Shibumi [NOOK Book]


A westerner raised in Japan, he survived the destruction of Hiroshima to emerge as the world's most artful lover and its most accomplished assassin. His greatest desire is to attain a state of effortless perfection . . . shibumi. But he is about to face his most sinister and corrupt enemy -- a supermonolith of espionage and monopoly bent on ...
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A westerner raised in Japan, he survived the destruction of Hiroshima to emerge as the world's most artful lover and its most accomplished assassin. His greatest desire is to attain a state of effortless perfection . . . shibumi. But he is about to face his most sinister and corrupt enemy -- a supermonolith of espionage and monopoly bent on destroying
him. . . .

From the Paperback edition.
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Editorial Reviews

St. Louis Post Dispatch
Trevanian is a master of international intrigue...this novel should establish his reputation in the forefront of the cloak and dagger genre.
From the Publisher
“One hell of a pleasure to read.” —Washington Post

“It’s hard to imagine a more nearly perfect spy story.” —Milwaukee Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307238436
  • Publisher: Crown/Archetype
  • Publication date: 5/10/2005
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 49,847
  • File size: 809 KB

Meet the Author

Trevanian’s books have been translated into more than fourteen languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide. He lives in the French Basque mountains. His new novel, The Crazyladies of Pearl Street, will be released in hardcover in June 2005.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Read an Excerpt


The screen flashed 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 . . . then the projector was switched off, and lights came up in recessed sconces along the walls of the private viewing room.

The projectionist's voice was thin and metallic over the intercom. "Ready when you are, Mr. Starr."

T. Darryl Starr, sole audience member, pressed the talk button of the communication console before him. "Hey, buddy? Tell me something. What are all those numbers in front of a movie for anyway?"

"It's called academy leader, sir," the projectionist answered. "I just spliced it onto the film as a sort of joke."


"Yes, sir. I mean . . . considering the nature of the film . . . it's sort of funny to have a commercial leader, don't you think?"

"Why funny?"

"Well, I mean . . . what with all the complaints about violence in movies and all that."

T. Darryl Starr grunted and scrubbed his nose with the back of his fist, then he slipped down the pilot-style sunglasses he had pushed up into his cropped hair when the lights first went off.

Joke? It damn well better not be a joke, I shit thee not! If anything has gone wrong, my ass will be grass. And if the slightest little thing is wrong, you can bet your danglees that Mr. Diamond and his crew will spot it. Nit-picking bastards! Ever since they took control over Middle East operations of CIA, they seemed to get their cookies by pointing out every little boo-boo.

Starr bit off the end of his cigar, spat it onto the carpeted floor, pumped it in and out of his pursed lips, then lit it from a wooden match he struck with his thumbnail. As Most Senior Field Operative, he had access to Cuban cigars. After all, RHIP.

He scooted down and hooked his legs over the back of the seat before him, like he used to do when he watched movies at the Lone Star Theater as a boy. And if the boy in front objected, Starr would offer to kick his ass up amongst his shoulder blades. The other kid always backed off, because everybody in Flat Rock knew that T. Darryl Starr was some kind of fierce and could stomp a mud puddle in any kid's chest.

That was many years and knocks ago, but Starr was still some kind of fierce. That's what it took to become CIA's Most Senior Field Operative. That, and experience. And boo-coo smarts.

And patriotism, of course.

Starr checked his watch: two minutes to four. Mr. Diamond had called for a screening at four, and he would arrive at four—exactly. If Starr's watch did not read four straight up when Diamond walked into the theater, he would assume the watch was in need of repair.

He pressed his talk button again. "How does the film look?"

"Not bad, considering the conditions under which we shot it," the projectionist answered. "The light in Rome International is tricky . . . a mixture of natural light and fluorescent overheads. I had to use a combination of CC filters that brought my f-stop way down and made focus a real problem. And as for color quality--"

"I don't want to hear your piddly-assed problems!"

"Sorry, sir. I was just answering your question."

"Well, don't!"


The door at the back of the private theater opened with a slap. Starr glanced at his watch; the sweep second hand was five seconds off four o'clock. Three men walked quickly down the aisle. In the lead was Mr. Diamond, a wiry man in his late forties whose movements were quick and adroit, and whose impeccably tailored clothes reflected his trim habits of mind. Following closely was Mr. Diamond's First Assistant, a tall, loosely jointed man with a vague academic air. Not a man to waste time, it was Diamond's practice to dictate memos, even while en route between meetings. The First Assistant carried a belt recorder at his hip, the pinhead microphone of which was attached to his metal-rimmed glasses. He always walked close beside Mr. Diamond, or sat near him, his head bowed to pick up the flow of clipped monotonic directives.

