The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson won a Pulitzer Prize in 2013 so I expected it to be at least great. I was not disappointed. My reason for reading it was selfish; it is preparation reading for a writer-reader conference in Bali during the last week of October 2016. I will attend at least one meeting with an author who writes about North Korea and I would like to be informed with enough background information to ask questions. This book, although a work of fiction, presents some mind-boggling truths about the Hermit Kingdom. There is a reader’s guide at the end of the book as well as an interview with the author. Johnson informs the reader about his sources of information and inspiration. That is a good thing because from the beginning of the book information the reader receives defies belief.

Some readers may be aware of countries that broadcast information loudly and frequently throughout the day by means of public loudspeakers. The truth as the government sees it is impossible to avoid, paying attention is demanded of the citizenry and critical analysis or questioning of facts presented is strongly discouraged and may be life threatening. A visitor from a Western nation after being exposed to this system would never criticize elevator music again. In this novel, we look at North Korea. I have seen the same system in China, Cambodia, and Vietnam. North Koreas efforts as presented in this book are unique in the extremes reached that defy belief.