Customer Reviews for

The Orphan Master's Son

Average Rating 4
( 204 )
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5 Star

(112)

4 Star

(36)

3 Star

(28)

2 Star

(15)

1 Star

(13)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

26 out of 28 people found this review helpful.

An eye-opening story that will keep you captivated.

When I started reading this book, I wondered if it was science fiction, where I was taken to this "Big Brother" planet where a society totally lives in fear under the rule of a madman. It has hard to digest that this was an actual place on earth at this time and age. It...
When I started reading this book, I wondered if it was science fiction, where I was taken to this "Big Brother" planet where a society totally lives in fear under the rule of a madman. It has hard to digest that this was an actual place on earth at this time and age. It is about life in North Korea and a character named Pak Jun Do.

We begin by meeting Pak Jun Do at an orphanage that his father works at. Being an orphan is considered being one of the lowliest persons alive. Although Pak Jun Do's father works there, everyone he meets thinks he is an orphan and immediately forms their opinion about him.

We follow Jun Do through his unbelieveable and haunting life where he seems to be the puppet of those above him. He is forced to become a kidnapper, an intelligence officer that lives on a fishing boat, a prisoner, and eventually tortured. Throughout this, he has one thing to cling to, his love for the national actress, Sun Moon. We do not know his original name, but then he becomes Jun Do in the orphanage and then becomes others as the book progresses. In a society where you can "replace" a husband, or a wife, etc., and accept that as reality, Jun Do becomes who he needs to be when he needs to be.

I am so fortunate to have received an advanced copy of this book. I do not think it is a book I would have picked up on my own to read. Once I started reading, I was hooked. The author weaves Jun Do's different lives in and out of one another, and jumps from the present to the past and back again. It was confusing in the beginning, but once I figured out what was going on, it made the journey more interesting.

It really opened my eyes to the injustices that are occuring in North Korea and makes me thankful that I live in America. I would encourage others to read this book so they, too, can learn about life in North Korea

posted by code7r on January 20, 2012

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Most Helpful Critical Review

5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

Adventurous and ambitious. The title is misleading. Jun Do (Joh

Adventurous and ambitious.

The title is misleading. Jun Do (John Doe) lives in an orphanage in Chongjin, North Korea. He is introduced to us as the Orphan Master’s son, so in theory, he is not an orphan and constantly reminds the reader of this. However, he is tr...
Adventurous and ambitious.

The title is misleading. Jun Do (John Doe) lives in an orphanage in Chongjin, North Korea. He is introduced to us as the Orphan Master’s son, so in theory, he is not an orphan and constantly reminds the reader of this. However, he is treated like an orphan and given a name from a list of martyrs so you have to assume that he is, in fact, an orphan.

When the orphanage begins to lose its battle to famine, Jun Do is enlisted into the army. There, he performs missions in tunnels operating under zero-light conditions. The fact that he spends so much time in the dark is not a coincidence. This is North Korea after all. Anyway, after this adventure he gets a job translating radio transmissions, ends up in Texas, makes friends with a senator’s wife… kidnaps people and let’s not forget when he switches identity with Commander Ga, a national hero.

This was a bizarre read. Bizarre, but utterly fascinating. I liked Jun Do. I think that is why I decided to stay with him, no matter what he was doing, or what was going on around him. I knew I liked him when he kidnapped people and somehow, I still felt sympathy for him. Is he taken advantage of? Is that why I felt sorry for him? No. I never once felt that he was ever taken advantage of, but he moves with the times. He continues to move forward no matter what is thrown at him and although he cannot be considered a hero, I did find his resiliency to be admirable.

Although there isn’t too much said about Kim Jong il, he is present throughout the novel. The translated radio broadcasts, which in reality function as a form of brain washing and a way to spread propaganda, are peppered throughout. I was constantly reminded of who was in charge and it gave a very 1984-esque tone to the novel. This, I very much enjoyed.

What I enjoyed less, was the meandering nature of the story itself. Jun Do was here, there…heck he was everywhere. There are girls on boats, there’s fishing… there are famous singers and girls getting sent to Pyongyang, ultimately, to be prostitutes. There’s even a famous actress whose shine is just beginning to wear off (think Sunset Boulevard). This was the perfect example of too much.

Even though there was a lot going on, I zipped through this book, only to sit and wonder what the heck I’d say about it. It was surreal and sometimes reminded me of Haruki Murakami’s writing, but the payoff wasn’t as good and it took me weeks to sort through my feelings. I do like a book that forces me to think, but I’m not sure the author’s goal was to completely put a halt to my everyday life. THAT is how much I thought about this book.

Now here you are, wondering if you should read it. If you are the type of reader who likes to work through a book and not have things handed to you on a silver platter, then you might enjoy this book. If you like adventure, then there is plenty of that to be found within its pages. And I have to say, I did enjoy Jun Do’s character although I never did figure him out. The book itself was a fast read and quite different from anything I’ve read before. That’s saying something, right?

posted by TiBookChatter on April 20, 2012

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  • Posted July 11, 2013

    This book stayed with me long after I was finished. It's on my

    This book stayed with me long after I was finished. It's on my personal top 25 list!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2013

    Love it

    Thus book is a great read. It takes the reader into a strange world of propaganda and fear. The book is fiction, but grounded by the author's vast knowledge of North Korea. Of you want an easy feel good read this book is not for you. It is a web of story lines that will keep you guessing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

    Imaginative and important

    I read it in the summer, but it's not a light, summer read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 8, 2013

    Great read

    Mindbending

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2013

    Wonderfully captivating!