Considering the heraldic stiffness of CIA mentality, it was inevitable that their version of wit would suggest a homosexual relationship between Diamond and his ever-hovering assistant. Most of the jokes had to do with what would happen to the assistant's nose, should Mr. Diamond ever stop suddenly.

The third man, trailing behind and somewhat confused by the brisk pace of action and thought surrounding him, was an Arab whose Western clothes were dark, expensive, and ill-fitting. The shabby look was not his tailor's fault; the Arab's body was not designed for clothes requiring posture and discipline.

Diamond slipped into an aisle seat across the auditorium from Starr; the First Assistant sat directly behind him, and the Palestinian, frustrated in his expectation that someone would tell him where to sit, finally shambled into a seat near the back.

Turning his head so the pinhead microphone could pick up the last of his rapid, atonic dictation, Diamond closed off the thoughts he had been pursuing. "Introduce the following topics to me within the next three hours: One—North Sea oil rig accident: the media suppression thereof. Two—This professor type who is investigating the ecological damage along the Alaska pipeline: the termination thereof by apparent accident."

Both these tasks were in their final phases, and Mr. Diamond was looking forward to getting in a little tennis over the weekend. Provided, of course, these CIA fools had not screwed up this Rome International action. It was a straightforward spoiling raid that should not have presented any difficulties, but in the six months since the Mother Company had assigned him to manage CIA activities involving the Middle East, he had learned that no action is so simple as to be beyond CIA's capacity for error.

Diamond understood why the Mother Company chose to maintain its low profile by working behind the cover of CIA and NSA, but that did not make his job any easier. Nor had he been particularly amused by the Chairman's lighthearted suggestion that he think of the Mother Company's use of CIA operatives as Her contribution to the hiring of the mentally handicapped.

Diamond had not yet read Starr's action report, so he reached back for it now. The First Assistant anticipated him and had the report ready to press into his hand.

As he glanced over the first page, Diamond spoke without raising his voice. "Put the cigar out,
Starr." Then he lifted his hand in a minimal gesture, and the wall lights began to dim down.

Darryl Starr pushed his sunglasses up into his hair as the theater went dark and the projector beam cut through slack threads of blue smoke. On the screen appeared a jerky pan over the interior of a large, busy airport.

"This here's Rome International," Starr drawled. "Time reference: thirteen thirty-four GMT. Flight 414 from Tel Aviv has just arrived. It's going to be a piece before the action starts. Those I-talian customs jokers ain't no speed balls."

"Starr?" said Diamond, wearily.


"Why haven't you put that cigar out?"

"Well, to tell you God's own truth, sir, I never heard you ask me to."

"I didn't ask you."

Embarrassed at being ordered around in the presence of a foreigner, Starr unhooked his leg from the seat in front and ground out the almost fresh cigar on the carpet. To save face, he continued narrating as though nothing had happened. "I expect our A-rab friend here is going to be some impressed at how we handled this one. It went off slick as catshit on linoleum."

Wide shot: customs and immigration portal. A queue of passengers await the formalities with varying degrees of impatience. In the face of official incompetence and indifference, the only passengers who are smiling and friendly are those who anticipate trouble with their passports or luggage. An old man with a snow-white goatee leans over the counter, explaining something for the third time to the customs officer. Behind him in line are two young men in their twenties, deeply tanned, wearing khaki shorts and shirts open at the throat. As they move forward, pushing their rucksacks along with their feet, camera zooms in to isolate them in mid-close-up.

"Those are our targets," Starr explained needlessly.

"Just so," the Arab said in a brittle falsetto. "I recognize one of them, one known within their organization as Avrim."

With a comically exaggerated bow of gallantry, the first young man offers to let a pretty redheaded girl precede them to the counter. She smiles thanks, but shakes her head. The Italian official in his too-small peaked cap takes the first young man's passport with a bored gesture and flicks it open, his eyes straying again and again to the girl's breasts, obviously unfettered beneath a denim shirt. He glances from the photograph to the young man's face and back again, frowning.

