Tuesday, December 27, 2016

King Rat

King Rat (Asian Saga, #4)King Rat by James Clavell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If I compare to Tai-pan and Shogun, this book, King Rat, would be my least favorite. There is a restrictive feeling about it since it is a World War II POW camp in Singapore: Changi. The first two books had an epic nature about them, one was control on Imperial Japan and the other was control of East Asia by means of trade by the English.


In a camp there is not much else but the prisoners going at each other. King Rat bears resemblance to Bridge Over the River Kwai only because it is also about a Japanese maintained POW camp. But in King Rat there is no bridge, no external concern of any kind.

I just find unbelievable is the culture of camp Changi. To control captured officers is understandable since they would be needed to control the rest of the captured soldiers. What I don’t get is the working economy in a POW camp with Japanese currency I assume for conquered countries running through its veins. The soldiers still depend on rations and supplies the Japanese give them but somehow there is money and trading. Do the Japanese maintain their camps this way?

The King is an American corporal who has somehow climbed above the hierarchy of this prison. King Rat is a statement as to the value of his status. He is to Peter Marlowe a Royal Air Force Lieutenant. They carried the story. Other characters are fellow prisoners from the camp from allied countries who fought in Singapore.

Unlike the previous two books in King Rat I felt less and less of the face of Asia. The Japanese, Koreans, and Malays were forgettable. Without the usual exchange between east and west I am feeling empty. I liked it when Clavell sets up conflicts between east and west it feels like I am weighing two types of ideas. What can I get from an American and British?

When the book ended there was a reveal that may indicate the story is about social status. The King talked a lot of business and money so I am not really sure. Such talks feels more fitting in city setting maybe corporate. Then there was no overt exchange of fire like in Shogun or a business rivalry in Tai-pan. It always felt like the prisoners were just trying to get by. Sure they don’t always agree with one another but nobody is shooting the other. They’re prisoners. What am I suppose to look for?

Then again King is a corporal; Marlowe a lieutenant; and camp law requires there is a separation between officers and lower rank. King acts more like the boss of the camp than the highest ranking officer and his position and status is worthless at wars end.

Maybe it is social status but what I am really sure maybe James Clavell wrote this story too subtle.


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