Monday, 2 June 2014

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

Citizens, gather 'round your loudspeakers, for we bring important updates!

This is an unidentified prologue. From the structure and tone of this sentence, it's easy to assume that there is more than meets the eye in this opening line. This is confirmed a couple sentences later with the first sentence of paragraph 2:

In local news, our Dear Leader Kim Jong Il was seen offering on-the-spot guidance to the engineers deepening the Taedong River.

Setting is established right away with mention of the Dear Leader. What follows on page 1 are more unusual announcements to North Koreans: News of doves flocking to the Dear Leader as he lectured to provide shade for him, winners of a  cooking contest, American aggressors, and cruelty to sharks. It's the North Korean version of news that blares through loudspeakers and it feels more argumentative than merely informative.

Anyone interested in this fringe mentality, will be fascinated by reading on and might even get a glimpse of what it would be like to be brought up on a steady diet of outlandish propaganda. The Russians are in a similar position now, getting all kinds of bizarre news about Ukraine and the rest of the world from the Russian government who are making efforts to soften people's minds into accepting all kinds of absurdities. It's brazen and arrogant in that there isn't even much effort made to make the lies feel real or palatable.

Part 1:

Jun Do's mother was a singer.

This line does not offer much. A character and a tidbit of back story. No conflict yet, or anything even mildly unusual. But perhaps that's not necessary, as the prologue in this case, has done a good job at hooking. However, the first paragraph and the rest of the page flow nicely as back story reveals sadness and conflict.

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.

First thing said:

"Are you Pak Jun Do?"

Opening dialogue is of the incidental chit-chatty variety. Nothing meaningful, like moving a plot forward or revealing character.

Nevertheless, I'm giving this a high rating for the prologue and its realistic, toned-down show of North Korean propaganda, revealing how subtly detrimental it is.

Verdict: Cool

Theodore Moracht

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