May 11 2007

Shogun

Category: BooksChrisM @ 1:27 am

Shogun – James Clavell

OK, first things first, this is most definitely NOT an ‘airport’ book. You’ll need to sit down somewhere without distractions, and be able to actually pay attention to the book. This is a LONG book, some 1000+ pages in the edition I read. There are quite a few ‘main’ characters, although we mostly follow Blackthorne’s passage. He is a pilot (in the nautical sense of the term) who ends up in Japan, set in the 1600s I think?
Anyway, at the beginning, Blackthorne is pretty much like the rest of the crew on his ship – ‘proper’ men, stereotypical sailors, who work hard in a dangerous environment, and as soon as they set foot on land, blow a lot of money on alcohol and the company of woman with dubious moral values. However, he is soon held prisoner, and has to fight for his life many times. Although obviously resenting his captors, he soon finds himself questioning some of his core beliefs, and actually starts to learn the customs in this strange land, to the point of trying to learn their language, and understand their society’s values. Towards the beginning, he witnesses a low-caste persons beheading by a Samurai, and is incensed at the lack of justice. However, there is little taste for revolt by other villagers, and he begins to learn just how much life is different in this country.
His motives for adaptation are not wholly alturistic however, as his thirst for survival outweighs his feelings of discomfort and disgust; if he is to avoid summary execution for the smallest of misdemeanours, and maybe even make it home one day, he must learn quickly.
Blackthorne eventually makes his skills obviously valuable to the local lord of this area, and the story begins it’s real twists and turns from this point on…
If anyone wants more details, I’m happy to oblige, but I am loathe to describe much further into this story, as I don’t want to ruin some of the surprises in store for anyone…

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