Customer Reviews for

The Orphan Master's Son

Average Rating 4
( 189 )
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5 Star

(105)

4 Star

(33)

3 Star

(27)

2 Star

(13)

1 Star

(11)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

25 out of 27 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

4 out of 5 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 16, 2013

    I am forcing myself to finish this book. It is compelling in th

    I am forcing myself to finish this book. It is compelling in that I'm learning all I ever want to know about North Korea. It's very disturbing in that regard. But the story itself is hard to follow, a lot of it is like someone describing their dream in that it doesn't make a lot of sense. But I will finish this book. And I won't recommend it to anybody. It's pretty awful. How people can live under these conditions is a mystery.

    2 out of 3 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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  • 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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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2014

    No.

    No, Cyrus, Fu<_>ck you. Have fun with your new girlfriend. Never talk to me again.

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  • Posted January 1, 2014

    This one was a hard read for me I normally don't read "lite

    This one was a hard read for me I normally don't read &quot;literature&quot; this dry I like the entertaining sort, yet I couldn't put it down I had to know what became of all of them. Comrade Buc and his peaches was one of my favorite parts in the book, he wouldn't let them choose for him. He and his family went their own way not the state's way which took tremendous courage. My favorite character doesn't even have a name, at least not one I can remember reading in the story, but he was a North Korean interrogator and even though he is not the main character his story seemed to touch me more than the main character Pak Jun Do's story did. After I was finished I looked at my husband and was like &quot;what the f...k&quot;, I felt confused by all the ups and downs and flip flops of the story, I was intrigued by what lay beneath in the characters true beings but some of the scenes were so outrageous that it made me feel as if the author wrote little stories and then just slapped it together haphazardly where none of it really fits together. I know it won this year's Pulitzer Prize but it is a good thing I was not on that committee I wouldn't have voted for it even though I had to know how it ended I still couldn't have said that this is the best that came out of literature recently.




    I would recommend this to anyone with a huge brain that loves strange books. If you confuse easily don't read this book because well it is confusing .

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2012

    Geekfreak213

    Judging by the intro so far I think this will be a good book probably only for children or anybody who likes action and adventure. Lets just say i couldn't really put it down half the time because it was so good i did not want to stop reading. So i reccomend this book once again to people who are interested in action and adventure.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2012

    NO! not to my friends and family. I don't appreciate the foul language

    I thought the first 30 or 40 pages of the book were very intersting and gave some insight on North Korea but I don't care for the foul language. I've read all I care to. I hear enough cursing at work I don't need to bring it into my home even if it's in a book. Can't anyone write a book without using the "F" word and other profanities. It was the review from the Diane Reem show and her interview with the author on PBS that caught my attention. The interview was really good but they didn't mention the profanity. I would not have bought the book if they would have mentioned the profanity. Would I recomend this to my friends or family? NO! because of the foul language. The people I associate with don't use that kind of language and I would be offended if they did.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2013

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    Posted June 15, 2012

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    Posted May 3, 2012

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    Posted February 26, 2012

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    Posted May 28, 2013

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