Starr explained. "The mark's passport picture was taken before he grew that silly-assed beard."

The immigration official shrugs and stamps the passport. The second young man is treated with the same combination of mistrust and incompetence. His passport is stamped twice, because the Italian officer was so engrossed in the redheaded girl's shirtfront that he forgot to use the ink pad the first time. The young men pick up their rucksacks, slinging them over their shoulders by one strap. Murmuring apologies and twisting sideways, they slip through a tangle of excited Italians, a large family pressing and standing on tiptoe to greet an arriving relative.

"Okay! Slow 'er down!" Starr ordered over the intercom. "Here's where it hits the fan."

The projector slowed to one-quarter speed.

From frame to flickering frame the young men move as though the air were gelatin. The leader turns back to smile at someone in the queue, the motion having the quality of a ballet in moon gravity. The second one looks out over the crowd. His nonchalant smile freezes. He opens his mouth and shouts silently, as the front of his khaki shirt bursts open and sprouts blood. Before he can fall to his knees, a second bullet strikes his cheek and tears it off. The camera waves around dizzily before locating the other young man, who has dropped his rucksack and is running in nightmare slow motion toward the coin lockers. He pirouettes in the air as a slug takes him in the shoulder. He slams gracefully against the lockers and bounces back. His hip blossoms with gore, and he slips sideward to the polished granite floor. A third bullet blows off the back of his head.

The camera swishes over the terminal, seeking, losing, then finding again two men
out of focusrunning toward the glass doors of the entrance. The focus is corrected, revealing them to be Orientals. One of them carries an automatic weapon. He suddenly arches his back, throws up his arms, and slides forward on his toes for a second before pitching onto his face. The gun clatters silently beside him. The second man has reached the glass doors, the smeared light of which haloes his dark outline. He ducks as a bullet shatters the glass beside his head; he veers and runs for an open elevator out of which a group of schoolchildren are oozing. A little girl slumps down, her hair billowing as though she were underwater. A stray has caught her in the stomach. The next slug takes the Oriental between the shoulder blades and drives him gently into the wall beside the elevator. A grin of anguish on his face, he twists his arm up behind him, as though to pluck out the bullet. The next slug pierces his palm and enters his spine. He slides down the wall and falls with his head in the elevator car. The door closes, but reopens as the pressure pads meet the obstructing head. It closes again upon the head, then reopens. Closes. Opens.

Slow pan back over the terminal. High angle.

 . . . A cluster of shocked and bewildered children around the fallen girl. One boy screams in silence . . .

 . . . Two airport guards, their little Italian automatics drawn, run toward the fallen Orientals. One of them is still firing . . .

 . . . The old man with the snow-white goatee sits stunned in a puddle of his own blood, his legs straight out before him, like a child playing in a sandbox. His expression is one of overwhelming disbelief. He was sure he had explained everything to the customs official . . .

 . . . One of the young Israeli boys lies facedown on his missing cheek, his rucksack improbably still over his shoulder . . .

 . . . There is a largo minuet of stylized confusion among the gaggle of Italians who were awaiting a relative. Three of them have fallen. Others are wailing, or kneeling, and one teenaged boy is turning around and around on his heel, seeking a direction in which to run for help
or safety . . .

 . . . The redheaded girl stands stiff, her eyes round with horror as she stares at the fallen boy who just seconds ago offered to let her pass ahead . . .

 . . . The camera comes to rest on the young man sprawled beside the coin lockers, the back of his head missing . . .

"That-a—that-a—that-a—that's all folks!" said Starr. The beam from the projector flickered out, and the wall lights dimmed up to full.

Starr turned in his seat to field questions from Mr. Diamond or the Arab. "Well?"

Diamond was still looking toward the white screen, three fingers pressed lightly against his lips, the action report on his lap. He let the fingers slip to beside his chin. "How many?" he asked quietly.


"How many killed in the action?"

"I know what you mean, sir. Things got a little wetter than we expected. We'd arranged for the I-talian police to stay clear of the area, but they got their instructions all balled up—not that that's anything new. I even had some trouble myself. I had to use a Beretta so the slugs would match up for I-talian. And as a handgun, a Beretta isn't worth a fart in a hurricane, as my old daddy would have said. With an S&W, I could of dropped those Japs with two shots, and I wouldn't of hit that poor little girl that stepped out into my line of fire. Of course, in the first part of the action, our Nisei boys had been instructed to make it a little messy—make it look like a Black September number. But it was those panicked I-talian cops that started spattering slugs around like a cow pissing on a flat rock, as my old—"

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 49 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 50 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 15, 2010

    My first book by Trevanian.

