Not to give a lesson on propaganda, North Korean, or totalitarian regimes, I will start The Orphans Master’s Son review like this…
“Dear American citizens, it is the interest of your glorious Nation, the sweet bosom boasting Femme Fatale that she is, to go out to your local bookstore and pick up The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson.
Not doing so will only condemn the free world literary movement that this great country has bestowed and vigorously protected for its flowering citizens and further catalyze the condemnation of any new ploy toward reason -to drop that goddamn regurgitated vampire or dirty desperate housewife sex novel, that I shall declare from this point forward, fascist fiction, and ingest the words of the honorary Adam Johnson.
Anyone not adhering to this decree by the United Femme Fatale will be labeled a trader and branded as such. God bless us and ‘only us’ and keep us safe from literary tyranny.”
Adam Johnson, already known to have a winner here, being the best book of 2012, strikes a chord on numerous levels of human morality. The main protagonist Jun Do, I believe pronounced ‘John Doe’ for an extra satirical kick to the nuts, is a loyalist slave who sheds light on the effects of propaganda, servitude, and autocracy in the form of despotism.
Raised as the living scar and daily reminder of the Orphan Master’s kidnapped wife, Jun Do is child reared among the other orphans in the worst conditions imaginable. Jun Do’s mother, who was kidnapped by the Superiors in the North, is transplanted to the city of Pyongyang for her beautiful opera voice. High-ranking officials should have their own opera singer, right?
His father, lost in sorrow, refuses to acknowledge Jun Do as his son leaving him nameless, until Jun Do names himself after one of the 114 martyrs of the revolution; Pak Jun Do, the martyr named after hanging himself to prove his ultimate loyalty. Which Jun Do finds applicable to his situation among the orphans.
When famine strikes the area, Jun Do is tossed into the North Korean military where he works as a tunnel fighter, professional kidnapper of Japanese citizens, then radio signaler aboard a fishing vessel where he spends his enjoyment time listening to the transmissions of two naked women as they row a boat around the world together.
When rival to Kim Jong-il, Commander Ga, is captured; Jun Do assumes his spot… and as history tells us… one poor brave bastard will always yearn to be free. Usually after he falls in love with a beautiful heroine or is it falls in love with heroin?
Regardless, Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son draws a clear picture of humans shackled by a dictator while his razor tongue is used to plunge propaganda through the ear and deep into his citizen’s psyche. People are not human beings, but things. A common theme we find throughout history wherever the enslavement over human spirit wars.
Like an explanation I perplexingly gathered from Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, “To view anything as only an inanimate thing, not only allows you to do whatever you want to that thing, but forces the object of your doing to implore explanation and eventually ‘and in the best case’ find themselves as nothing more than a thing in which things are to be done.”
Johnson’s novel succeeds at doing this and gives readers inside access to a cloned environment that exists in our world today. But have no fear citizens of the United Femme Fatale, Johnson does it safely, fictitiously, and equips you with love story escape routes and valiant horse blinders for readers wanting to stay in their beautiful self-fulfilling American bubble. Remember, it is just a story, North Korea is sooooo much better. They have clowns handing out happy meals there too, or do they?
Well done Johnson, I shall burn my other books. God save the Femme Fatale.