Cover image for The orphan master's son : a novel
Title:
The orphan master's son : a novel
ISBN:
9780812982626
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Random House Trade Paperbacks, ©2012
Physical Description:
10 books in 1 cloth bag (456 pages ; 21 cm) ; 37 x 46 cm. + 1 reading group guide folder.
General Note:
Includes reading group guide.

A cloth bag containing ten copies of the title and a folder with miscellaneous notes, discussion questions, biographical information, and reading lists to assist book group discussion leaders.
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Summary:
The son of an influential father who runs an orphan work camp, Pak Jun Do rises to prominence using instinctive talents and eventually becomes a professional kidnapper and romantic rival to Kim Jong Il. The novel follows a young man's journey through the icy waters, dark tunnels, and eerie spy chambers of the world's most mysterious dictatorship, North Korea.
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Summary

Summary

The Pulitzer Prize-winning, New York Times bestselling novel of North Korea: an epic journey into the heart of the world's most mysterious dictatorship.

"Imagine Charles Dickens paying a visit to Pyongyang, and you see the canvas on which [Adam] Johnson is painting here." --The Washington Post

Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother--a singer "stolen" to Pyongyang--and an influential father who runs a work camp for orphans. Superiors in the North Korean state soon recognize the boy's loyalty and keen instincts. Considering himself "a humble citizen of the greatest nation in the world," Jun Do rises in the ranks. He becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the shifting rules, arbitrary violence, and baffling demands of his overlords in order to stay alive. Driven to the absolute limit of what any human being could endure, he boldly takes on the treacherous role of rival to Kim Jong Il in an attempt to save the woman he loves, Sun Moon, a legendary actress "so pure, she didn't know what starving people looked like."

Part breathless thriller, part story of innocence lost, part story of romantic love, The Orphan Master's Son is also a riveting portrait of a world heretofore hidden from view: a North Korea rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love.

FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD * WINNER OF THE DAYTON LITERARY PEACE PRIZE

Named ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR by more than a dozen publications, including The Washington Post * Entertainment Weekly * The Wall Street Journal * Los Angeles Times * San Francisco Chronicle

Praise for The Orphan Master ' s Son

"An exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart." --Pulitzer Prize citation

"Mr. Johnson has written a daring and remarkable novel, a novel that not only opens a frightening window on the mysterious kingdom of North Korea, but one that also excavates the very meaning of love and sacrifice." --Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"Rich with a sense of discovery . . . The Orphan Master's Son has an early lead on novel of [the year]." --The Daily Beast

"This is a novel worth getting excited about." -- The Washington Post

"[A] ripping piece of fiction that is also an astute commentary on the nature of freedom, sacrifice, and glory." -- Elle


Author Notes

Adam Johnson is currently a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University. He lives in San Francisco.

Adam Johnson was born on July 12, 1967 in South Dakota. He received a BA in journalism from Arizona State University in 1992, a MFA from the writing program at McNeese State University in 1996, and a PhD in English from Florida State University in 2000. He is a writer and associate professor in creative writing at Stanford University. He founded the Stanford Graphic Novel Project. He is the author of several books including Emporium and Parasites Like Us. He won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2013 for The Orphan Master's Son and National Book Award for Fiction in 2015 for Fortune Smiles: Stories.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

