The Orphan Master’s Son is a major book; a major read. It is epic; almost an oratorio, notes of which float over incredible deprivation, struggle, and an exceedingly oppressive society. . I could not put it down. Someone once asked, “Why do you read such books as this? My answer for that day as “If we believe mankind is one, i.e., we are one people, one planet, and we know of peoples’ horrendous suffering,” then we cannot be silent. I must speak about it even if only in a book review.
This novel pulls from the reader gasps of horror, Adam Johnson’s novel relentlessly pursues a systolic drive to the center of the North Korean world whose outer shell is constructed of a rigid totalitarianism, and whose inner core reveals an absolute and moribund corruption. Its core is rotten. Yet, slivers of nobility, slivers of courage from different individuals emerge.
One critic said, “This is not the real North Korea.” Perhaps not. However, books are appearing on the landscape, one of which is the Aquariums of Pyongyang verify an appalling state of society, and a nightmarish existence in North Korea’s prison camps, and also in the general society. We live on a planet where forces of light and darkness lick each others shadows. If we cannot speak for the silent ones, what can we do?
I feel an awe regarding Adam Johnson’s novel . I believe this novel goes far beyond Pulitzer awards. It is through fiction such as this that truth shines.
Adam Johnson teaches creative writing at Stanford University. His fiction has appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, Harper’s, Tin House, Granta, and Playboy, as well as The Best american Short Stories. His other works include Emporium, a short story collection, and the novel Parasites Like Us.