You know, there’s a really superficial reason why I’ve chosen this book to review this week. What’s the reason? Well, remember my outfit post? It turns out that the cover art for Shogun (and indeed that of the Japanese flag) is the same color scheme as my outfit.
I know, I know.
But on the bright side, I get to share with you the first book of one of my all-time favorite book series, The Asian Saga. Because I, for one, have been hooked on all things Japan since I set eyes upon the very first episode of Sailor Moon. No, not the remake.
The novel is actually set in the 1600s and focuses on an Englishman named John Blackthorne, the most British name in existence, who arrives on the shores of Japan after his ship, Erasmus (fellow European students should take a moment here and chuckle at the name’s current usage as a program helping young people learn new languages and interact with other nationalities), gets caught in a storm. He and his crew get arrested but good ol’ John is released when the local warlord, Toranaga, realizes his potential. What follows is a very interesting insight into Japanese history, politics and customs. And yes, for those of you who do not get hyper-excited by the educational possibilities of any form of entertainment, there is a forbidden love story. Happy now?
Great, moving on.
I will warn you that this is a MASSIVE book. Which, coincidentally, is just how I like my books. I love feeling like I’m getting a bargain, no matter the purchase, and I also, generally, prefer to have something to immerse myself in for a substantial amount of the time. Which, considering I read very quickly, is a difficult task.
I also love documentaries on any topic (poor MTM can definitely vouch for the hours upon hours I have subjected him to them) so if I can learn something new in the process, then I am in.
Shogun, published in 1975, is basically an encyclopedia of all things Japan and I think might be what got a lot of Westerners interested in the far-away Land of the Rising Sun. The book is well written and so are the characters but I find nothing too exciting to report on that front. The main power of the book, and what sets it apart, is in the ability to completely immerse you into that world, without devolving into racism.
There’s plenty of betrayal, backstabbing, lust and ambition too, lest you think this was too much like a primary school approved reading list.
I really want to go into my usual snarkiness but I just can’t about this one. It’s a solid book. I LOVED it. So, you know, just read it and let me know what you think! It’s such a shame that it isn’t really very popular anymore – it should be.
5 out of 5 katanas.