Johnson's novel accomplishes the seemingly impossible: an American writer has masterfully rendered the mysterious world of North Korea with the soul and savvy of a native, from its orphanages and its fishing boats to the kitchens of its high-ranking commanders. While oppressive propaganda echoes throughout, the tone never slides into caricature; if anything, the story unfolds with astounding empathy for those living in constant fear of imprisonment-or worse-but who manage to maintain their humanity against all odds. The book traces the journey of Jun Do, who for years lives according to the violent dictates of the state, as a tunnel expert who can fight in the dark, a kidnapper, radio operator, tenuous hero, and foreign dignitary before eventually taking his fate into his own hands. In one of the book's most poignant moments, a government interrogator, who tortures innocent citizens on a daily basis, remembers his own childhood and the way in which his father explained the inexplicable: "...we must act alone on the outside, while on the inside, we would be holding hands." In this moment and a thousand others like it, Johnson (Parasites Like Us) juxtaposes the vicious atrocities of the regime with the tenderness of beauty, love, and hope. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Pak Jun Do lives with his father at a North Korean work camp for orphans. In a nation in which every citizen serves the state, orphans routinely get the most dangerous jobs. So it is for Jun Do, who becomes a tunnel soldier, trained to fight in complete darkness in the tunnels beneath the DMZ. But he is reassigned as a kidnapper, snatching Japanese citizens with special skills, such as a particular opera singer or sushi chef. Failure as a kidnapper could lead directly to the prison mines. But in Johnson's fantastical, careening tale, Jun Do manages to impersonate Commander Ga, the country's greatest military hero, rival of Dear Leader Kim Jong Il and husband of Sun Moon, North Korea's only movie star. Informed by extensive research and travel to perhaps the most secretive nation on earth, Johnson has created a remarkable novel that encourages the willing suspension of disbelief. As Jun Do, speaking as Ga, puts it, people have been trained to accept any reality presented to them. Johnson winningly employs different voices, with the propagandizing national radio station serving as a mad Greek chorus. Descriptions of everyday privations and barbarities are matter of fact, and Jun Do's love for Sun Moon reads like a fairy tale. Part adventure, part coming-of-age tale, and part romance, The Orphan Master's Son is a triumph on every level.--Gaughan, Thomas Copyright 2010 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