    Long ago when I was an apprentice electrician I was given a copy of Shibumi. I didn't know then that this novel would affect my life as it did. I met a Basque while working in Chantilly, and had to try to explain how I even knew the name! He said the book was correct in many ways, so many I had to find my copy and let him read it! I have since read many more novels by Trevanian and enjoyed them all. But my favorite has been Shibumi, and I now keep a copy for myself and one for new freinds that I feel would enjoy it as much as I have.
    Mr. Trevanian explains why he doesn't go into as much detail as in some of his other books and it makes sense that he does this. It also allows the reader to do any research into these skills as they see fit.
    I hope you enjoy Shibumi as much as I did!

    Jay Nash

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    This book is unlike any other I have read. In the first 80 pages or so I thought the book was going to be completely different than it was regarding who the protangonist and antagonist were going to be. There was a lot of back ground and character set up in the first half of the book which proved necessary in the end. Great twists and characters, I definitely recoommend this book.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 13, 2011

    Incredibly bad

    I wonder if the spoof novels Rodney William Whitaker wrote include this one? I never in my life have rolled my eyes more times than reading this book. I seriously don't have the words for how ridiculous some of the situations in this book were. The historical parts were fairly well done (which is why this got a 2 stars) but the main plot was boring and filled with holes a mile wide. For instance, he's in a prison and is basically strip searched for protection of the prisoner. But they let him bring a board game in?? And does anyone actually believe a person is going to knowingly and personally threaten, face-to-face mind you, the world's top assassin? The constant bashing of the Intelligence services (main target: the CIA-of course,) the U.S. in general, and various other cultures grows incredibly wearisome after hearing it for the 200th time. Being an American, I can only assume that Whitaker was either playing the world's anti-American attitude against them, or actually did hate the country in which he lived. And please don't get me started on Whitaker's foray into sexual proclivities which had absolutely no place in this novel whatsoever. One line read something to effect of "If a woman annoyed him, he treated her to a sexual encounter that would leave her vacant and searching through lovers and husbands for the rest of her life trying to achieve it again." Whitaker has quite a deep void of sexual knowledge if he believes this nonsense. Note: Whitaker devotes at least 10 times as much writing to sex (that has no bearing on the plot at all) as he does the assasination experience of the main character. The ending was a nearly complete letdown, from being far too short and non-descript (it feels like he just gave up because he was sick of writing,) to its structure, preposterousness and predictability. I simply can't help thinking this was simply another one of Whitaker's jokes.

    3 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 7, 2012

    Second Time Reading

    This is an incredible book. What it lacks in story, it more than makes up for in writing style. Trevanian is gifted in his ability to describe with very few words. He could describe the color red to a blind person. I read this book when it was first published many many years ago and loved it. I just read another book, Satori, by another author. Satori is the first half of Nic Hel's life, but I would still recommend reading Shibumi first. I was so excited to find Nic Hel again in Satori, that I decided to reread Shibumi for the second time, not something I do a lot. I'm quite sure there'll be a 3rd and 4th time as well.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    It was a let down, and could have been so much better. I had a h

    It was a let down, and could have been so much better. I had a hard time
    with the author's apparent unpatriotic sentiments; the character
    continually looks at anything American as bad or corrupt. Interesting
    background, potential for a great character, but he couldn't get past
    his prejudice of the USA. Though he was such an assassin, he really
    didn't seem to do much assassin work except for killing the CIA people
    who were out to get him, though they would go to the end of the Earth to
    do so. The book described the character's love of the game Go, but
    hardly explained how he gained any skill in the martial arts, which was
    quirky at best. I really wanted to like Nicholas, a sympathetic well
    developed character, but in the end his American hating was an
    unnecessary political component of the book, and the end of the book
    became ridiculous and rushed. Too bad.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2003

    Ludicrous but Entertaining

    I found this book on a vacation, and its a perfect vacation read-insane on its own principles, but entertaining. Minor bonuses include one of the most unsympathetic and unlikeable protagonists of all time (a vegitarian assassain?), a popularization of the great game of Go, and casual, ubitquitous and purposefully offensive stereotyping ('virginity is important for Arabs, who fear comparison, and with good reason'). The character of the Corporation Head was a nice touch.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2001

    It's good but where's the story?

