Stanford University creative-writing professor Adam Johnson invested seven years in research and writing - including visits to North Korea - for his novel "The Orphan Master's Son." It's set in the world's most secretive country - the Democratic People's Republic of Korea - and is one of Random House's most acclaimed titles of the year.
It's the Bee Book Club's choice for September.
Johnson will give a presentation and autograph books at 6 p.m. tonight at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, 828 I St., Sacramento. Barnes & Noble will be there to sell the trade paperback edition of "The Orphan Master's Son" for 30 percent off the retail price (Random House, $15, 480 pages).
The epic tale takes place in territory previously uncharted in the literary canon. Readers follow "average citizen" Pak Jun Do throughout his life, first as a boy in a work camp for orphans, then as a soldier patrolling the dark tunnels underneath the demilitarized zone, next as a crew member aboard a spy boat.
Later, Jun Do is briefly hailed a hero, then damned to a gulag as a threat to the state. Freed in a bizarre case of state-engineered "mistaken identity," Jun Do's arc intersects with North Korea's sociopathic "Dear Leader," Kim Jong Il, and that of iconic movie star Sun Moon.
Along the way, readers meet the country's propaganda-saturated citizenry, murderous secret police and paranoid party leaders. Despite the bleak vision, the story interweaves hope with humor, dignity with courage.
For information on the Bee Book Club: (916) 321-1128.
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