north Korea may be the most secretive and totalitarian country in the world, as well as the wackiest. As a result, it inspires some of the best fiction and nonfiction, so the upside of the risk of nuclear war is an excuse to dip into literature that offers glimpses of this other world - and some insights into how to deal with it. Thousands of North Koreans have fled their homeland since the famine of the late 1990s, and many are writing memoirs recounting their daily lives and extraordinary escapes. A leading example is in order to live: a North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom (Penguin, paper, $17) by Yeonmi Park, with Maryanne Vollers. Park is a young woman whose father was a cigarette smuggler and black market trader. As a girl, she believed in the regime (as did her mother), for life was steeped in propaganda and anti-Americanism. Even in her math class, "a typical problem would go like this: 'If you kill one American bastard and your comrade kills two, how many dead American bastards do you have?' " What opened Park's eyes was in part a pirated copy of the film "Titanic." The government tries hard to ban any foreign television, internet or even music, and North Korean radios, which don't have dials, can receive only local stations. But the black market fills the gap, with handymen who will tweak your radio to get Chinese stations, and with illegal thumb drives full of South Korean soap operas. I'm among those who argue that we in the West should do more to support this kind of smuggling, because it's a way to sow dissatisfaction. Indeed, what moved Park was the love story in "Titanic": "I was amazed that Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet were willing to die for love, not just for the regime, as we were. The idea that people could choose their own destinies fascinated me. This pirated Hollywood movie gave me my first small taste of freedom." In the end, Park's father was arrested for smuggling, and the family's life collapsed. Park and her sister went hungry and had to drop out of school, and she survived eating insects and wild plants. So at age 13, Park and her mother crossed illegally into China - and immediately into the hands of human traffickers who were as scary as the North Korean secret police. They raped her mother and eventually Park as well, and both struggled in the netherworld in which North Koreans are stuck in China - because the Chinese authorities regularly detain them and send them home to face prison camp. Park and her mother were lucky, finally managing to sneak into Mongolia and then on to South Korea. Another powerful memoir is the girl with seven NAMES: A North Korean Defector's Story (William Collins, paper, $15.99) by Hyeonseo Lee, with David John. She is from Hyesan, the same town as Park. It's an area on the Chinese border where smuggling is rampant, where people know a bit about the outside world and where disaffection, consequently, is greater than average. Still, Lee's home, like every home, had portraits of the country's first two leaders, Kim Il-sung and his son, Kim Jong-il, on the wall. (The grandson now in power, Kim Jong-un, hasn't yet made his portrait ubiquitous.) Lee begins her story recounting how her father dashed into the family home as it was burning to rescue not family valuables but rather the portraits of the first leaders. There's an entire genre of heroic propaganda stories in North Korea of people risking their lives to save such portraits. Like other kids, Lee grew up in an environment of formal reverence for the Kim dynasty. At supper she would say a kind of grace - to "Respected Lather Leader Kim Il-sung" - before picking up her chopsticks. "Everything we learned about Americans was negative," she writes. "In cartoons, they were snarling jackals. In the propaganda posters they were as thin as sticks with hook noses and blond hair. We were told they smelled bad. They had turned South Korea into a 'hell on earth' and were maintaining a puppet government there. The teachers never missed an opportunity to remind us of their villainy. " 'If you meet a Yankee bastard on the street and he offers you candy, do not take it!' one teacher warned us, wagging a finger in the air. 'If you do, he'll claim North Korean children are beggars. Be on your guard if he asks you anything, even the most innocent questions.' " Hmm. No wonder my attempts at interviewing North Korean kids have never been very fruitful. Lee escaped to China at age 17 and started a new life in Shanghai but remained in touch with her family. One day her mom called from North Korea. "I've got a few kilos of ice," or crystal meth, she said, and she asked for Lee's help in selling it in China. "In her world, the law was upside down," Lee says, explaining how corruption and cynicism had shredded the social fabric of North Korea. "People had to break the law to live." It's fair to wonder how accurate these books are, for there's some incentive when selling a memoir to embellish adventures. I don't know, and in the case of "In Order to Live," skeptics have noted inconsistencies in the stories and raised legitimate questions. So how did North Korea come to be the most bizarre country in the world? Lor the history, one can't do better than Bradley K. Martin's magisterial under the loving CARE OF THE FATHERLY LEADER: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty (St. Martin's Griffin, paper, $29.99). Martin recounts how a minor anti-Japanese guerrilla leader named Kim Il-sung came to be installed by the Russians as leader of the half of the Korean peninsula they controlled after World War II. Martin discovers that Kim's father was a Christian and a church organist, and Kim himself attended church for a time. That didn't last, and Kim later banned pretty much all religion - though he became something of a god himself, quite a trick for an atheist. But do North Koreans really believe in this "religion"? Judging from defectors I've interviewed and much of the literature on North Korea, many do - especially older people, farmers and those farther from the North Korean border. That's partly a tribute to the country's shameless propaganda, which B.R. Myers explores in his interesting book, THE CLEANEST RACE: How North Koreans See Themselves - And Why It Matters (Melville House, paper, $16). He notes that North Korea produced a poster showing a Christian missionary murdering a Korean child and calling for "revenge against the Yankee vampires" - at the same time that the United States was the country's single largest donor of humanitarian aid. Myers argues that North Koreans have focused on what he calls "racebased paranoid nationalism," including bizarre ideas about how Koreans are "the cleanest race" - hence the title - bullied and persecuted by outsiders. For a more sympathetic view of North Korea's emergence, check out various books by Bruce Cumings, a University of Chicago historian, like KOREA'S PLACE IN THE SUN: A Modem History (W.W. Norton, paper, $19.95). Cumings argues that North Korea is to some degree a genuine expression of Korean nationalism. I think Cumings is nuts when he says, "it is Americans who bear the lion's share of the responsibility" for the division of the Korean peninsula. But his work is worth reading - unless you have high blood pressure, in which case consult a physician first. Whatever the uncertainties about the accuracy of recent North Korean memoirs, it's absolutely clear that some stories about North Korea are fabricated - because they're fiction. Today's political crisis with Pyongyang is a great excuse to read Adam Johnson's the orphan MASTER'S SON, Random House, paper, $17), which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2013. Johnson tells the story of a military man turned prisoner turned celebrity turned villain, dealing for a while with utterly confused American visitors - an account so implausible and bizarre that it's a perfect narrative for North Korea. The other fiction that I'd recommend is the Inspector ? series by James Church, the pseudonym of a wellrespected Western intelligence expert on North Korea. Inspector ? is a North Korean police officer who investigates murders, a bank robbery and various other offenses, periodically dealing with foreigners and turning down chances to defect. Inspector O is a complex, nuanced figure who understands that the regime he serves is corrupt, brutal and mendacious, but he remains loyal. That's because he is a deeply patriotic and nationalistic Korean, and he resents the patronizing scorn of bullying Westerners. I think many North Korean officials today are an echo of the conflicted nationalist Inspector O. Nicholas Kristóf is an Op-Ed columnist for The Times.


