the orphan master’s son by a johnson

The Orphan Master's Son  What’s everyone reading?  The summer sun has heavily anchored down in our lives and is currently showing absolutely no sign of migrating. Our good ole summer sun.  What would life be like without the sun?  So much of our routines, emotions, and even relationships densely rely on the rise and fall of the sun.  It’s a wonder why there is a stark contrast in the world’s activity when the sun goes down.  People let loose.  They let go of everything that had culminated during the sun’s time.  Behaviors become more private, furtive, and undisclosed.  Less good things happen when the sun goes down.  But why?  Actually, there are so many corners in this world where darkness lingers regardless of the sun’s position.  Developing countries with increasing political obscurity, for one; religious wars; murders, etc.  Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son also depicts the kind of darkness that tragically prevails beyond fiction.

Would you believe it if you were told that there are North Korean spies roaming the East Sea, seemingly dormant like a jungle predator, only to ambush the vulnerable darkness and lives of its Japanese preys in exchange for blood? I made frequent breaks during my reading to remind myself that it was all fiction. Jun Do, NK’s designated kidnapper and protagonist of the story is a loyal countryman devoted to serve his government by kidnapping, cheating, killing, and stealing for the Commander without ever questioning his motives.  The Japanese are taken from their coast to some prison in Pyongyang, where their blood and healthy organs are drawn out to transplant into the sick and dying North Koreans.  Pretty dark.

But even the most committed and faithful patriot can abandon his country in a split second if reason and motive empower his loyalty.  When Jun Do is taken to jail upon his return from a failed mission in America, he plots for revenge against the country and leader of outlandish propaganda.  His ruthless tenacity to fight for his freedom and self-hood, in a country where no one truly exists, is heartbreaking and somewhat endearing.

It’s not a light read, definitely not a beach read.  But if you’re into historical, political, or North Korea-related books then this is a gripping thriller that will suit your fancy.  Keep in mind, Johnson had visited NK before and his true experiences ripple into his writing, often holding you curious as to what is fiction… and what is [still] real today.

dee’s recommendation: 3/5