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The Time Is World War II The Place Is A Brutal Prison Camp Deep In Japanese Occupied Territory Here, Within The Seething Mass Of Humanity, One Man, An American Corporal, Seeks Dominance Over Both Captives And Captors Alike His Weapons Are Human Courage, Unblinking Understanding Of Human Weaknesses, And Total Willingness To Exploit Every Opportunity To Enlarge His Power And Corrupt Or Destroy Anyone Who Stands In His Path


10 thoughts on “King Rat

  1. says:

    Changi was set like a pearl on the eastern tip of Singapore Island, iridescent under the bowl of tropical skies It stood on a slight rise and around it was a belt of green, and farther off the green gave way to the blue green seas and the seas to infinity of horizon This beautiful opening line is like a promise of fantastic adventure, exotic trip, it evokes some delightful place, a mystery island you always dreamt about but it is anything but it Changi was the inhuman Japanese camp for the war prisoners, for people whom the only sin was that they lost their war and didn t die I had read some camp stories already but mostly European, and though my knowledge of the war on the Pacific is only basic this one felt very reliable to me Not only because it is based on facts from Clavell s life who himself was a prisoner of Changi camp in Singapore and thanks to it the whole story, being still the work of fiction, gained air of realism and credibility not only because it is a gripping, well paced reading, also because it reads as an excellent study of characters and morality in extreme situations And is pretty damn well written.The two main characters of the novel are the men representing totally different approach to life pragmatic and smart, self made American named the King and Peter Marlowe, somewhat uptight English guy, well educated and brought up in the family with military traditions Both in readers and other prisoners the King arouses mixed feelings Disgust, sympathy, antipathy, open hostility and then again admiration For his cleverness, business sense and good fortune he s the object of jealousy and hatred but the King is not a thief He just has a flair for organizing his life easier and seize any opportunity to gain some money and money will give him the rest The food, medicaments, cigarettes and something less tangible sense of power Though set in particular time and place it s a fictional account but I think Clavell did fine work here not only showing animosities between ordinary soldiers and officers, confrontation between the King and other prisoners, especially rivetingly is shown conflict with provost marshall Grey, but also indicating different attitudes and class differences of three main national groups of prisoners British, Australians and Americans King Rat is a clash of personalities, a display of cynicism, lack of scruples and ability to adjust to any situation in the camp But also an extraordinary courage, solidarity and commitment It s about a price you are willing to pay to survive and principles you could sacrifice to make it There is no easy explicitness here, no distinct line between that what you can accept and not feel irretrievably corrupted It teaches you that to outlast the camp, like on the outside in fact, you need to be a part at least a small group, that the camp is not a place for a lone wolf But it s also about a fear what life would be alike after Changi since no one escaped the camp unchanged, that place made them, then reshaped and destroyed, and how one can forget about atrocities prisoners were subjected to King Rat has a whole bunch finely drawn figures but it s the King and Marlowe that have our interest I liked the dynamics between them, the way their relationship developed, what they went through and lessons they learnt from themselves And though I d like to see them leaving Changi and arm in arm going towards setting sun I somewhat felt the ending, sad as it was, to be true.And if someone prefers concise review, please, here it is Of rats and men.


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  3. says:

    The beginning of Clavell s truly epic series of culture clash novels is a curiously autobiographical book King Rat takes us to Changi, a Japanese prison camp during World War 2, where British and American soldiers are held in dire conditions We watch as people cling to honor, duty and any semblance of structure for their own mental health and survival Every observation about humanity in these conditions is interesting because Clavell himself was held in a Japanese prison camp during the war He controls his memories admirably in the novel, to create a very moving, but never selfishly irrational narrative His control creates a story that is never too hopeless to lose its deeper meaning, and that embraces its characters as real people, rather than tools for social messages Readers may be surprised by how entertaining such a dark story can be authors don t usually go the route Clavell travels King Rat has the least culture clash of Clavell s series, as most of the interactions are between the Westerners themselves and the major emotional crux is the captivity For new readers, do not be daunted by the series the books are tenuously related and can be read in almost any order you like As this book is the shortest and deals with the most characters of our own cultures, it may be the easiest introduction to James Clavell, though some readers may prefer to jump right into the deeper culture clash of Shogun or Noble House Regardless, please read at least one James Clavell book in your lifetime There is no one in historical fiction or literary fiction quite like him.