Guardian Review

The novel follows the misadventures of Jun Do, a North Korean everyman whose name is a homonym for John Doe. Raised in an orphanage, he has never been to a park, seen a movie or met his mother. Jun Do is sent to the military, first training in zero-light combat in the tunnels under the demilitarised zone, and then on an undercover mission to kidnap Japanese people off the beaches. Back on land, he is promoted to a more important assignment, accompanying an intelligence team to Texas. From this point on, the story gets weirder and weirder, and the second part of the book is a wild romp through Pyongyang, full of audacity, but more or less conforming to stereotypes about North Korea. Even so, The Orphan Master's Son deserves a place up there with dystopian classics such as Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World, but readers need to be reminded: it is a novel. The truth is that North Koreans who fall foul of the authorities die slow, prosaic deaths of starvation or diseases caused by malnutrition. - Barbara Demick The novel follows the misadventures of Jun Do, a North Korean everyman whose name is a homonym for John Doe. Raised in an orphanage, he has never been to a park, seen a movie or met his mother. - Barbara Demick.


Kirkus Review

Parasites Like Us, 2003, etc.) darkly satisfying if somewhat self-indulgent novel is Pak Jun Do, the conflicted son of a singer. He knows no more, for "That was all Jun Do's father, the Orphan Master, would say about her." The Orphan Master runs an orphanage, but David Copperfield this ain't: Jun Do may have been the only non-orphan in the place, but that doesn't keep his father, a man of influence, from mistreating him as merrily as if he weren't one of his own flesh and blood. For this is the land of Kim Jong Il, the unhappy Potemkin Village land of North Korea, where even Josef Stalin would have looked around and thought the whole business excessive. Johnson's tale hits the ground running, and fast: Jun Do is recruited into a unit that specializes in kidnapping Koreans, and even non-Koreans, living outside the magic kingdom: doctors, film directors, even the Dear Leader's personal sushi chef. "There was a Japanese man. He took his dog for a walk. And then he was nowhere. For the people who knew him, he'd forever be nowhere." So ponders Jun Do, who, specializing in crossing the waters to Japan, sneaking out of tunnels and otherwise working his ghostlike wonders, rises up quickly in the state apparatus, only to fall after a bungled diplomatic trip to the United States. Johnson sets off in the land of John le Carr, but by the time Jun Do lands in Texas we're in a Pynchonesque territory of impossibilities, and by the time he's in the pokey we're in a subplot worthy of Akutagawa. Suffice it to say that Jun Do switches identities, at which point thriller becomes picaresque satire and rifles through a few other genres, shifting narrators, losing and regaining focus and point of view. The reader will have to grant the author room to accommodate the show-offishness, which seems to say, with the rest of the book, that in a world run by a Munchkin overlord like Kim, nothing can be too surreal. Indeed, once Fearless Leader speaks, he's a model of weird clarity: "But let's speak of our shared status as nuclear nations another time. Now let's have some blues." Ambitious and very well written, despite the occasional overreach. When it's made into a film, bet that Kim Jong Il will want to score an early bootleg.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal Review

Johnson's North Korean tale is a mixture of adventure and romance, managing epic and intimate scales simultaneously. Pak Jun Do, a relative innocent, slowly rises from the work camp for orphans run by his father (he has to pose as an orphan) to soldier, kidnapper, sailor, spy, and more while falling in love with his country's most famous actress. Johnson depicts life in North Korea in vivid detail but presents his political thriller fancifully as well, invoking how Haruki Murakami or Gabriel Garcia Marquez might have treated this material. VERDICT Readers Josiah D. Lee, James Kyson Lee, and Tim Kang of television's The Mentalist keep the episodic narrative moving smoothly and energetically, providing a variety of voices for the characters from assorted backgrounds. This should appeal to fans of both thrillers and literary fiction. ["Readers who enjoy a fast-paced political thriller will welcome this wild ride through the amazingly conflicted world that exists within the heavily guarded confines of North Korea. Highly recommended," read the starred review of the New York Times best-selling Random hc, LJ 11/1/11.-Ed.]-Michael Adams, CUNY Graduate Ctr. Lib. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

