Human Bondage) can just die.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2014

    Fantastic

    This was the first James Clavell book I read, and I enjoyed it very much. I found myself instantly immersed in a setting and a way of life that I could not have imagined before reading King Rat...extremely observant and informative writer regarding social structure, personalities and history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2013

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    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2000

    human behavier in king rat

    king rat book is about people and there lives is war and how they survive in

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2011

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    Posted April 28, 2009

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    Posted April 9, 2011

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    Posted August 16, 2011

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    Posted September 5, 2011

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    Posted October 7, 2011

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    Posted December 27, 2009

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    Posted September 25, 2011

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    Posted May 24, 2011

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