    I'm a fan of this author and I did mostly enjoy this book. Except for the fact that there's no story. Over half the book is devoted to the main character's background, a fascinating yarn and in fact my favorite part, but it's all just back-story. When we finally get caught up to the present, the thin tale of revenge that's left leaves much to be desired. It seems to me there's something missing or incomplete about the whole thing. While parts of the book in themselves are really great and often very gripping, I think as a whole, this is not one of Trevanian's best efforts.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 4, 2013

    My copy of Shibumi has 453 pages in it.  That is easily 200 page

    My copy of Shibumi has 453 pages in it.  That is easily 200 pages more than is needed.

    This is not a comment on the author's mastery of language or the author's worldly knowledge or the author's "anti-american" sentiment.  The "story" lagged because of tedious exploration of Nikko Hel's background and the spelunking.  Hel's backstory could have come out in other ways, preferably through dialog with another character that in fact had character. and not a cardboard cutout.  Spelunking text was pointless.  It would have made sense if, while spelunking, Hel and Le Cagot had found a gold or diamond mine as a resource against the Mother Company taking his land and Swiss accounts, but no, it was just spelunking.  Take it out of the story, sell it as a separate book for those who care.  I would have preferred more scenes in the garden where Hel is achieving (or failing to achieve) Shibumi since this is, presumably, his life's goal in all his activities.

    Where did writers and publishers get the idea that good novels had to be 400 to 1,000 or more pages to be a good novel.  Even though the Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri was written for playwrights, the principals applied to novels would make much better novels.  I read this book because a friend of mine from years ago recommended it.  To honor that recommendation, I finally read the book.  It was good once it actually got to the story (but even then it fell short of greatness).  I was left with this as a final impression:  "Ah, Hel, another disappointment.!"

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2012


    I've read this book several times during my life, and I was delighted to find it for the nook. Until I found that in translation to e-book, the game of 'Go' had been changed to 'Goo.' Go is very prominent in the book and essential to its concepts, and referring to the game as 'Goo' strips it of all dignity ... and, if I may, Shibumi. I never realized that the two-letter word "go" could be mispelled, and so badly (and so often, as it is referred to many, many times in the story, every time as 'goo.'

    The book is wonderful, and if you haven't read it, don't let the flaw bother you. It really is a fantastic story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    One of the best Spy novels ever written. This novel is like fine wine, it gets better with with age. The story is ageless. I highly recommend this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2011

    Not paying for it

    Boycott E-book! It's more than print

    1 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great thriller for a great escape

    Trevanian is a fabulous author, going to now to pickup the "crazy ladies" book. The storyline was never dull or boring, always had me wanting to turn the page to know what happened.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2007

    Brad Pit would flourish in this role...

    Packed with intrique and layers of muses...One should focus on all the description of events and characters, nothing more or less. Great read, would make a great script!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2006

    Keanu Reeves is supposed to star in this!!!!

    I don't know how they are going to justify the timeline with someone so young as Keanu, but I have loved this book ever since a friend of mine let me borrow it for inspiration of overcoming writer's block. An excellent thriller that is reminscent, but nowhere near a copy of Eric Lustabder's Nicholas Linnear novels.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2005

    Breaks the mold of Ludlum and the rest

    Although the book is a bit dated I first read it almost twenty years ago.. It is still one of my favorite reads . It has great action concepts such as ' Naked Kill' and wonderfully inventive sex. Here the uninitiated may pick up a few interesting ideas, overall a really fine book that remains interesting over time.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2002

    The best book I've ever read!!!

    I've read this book nine or ten times over the years and still find it as interesting and exciting as the first time. The concept of 'Shibumi' and the quiet strength of Hel make the book a blueprint to inner peace.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2001


    I read this book years ago and still remember it as one of the best books I have ever read. I plan to re-read it as soon as I get a chance.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2000

    Favorite Books by Trevanian

    The best Trevanian by far !!! This book has it all . Action, adventure, sex, and intrigue .

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2012


    In my "goo" review above, I memtioned the kindle edition renders the game's name as go (with a line over the o), which emerged as g? In the posted review.

    Interesting, and i wonder if this isn't a problem with the nook software rather than the e-book edition...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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