The Orphan Master's Son By Adam Johnson Random House Publishing Group ISBN: 9780812982626 JUN DO'S mother was a singer. That was all Jun Do's father, the Orphan Master, would say about her. The Orphan Master kept a photograph of a woman in his small room at Long Tomorrows. She was quite lovely-eyes large and sideways looking, lips pursed with an unspoken word. Since beautiful women in the provinces get shipped to Pyongyang, that's certainly what had happened to his mother. The real proof of this was the Orphan Master himself. At night, he'd drink, and from the barracks, the orphans would hear him weeping and lamenting, striking half-heard bargains with the woman in the photograph. Only Jun Do was allowed to comfort him, to finally take the bottle from his hands. As the oldest boy at Long Tomorrows, Jun Do had responsibilities- portioning the food, assigning bunks, renaming the new boys from the list of the 114 Grand Martyrs of the Revolution. Even so, the Orphan Master was serious about showing no favoritism to his son, the only boy at Long Tomorrows who wasn't an orphan. When the rabbit warren was dirty, it was Jun Do who spent the night locked in it. When boys wet their bunks, it was Jun Do who chipped the frozen piss off the floor. Jun Do didn't brag to the other boys that he was the son of the Orphan Master, rather than some kid dropped off by parents on their way to a 9-27 camp. If someone wanted to figure it out, it was pretty obvious- Jun Do had been there before all of them, and the reason he'd never been adopted was because his father would never let someone take his only son. And it made sense that after his mother was stolen to Pyongyang, his father had applied for the one position that would allow him to both earn a living and watch over his son. The surest evidence that the woman in the photo was Jun Do's mother was the unrelenting way the Orphan Master singled him out for punishment. It could only mean that in Jun Do's face, the Orphan Master saw the woman in the picture, a daily reminder of the eternal hurt he felt from losing her. Only a father in that kind of pain could take a boy's shoes in winter. Only a true father, flesh and bone, could burn a son with the smoking end of a coal shovel. Occasionally, a factory would adopt a group of kids, and in the spring, men with Chinese accents would come to make their picks. Other than that, anyone who could feed the boys and provide a bottle for the Orphan Master could have them for the day. In summer they filled sandbags and in winter they used metal bars to break sheets of ice from the docks. On the machining floors, for bowls of cold chap chai, they would shovel the coils of oily metal that sprayed from the industrial lathes. The railyard fed them best, though, spicy yukejang. One time, shoveling out boxcars, they swept up a powder that looked like salt. It wasn't until they started sweating that they turned red, their hands and faces, their teeth. The train had been filled with chemicals for the paint factory. For weeks, they were red. And then in the year Juche 85, the floods came. Three weeks of rain, yet the loudspeakers said nothing of terraces collapsing, earth dams giving, villages cascading into one another. The Army was busy trying to save the Sungli 58 factory from the rising water, so the Long Tomorrows boys were given ropes and long-handled gaffs to try to snare people from the Chongjin River before they were washed into the harbor. The water was a roil of timber, petroleum tanks, and latrine barrels. A tractor tire turned in the water, a Soviet refrigerator. They heard the deep booms of boxcars tumbling along the river bottom. The canopy of a troop carrier spun past, a screaming family clinging to it. Then a young woman rose from the water, mouth wide but silent, and the orphan called Bo Song gaffed her arm-right away he was jerked into the current. Bo Song had come to the orphanage a frail boy, and when they discovered he had no hearing, Jun Do gave him the name Un Bo Song, after the 37th Martyr of the Revolution, who'd famously put mud in his ears so he couldn't hear the bullets as he charged the Japanese. Still, the boys shouted "Bo Song, Bo Song" as they ran the riverbanks, racing beside the patch of river where Bo Song should have been. They ran past the outfall pipes of the Unification Steelworks and along the muddy berms of the Ryongsong's leach ponds, but Bo Song was never seen again. The boys stopped at the harbor, its dark waters ropy with corpses, thousands of them in the throes of the waves, looking like curds of sticky millet that start to flop and toss when the pan heats. Though they didn't know it, this was the beginning of the famine-first went the power, then the train service. When the shock-work whistles stopped blowing, Jun Do knew it was bad. One day the fishing fleet went out and didn't come back. With winter came blackfinger and the old