  4. says:

    It s not cool to praise James Clavell and indeed, Shogun is extremely silly I recall a couple of Japanese people cringing when I once was foolish enough to mention it I believe they showed the series on Japanese TV But this book, which is based on Clavell s own experiences as a World War II prisoner of war, is pretty damn good There s something universal about his description of camp life He doesn t try and draw any moral, and there are no obvious symbolic associations, but at the end I found myself wondering what it was that I wasn t thinking about because I was so desperate to get enough food to stay alive Or how someone who hadn t been subjected to those pressures would view me It s worth reading


  5. says:

    I read this once decades ago, but Mom I were talking about it one morning When she got her hair cut later that day, she found a copy in their free book rack loved it My library has it in an audio edition, so I listened to it It s a great fictionalized account of American, British, Australians in Changi, a Japanese POW camp during WWII.This audio edition has extra material from the original manuscript that s never been published before including an introduction written by Clavell s son Clavell was a prisoner in the Changi POW camp that this book centers around He wrote this during a screenwriter s strike in 1962, a fictionalized account of his own incarceration there While he inspired the Phillip Marlowe character Who also shows up in Noble House there really was a character who inspired The King I m not sure how much is fact or fiction, but think there s enough fact to put it on my sort of nonfiction shelf.The extra material are chapters covering the story of some of the women whose men are in the prison camp They re a great addition His mother had written to him weekly On his release he received the letters During his incarceration, he neither sent nor received any His mother wrote all those letters not knowing if he was alive or not Uncertainty is hell the Japanese, although they signed the Geneva Convention, never ratified it nor did they follow it.The Princeton Bio for James Clavell James Clavellhttp en.wikipedia.org wiki James_ClIIRC, when I first read this decades ago, 98% of the American s in the Japanese POW camps died Those are no longer the figures I m seeing when I google this now the Princeton Bio says only 1% of the prisoners at Changi died while Clavell says 90% Overall, 1 4 1 3 of the prisoners died according to most sources By all accounts, most deaths were due to disease starvation exacerbated by extremely crowded conditions Clavell does a superb job describing everything, although it s awful Clavell, a 6 tall man, weighed 98 lbs when released from Changi, likely a bit than half what he should have weighed He writes that death was a mercy to some many lost their health completely, going blind, losing all their teeth, among other horrors The end was the most interesting The entire book is based on how horrible the camp is, yet what happens when the war ends You need to read it to find out Wow Wikipedia Changi Prisonhttp en.wikipedia.org wiki Changi_PThe original prison was built to hold 600 prisoners, but the Japanese used it to hold 3000 civilians during WWII This sort of overcrowding was apparently typical.This was read by Dave Case He had a lot to live up to since 3 others in this series were read by John Lee who absolutely wowed me He did a good job.Wikipedia King Rat novel King Rat film 1965 doesn t follow the book precisely, but was still a great movie.This isn t quite the correct edition The ISBN doesn t match the language is English, but the narrator is Dave Case the publisher is Books On Tape, so close enough.I highly recommend reading this book ONCE in any format I can t recommend a reread That would be masochistic unless you let at least a couple of decades pass It s not pleasant, but really good.


  6. says:

    This is the first volume in Clavell s Asian Saga, and was written about the Japanese prison camp of Changi located in Singapore, where the author himself was held as a POW during the late stages of World War II The King is a successful wheeling and dealing American Using capitalistic initiative, he concocts many money making schemes, the most shocking of which, involves breeding rats to sell as rabbit meat He generates feelings of hatred or envy in others, but everyone wants to be close to him in order to experience the material rewards that he provides He befriends an honorable British officer, Peter Marlowe, who acts as his interpreter and learns that many ethical dilemmas may be relative One of the most fascinating aspects occurs after the end of the war, when many of the POWs are fearful to return to normal life There are moments of excitement and drama, but mostly it is a testament to the strength and adaptability of the human spirit The story will be most interesting to those who enjoy military, historical, and cultural topics.


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  8. says:

    This was Clavell s first novel, and it shows a little bit A step or two below Shogun and Taipan , but that s an awfully high bar to set Loosely based off of Clavell s personal experiences in Changi POW camp during WWII, King Rat is slower paced than you might expect Nevertheless, it is entertaining with solid character development The conclusion is a bit muted and surprisingly introspective, but I think Clavell was looking for an accurate depiction of his experiences in Changi, rather than a crowd pleasing prison break Overall, a good book Especially considering he wrote it in 9 weeks.


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  10. says:

    a real good story teller not easy to be a master.