Summary: Almost as good as Shogun...
Comment: I was torn between four and five stars on this novel but finally settled on a full score because it managed to keep me completely riveted from beginning to end - its pace simply frantic! I have to disagree with some of the other comments which describe the story as "unfinished". When you spin a web as complex and intricate as the storyline in this book, spanning only a few months time and involving a staggering cast of characters, it's simply impossible from a social and human standpoint to completely close all loose ends. We're talking about clashes between multiple European countries, battling for the supremacy of Asian territories, various foreign trading companies clawing at eachother to gain ownership over Japanese precious raw ressources such as coal, personal conflicts and schemes which are vast in scope, all this mingled with the brutality and elegance of feudal Japan, torn between the Shogunate, the Emperor's court and various factions, all pulling in different directions. Not to mention, dozens of parallel plots, treachery, blackmailings, assassination attempts, deadly courtesans, spies and lust-fueled relationships, all intermingling in a cauldron of destruction. Does the author satisfactorily complete most action threads? - yes, definitely. Does he provide a solution to the political puzzle he portrayed? - no, simply because the timeline is too small and not everything was meant to be solved in such a short period.
In my opinion this book is almost as good as Shogun, perhaps the absence of a main hero with whom we can identify and cheer for, makes it a bit harder to win our sympathy, however Gai-Jin introduces more subplots and a larger array of colorful characters than Shogun does, whose inner motivations, personalities, strengths and weaknesses are perfectly portrayed, almost making us feel we grew up with them, leaving us wanting more, so much more.
I can say without any doubt, that Clavell is one of the best storytellers of the past century. Even while being seriously ill (this being his last book before dying), he still managed to captivate us with his wit, and his masterful command of the English language. Highly recommended read!
Summary: Left Hanging With Many Questions
Comment: I need more. What happened to Angelique and Gornt? How did Tess deal with the Gornt scheme? Quillan in Noble house is obviously a descendant of Gornt with the hate continuing - even though the Noble House was written first. There is a Marlowe in Noble house, a descendant of Capt Marlowe? Did Jamie marry that stupid Irish girl that followed him to Japan? And Hiraga, my favorite, what happened with him? Did he make it to England? All these carefully created characters and no ending for them? The book really had me involved but I was left looking for a sequel. Had it not been for the hanging, I would have given this a 4 star.
Summary: Classic Clavell, but.....
Comment: The theme of this book is classic Clavell - adventures in the early days of Asian and Western contact, with all the risk, bravado, danger, characters, politics, etc etc of the earlier "Asian Saga" books Shogun and Tai-Pan. (King Rat is also a part of that, but a shorter novel with a unique theme set in WW2).
Having read the book, its easy to see why Gai-Jin recieved reviews split down the middle - it is NOT the book Shogun and Tai-Pan are.
Part of it may be a more complicated (and less interesting) time period for the average adventure reader. Gai-Jin is complicated, with a lot of characters and themes from the outset vs the other two novels, and gets more so as the book progresses. The plot gets too convoluted for those that cannot read it in a reasonable time (meaning its hard to put down and pick back up over and over). Like the other two, it weakens in the second half only much more so...
I also noticed some modern phrases that creep into the spoken parts. I doubt they would have been used even in 1862. I have an uneasy feeling Clavell kept writing and writing beyond what this should have been, perhaps under pressure...or perhaps this was too much of a deliberate effort (marketing expectations) ???
I liked it OK, but it marked the end of my interest in this series.
Its not a "bad" book, but it was a let-down after Shogun and Tai-Pan.
Summary: Praise overall, but lacking in comparison
Comment: As many others have noted, while Gai Jin is the third book (chronologically) in Clavell's saga, it was his last published effort and some of this definitely works its way into the book. That's not to say that I didn't find the book very entertaining, because I did. But somehow I felt that Clavell wrote this book and tried to "force" another story into the interceding years between Tai Pan and the Noble House, where it truly was not needed, or just plain didn't fit.
Of course, the story starts out in Japan on the cusp of the Meiji Restoration and, as usual, Clavell's masterful grasp of "historical fiction" shines through. Obviously, the characters are not real, and the things that occurred are not a historical depiction, but, as with the other Clavell books, you get the sense of history....the glimpse into a culture on the verge of change.
The story is a continuation of Tai Pan and focuses on Malcolm Straun, Culum Straun's son, who oversees the Noble House's venture in Japan and is on the verge of becoming tai pan of the Noble Houlse when he meets and falls in love with Angelique; a frenchwoman who does not garner Mrs. Straun's approval. While there are the usual sub plots, this forms the basic story.
My criticism of this book, and maybe its a bit too picky, is that it fails to neatly fit in between Tai Pan and the Noble House as it should have. And while it does provide some background for Noble House, on many levels it just seems very disconnected. One example I have, and again, this may be me just being overly picky, is that no mention of Malcolm Straun is made in the Noble House, even when a history of the family line and the rise of the Noble House is recounted. Now, I guess it could be said that there may be reasons why this might have happened (ones that I'd rather not get into for fear of giving away the plot of Gai Jin), but this is the type of disconnect that bothered me.
That being the case, however, still does not detract from the fact that Gai Jin is a very well written, entertaining book. It is my least favorite in Clavell's asian saga, but still great nonetheless and I recommend it highly.
Summary: Really disappointing
Comment: I read Shogun before and it's binding is falling apart as it was an hand me down.
I really expected more...
I somewhat expected the characters to be engaging and somewhat
I was left unconvinced by his characterizations of British,
American and even Japanese.
I actually found the Japanese characters more believable than the
The novel is in my mind a failure and the history of the era seem also faulty in it's interpretation.
I think that even the names of the Japanese characters are totally false
in historical terms from what I can find in history books.