people went to sleep. These were just the first months, long before the bark-eaters. The loudspeakers called the famine an Arduous March, but that voice was piped in from Pyongyang. Jun Do had never heard anyone in Chongjin call it that. What was happening to them didn't need a name-it was everything, every fingernail you chewed and swallowed, every lift of an eyelid, every trip to the latrine where you tried to shit out wads of balled sawdust. When all hope was gone, the Orphan Master burned the bunks, the boys sleeping around a pot stove that glowed on their last night. In the morning, he flagged down a Soviet Tsir, the military truck they called "the crow" because of its black canvas canopy on the back. There were only a dozen boys left, a perfect fit in the back of the crow. All orphans are destined for the Army eventually. But this was how Jun Do, at fourteen, became a tunnel soldier, trained in the art of zero-light combat. And that's where Officer So found him, eight years later. The old man actually came underground to get a look at Jun Do, who'd spent an overnighter with his team inside a tunnel that went ten kilometers under the DMZ, almost to the suburbs of Seoul. When exiting a tunnel, they'd always walk out backward, to let their eyes adjust, and he almost ran into Officer So, whose shoulders and big rib cage spoke of a person who'd come of age in the good times, before the Chollima campaigns. "Are you Pak Jun Do?" he asked. When Jun Do turned, a circle of light glowed behind the man's close- cropped white hair. The skin on his face was darker than his scalp or jaw, making it look like the man had just shaved off a beard and thick, wild hair. "That's me," Jun Do said. "That's a Martyr's name," Officer So said. "Is this an orphan detail?" Jun Do nodded his head. "It is," he said. "But I'm not an orphan." Officer So's eyes fell upon the red taekwondo badge on Jun Do's chest. "Fair enough," Officer So said and tossed him a sack. In it were blue jeans, a yellow shirt with a polo pony, and shoes called Nikes that Jun Do recognized from long ago, when the orphanage was used to welcome ferry-loads of Koreans who had been lured back from Japan with promises of Party jobs and apartments in Pyongyang. The orphans would wave welcome banners and sing Party songs so that the Japanese Koreans would descend the gangway, despite the horrible state of Chongjin and the crows that were waiting to transport them all to kwan li so labor camps. It was like yesterday, watching those perfect boys with their new sneakers, finally coming home. Jun Do held up the yellow shirt. "What am I supposed to do with this?" he asked. "It's your new uniform," Officer So said. "You don't get seasick, do you?" * He didn't. They took a train to the eastern port of Cholhwang, where Officer So commandeered a fishing boat, the crew so frightened of their military guests that they wore their Kim Il Sung pins all the way across the sea to the coast of Japan. Upon the water, Jun Do saw small fish with wings and late morning fog so thick it took the words from your mouth. There were no loudspeakers blaring all day, and all the fishermen had portraits of their wives tattooed on their chests. The sea was spontaneous in a way he'd never seen before-it kept your body uncertain as to how you'd lean next, and yet you could become comfortable with that. The wind in the rigging seemed in communication with the waves shouldering the hull, and lying atop the wheelhouse under the stars at night, it seemed to Jun Do that this was a place a man could close his eyes and exhale. Officer So had also brought along a man named Gil as their translator. Gil read Japanese novels on the deck and listened to headphones attached to a small cassette player. Only once did Jun Do try to speak to Gil, approaching him to ask what he was listening to. But before Jun Do could open his mouth, Gil stopped the player and said the word "Opera." They were going to get someone-someone on a beach-and bring that someone home with them. That's all Officer So would say about their trip. On the second day, darkness falling, they could see the distant lights of a town, but the Captain would take the boat no closer. "This is Japan," he said. "I don't have charts for these waters." "I'll tell you how close we get," Officer So said to the Captain, and with a fisherman sounding for the bottom, they made for the shore. Jun Do got dressed, cinching the belt to keep the stiff jeans on. "Are these the clothes of the last guy you kidnapped?" Jun Do asked. Officer So said, "I haven't kidnapped anyone in years." Jun Do felt his face muscles tighten, a sense of dread running through him. "Relax," Officer So said. "I've done this a hundred times." "Seriously?" "Well, twenty-seven times." Officer So had brought a little skiff along, and when they were close to the shore, he directed the fishermen to lower it. To the west, the sun was setting over North Korea, and it was cooling now, the wind shifting directions. The skiff was tiny, Jun Do thought, barely big enough for one person, let alone three and a struggling kidnap victim. With a pair of binoculars and a thermos, Officer So climbed down into the skiff. Gil followed. When Jun Do took his place next to Gil, black water lapped over the sides, and right away his shoes soaked through. He debated revealing that he couldn't swim. Gil kept trying to get Jun Do to repeat phrases in Japanese. Good evening-Konban wa. Excuse me, I am lost-Chotto sumimasen, michi ni mayoimashita. Can you help me find my cat?