Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson


Well, you might not have heard that Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son won the 2013 Tournament of Books, but you are probably aware that it did just win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. And well deserved in my opinion; TOMS is one of the best books I have read this year.

The story takes place in North Korea, a country shrouded in mystery; what is real and what is imagined, who can say?  All I know is I couldn’t stop reading. The story follows the life of Pak Jun Do, an orphan who through a series of fantastical circumstances experiences the absurdity and the despair of life under a totalitarian regime.  The idea seemed impossible, preposterous, to him. What person could shift allegiance toward their oppressor? Who could possibly sympathize with the villain who stole your life?” Imagine an entire country of over 20 million suffering from Stockholm Syndrome and you’ll have an idea of life in the DPRK as depicted in the book. Remarkably, however, despite the brutality and tension inherent in the subject matter, the story was neither disheartening nor hopeless.

Only time will tell, of course, but I think this is a work of dystopian fiction that compares favorably to classics such as Orwell’s 1984 or Huxley’s Brave New World.