    Wonderfully captivating!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2013

    Very INTERESTING BOOK

    I could not believe people could live and be treated this way. If
    it is even 10% accurate about conditions in N Korea, thats awful.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2013

    Great read!

    Only half way through, but enjoying it very much. So well written.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2013

    Odd but worth it.

    Really brings you into this weird country!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 14, 2013

    BREATHTAKING!

    A brilliant book! Ingeniously crafted. Having been born in a communist country I could so relate. People have been treating each other with contempt, disregard and inhumanity for centuries and based on today's headlines there is no sign of it changing - this book demonstrates, at least one aspect, of how depraved humanity can be. Thankfully redemption can be found by those who seek it!
    The impressions of this book will stay with me for a long, long time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 25, 2013

    I finished this book over two weeks ago and I am still thinking

    I finished this book over two weeks ago and I am still thinking about it.  This is a difficult book to read because of the 
    graphic nature of the horrors Jon Do faces, yet I left this book with a great sense of hope.  I recommend this book to all of my reader friends. And I will read this author again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2013

    really good book!

    I was surprised at how much this book grabbed my attention. It was a book like no other I had read before. I recommend it highly. You will be entralled as I was.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 1, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    This is the most interesting and best book I have read in a very long time. I do not normally choose books set in North Asia only because it is so unfamiliar to me. This was an exception. We read it as a book club choice. I will say some were disturbed by the inability to know what was true. Those that loved the book understood the damaging impacts of a country run by propaganda. "If the man and the story are not aligned, the story wins out. ". Think about that!
    If you like a bit of historical fiction, you will be intriqued by this book. Enjoy!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 15, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Disappointing. After all the rave reviews, from both profession

    Disappointing.

    After all the rave reviews, from both professional critics and readers alike, I was eager to read this book. After reading it, I'm extremely glad I got it from the library as paying good money for this book would have annoyed me greatly.

    A couple of times I was tempted to abandon it but I slogged through it. By the end I was just happy the experience was over. The plot is interesting but is presented in a disjointed and confusing manner. The middle section of the book is especially screwed up and often it wasn't until many pages later that what was going on cleared up. I never felt anything for the main character, neither like nor dislike. And the introduction of the "interrogator" character made a muddle of things. Yes, it was interesting to read about North Korea, but in the interview with the author at the end of the book he admits that many of the elements of that society he had to guess at as, even having visited the country, he was not allowed to be far off his minders' leash.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 8, 2012

    You will want to find out more information about this oppressive country

    I discovered the book on a website”17 must read books of Spring 2012”.I hadn’t given much thought to N. Korea but felt it would be an informative book and help understand some of the news stories about this country and Kim Jong Il . The story is a fantasy or something like you would expect the villens in a Batman Movie would be involved in : sub-terrain prisons, chained prison inmates, electric torture machines, to impossible to be real. Disappointing to start but as you get into the book you get caught up with the fantasy and need to know how it ends. After reading about the authors credentials and research at the end of the book, it makes you wonder is their truth to this fantasy? The book left me with the desire to find out more about this oppressive country, and I am trying to find other historical fiction (I like my history coated with Mylanta so it goes down easier) that might be closer to reality or support the impressions left after reading this one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2012

    Hard to believe the repression. In this world of electronic comm

    Hard to believe the repression. In this world of electronic communication it is hard to believe that a whole population is controlled by one man’s needs and wants. When everyone you know can be held responsible for your actions it pits people against each other and allows a few people to control the masses. As show in history this power over others engenders sadistic behavior in the name of control.

    I found the story too intense and disturbing to read except in short doses until I got to Part 2 then I couldn’t put it down. The writer’s style keep me involved and attentive to the various stories and storytellers. I enjoyed the challenge and twists that the story took and couldn’t have asked for a better or more realistic ending.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 20, 2012

    Must read

    Fascinating book. Takes you into the mindset of the North Koreans and makes you understand how easy it is to brainwash an entire nation. Well written. I will read it again. the first time I am sure I missed some things as the time frames move back and forth.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2012

    Inspiring and heartbreaking

    Amazing story of brutality and hope. I hope one day north koreans can know freedom

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2012

    Avoid - as inpenetrable as North Korea

    429 pages of utter confusion. This book had me feeling like I'd missed some important plot point after the first twenty pages, and continued that way for the remainder. There were some interesting glimpses into the culture and politics of North Korea, but that was little reward for the demands this book makes on its readers. Can't really understand what all the praise is about. Did we really read the same book?

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2012

    A compelling book, but how real? A primary purpose for reading t

    A compelling book, but how real? A primary purpose for reading this book was insights into life in North Korea. The author's narrative seems to range from believable to fantasy to science fiction.... and back. What is to be believed? I finally concluded not much. The style has no breaks in the narrative - no chapters over 425 pages. Yet there are constant switches in time, place, and character. it was disconcerting to constantly try and understand where I was in the story. Sometimes it was difficult to understand even which character was narrating. Not a relaxing read!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2012

    Could Not Finish

    After slogging through 293 pages, I decided not to spend one more minute of my life reading this book, and moved on.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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