-Watashi no neko ga maigo ni narimashita? Officer So pointed their nose toward shore, the old man pushing the outboard motor, a tired Soviet Vpresna, way too hard. Turning north and running with the coast, the boat would lean shoreward as a swell lifted, then rock back toward open water as the wave set it down again. Gil took the binoculars, but instead of training them on the beach, he studied the tall buildings, the way the downtown neon came to life. "I tell you," Gil said. "There was no Arduous March in this place." Jun Do and Officer So exchanged a look. Officer So said to Gil, "Tell him what 'how are you' was again." "Ogenki desu ka," Gil said. "Ogenki desu ka," Jun Do repeated. "Ogenki desu ka." "Say it like 'How are you, my fellow citizen?' Ogenki desu ka," Officer So said. "Not like how are you, I'm about to pluck you off this fucking beach." Jun Do asked, "Is that what you call it, plucking?" "A long time ago, that's what we called it." He put on a fake smile. "Just say it nice." Jun Do said, "Why not send Gil? He's the one who speaks Japanese." Officer So returned his eyes to the water. "You know why you're here." Gil asked, "Why's he here?" Officer So said, "Because he fights in the dark." Gil turned to Jun Do. "You mean that's what you do, that's your career?" he asked. "I lead an incursion team," Jun Do said. "Mostly we run in the dark, but yeah, there's fighting, too." Gil said, "I thought my job was fucked up." "What was your job?" Jun Do asked. "Before I went to language school?" Gil asked. "Land mines." "What, like defusing them?" "I wish," Gil said. They closed within a couple hundred meters of shore, then trolled along the beaches of Kagoshima Prefecture. The more the light faded, the more intricately Jun Do could see it reflected in the architecture of each wave that rolled them. Gil lifted his hand. "There," he said. "There's somebody on the beach. A woman." Officer So backed off the throttle and took the field glasses. He held them steady and fine-tuned them, his bushy white eyebrows lifting and falling as he focused. "No," he said, handing the binoculars back to Gil. "Look closer, it's two women. They're walking together." Jun Do said, "I thought you were looking for a guy?" "It doesn't matter," the old man said. "As long as the person's alone." "What, we're supposed to grab just anybody?" Officer So didn't answer. For a while, there was nothing but the sound of the Vpresna. Then Officer So said, "In my time, we had a whole division, a budget. I'm talking about a speedboat, a tranquilizing gun. We'd surveil, infiltrate, cherry-pick. We didn't pluck family types, and we never took children. I retired with a perfect record. Now look at me. I must be the only one left. I'll bet I'm the only one they could find who remembers this business." Gil fixed on something on the beach. He wiped the lenses of the binoculars, but really it was too dark to see anything. He handed them to Jun Do. "What do you make out?" he asked. When Jun Do lifted the binoculars, he could barely discern a male figure moving along the beach, near the water-he was just a lighter blur against a darker blur, really. Then some motion caught Jun Do's eye. An animal was racing down the beach toward the man-a dog it must've been, but it was big, the size of a wolf. The man did something and the dog ran away. Jun Do turned to Officer So. "There's a man. He's got a dog with him." Officer So sat up and put a hand on the outboard engine. "Is he alone?" Jun Do nodded. "Is the dog an akita?" Jun Do didn't know his breeds. Once a week, the orphans had cleaned out a local dog farm. Dogs were filthy animals that would lunge for you at any opportunity-you could see where they'd attacked the posts of their pens, chewing through the wood with their fangs. That's all Jun Do needed to know about dogs. Officer So said, "As long as the thing wags its tail. That's all you got to worry about." Gil said, "The Japanese train their dogs to do little tricks. Say to the dog, Nice doggie, sit. Yoshi Yoshi. Osuwari Kawaii desu ne." Jun Do said, "Will you shut up with the Japanese?" From the Hardcover edition. Excerpted from The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher. Excerpted from The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.