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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but the sequel doesn't surpass the original
Gai-jin is set after Clavell's "Tai-pan". The heir to the Noble House trading company, established in Tai-pan, travels to Japan to expand the fortunes of his great company. However, the new heir is not a strong as the great Dirk Struan and the rivals of the Noble House conspire to destroy it. All this treachery is set against a backdrop of terrorism and diplomatic...
Published on April 9, 2001 by SH in Tampa

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105 of 115 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Clavell was the best dest Gai-Jin
First and foremost James Clavell was one of the most talented writers ever. Especially if you like fiction about Asia. Not only did he tell great stories but his books were filled with so much good history and culture about places like China and Japan. Though I was never a fan of "King Rat" books like Shogun, Tai-Pan, and Noble House were some of the best I...
Published on January 24, 2004 by Crossfit Len


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105 of 115 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Clavell was the best dest Gai-Jin, January 24, 2004
This review is from: Gai-Jin (Mass Market Paperback)
First and foremost James Clavell was one of the most talented writers ever. Especially if you like fiction about Asia. Not only did he tell great stories but his books were filled with so much good history and culture about places like China and Japan. Though I was never a fan of "King Rat" books like Shogun, Tai-Pan, and Noble House were some of the best I ever read. They were books you never wanted to end.
Gai-Jin starts off that way as well. The first 400 or 500 pages of Gai-Jin are classic Clavell. Combining many of the stories and characters from Shogun, Tai Pan, and Noble House. The books first 500 pages are terrific. Clavell using some familiar faces from his other books sets the stage for the Meiji Restoration in Japan.
The book in typical Clavell fashion talks about the history of Japan after the arrival of Commodore Perry in 1853 as well as of China while it was divided up into spheres of influence.
Gai-Jin is so good at setting the stage for Meiji with its characters discussing Japan's options of either learning for the Gai-Jin or attempting a futile resistance and facing humilation like China suffered under the Opium Wars.
Unfortunately Clavell died shortly after finishing this book. And unfortunately the affects of his illness affect the second half of the book. The book just loses focus 1/2 way through. My gut feeling is that Clavell's illness just caught up to him. Because the book just goes downhill and nowhere which is not typical of Clavell.
Clavell will never be replaced. Other fictional books about Asia do not even compare. Cloud of Sparrows, The Laura Joh Rowland Books, are ok but not in Clavell's league. The first half of Gai-Jin reminds us how good he was. Unfortunately, he will never be replaced.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but the sequel doesn't surpass the original, April 9, 2001
This review is from: Gai-Jin (Mass Market Paperback)
Gai-jin is set after Clavell's "Tai-pan". The heir to the Noble House trading company, established in Tai-pan, travels to Japan to expand the fortunes of his great company. However, the new heir is not a strong as the great Dirk Struan and the rivals of the Noble House conspire to destroy it. All this treachery is set against a backdrop of terrorism and diplomatic intrigue as the warlords of Japan conspire to take advantage of the presences of the "gai jin".
This book has the murders, battles, rapes, natural disasters and convoluted politics that are the hallmarks of Clavell's writing. However, just like the Noble House heir, the book starts off wounded and never really recovers. Unlike many of Clavell's other books, there is no strong lead character to really carry the story, and as a result, it does not move as smoothly or as interesting as his previous books, Shogun and Tai-pan.
Unfortunately James Clavell has set the bar a little too high with his previous novels and this one isn't quite as good. Still, if you are a fan, it is worth reading. If you have never read a Clavell novel, pick up one of the others first and you will appreciate his writing more.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and addictive, but unsatisfying in the end., December 8, 2003
This review is from: Gai-Jin (Mass Market Paperback)
Just finished this book yesterday.I was positively hooked on it once I opened it. A friend recommended this one to me since I'm a big admirer of Japanese culture. This book has so many complicated stories going on it can be rough to keep up with them all at once, especially when they all weave together, but you still care for each of the characters. The story allows you to see all sides of every conflict, there is no black or white, it's all grey. You root for almost every character, even though they are all conflicting with each other. For example, the Shogunate rule the country with military might while the revolutionary shishi samurai, driven to poverty by the shogunate's excesses, are organising a coup to restore power to the emperor. The man passed over as shogun, Lord Yoshi, is strong and admirable and beset by enemies on all sides; a target of shishi assassinations and power grabs from within his own shogunate. Meanwhile, he must deal with the gai-jin (foreigners) who have been allowed to settle in Yokohama and are hated by shishi and shogunate alike. But the British navy threatens to crush Yedo (Tokyo) and take Japan by force if not allowed to conduct their trade. As the Japanese have no guns or cannons, they must comply...for now. Hiraga (who uses several names over the course of the book to hide his identity) is a shishi who wishes to exterminate all gai-jin and the shogunate as well. Sounds like an evil character, but you come to understand his point of view and even root for the guy as he crawls through the snakes' nest that is the politics of 19th century Japan. Like I said, a lot of grey area, when the shishi attempt to assassinate Yoshi you don't know who to root for. That kind of stuff makes this book so engaging. The Gai-jin themselves are the focal point of much of the book with Dirk Struan's son, Malcolm, falling in love with a beautiful frenchwoman against his mother's wishes and that conflict threatens to dominate the entire book. Dozens of characters and sub-plots to keep track of, I couldn't wait to see how this all ended. Sadly, the result is not pretty. A truly shocking event happens which throws a wrench into the last part of the book and taints the rest of the story with melancholy as the brilliant political machinations, schemes, and conflicts that made the book so exciting in the first place practically vanish unfulfilled as the aftermath of the tragedy takes over. Worst ending ever. Or should I say worst lack of an ending ever? The epilogue is pointless and solves nothing. So much is unnecessarily built up at the end and then just left there to drive you insane long after the pages have ended. Well there it is; read it and love it, but just don't expect anything to be resolved. Just be happy that life goes on for these characters, even if you don't get to read about it.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars NO comparison To Shogun!!!, January 25, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Gai-Jin (Mass Market Paperback)
I am a 16 year old Japanese student and I, like a few other readers, before reading this book, thought Clavell was amazing. NOw I think he is semi-amazing. I read Shogun, and I was completely drowned in the book, I lived it as well as the characters' lives. HOwever, I think Gai-Jin took all the wonderful aspects of Shogun to the extreme.
Clavell still takes the reader right into the story, and, as always, thrills us with his understanding of the Japanese way, but he goes a bit too far... I find there is way too much sex and lust... all surrounding the character of Angelique Richaud. I don't understand why he chose to put her in the novel as such a big part of it.. I agree she is a vital part, but I don't understand why every time Clavell would write anything about the gai-jin that he would have to include something about either Andre fantasizng about raping her, or someone else checking her out.
Other than that, the book was amazing.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gai-Jin simply has a different flavor than Tai-Pan/Shogun., August 29, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Gai-Jin (Mass Market Paperback)
Living in the shadow of Tai-Pan's Dirk Struan or Shogun's Lord Toranaga, the characters in Gai-Jin are far less heroic than in the previous novels, which makes it a different read than perhaps what's expected. Clavell fans may be disappointed that the Europeans in the book lack Dirk's epic qualities, but the character's limitations and weaknesses add to the interest as they try to get through situations that the legendary Struan may have wrapped up with little difficulty. Similarly, the centuries between Shogun and Gai-Jin have seen Toranaga's supreme feudal state slide into a corrupt bureaucracy, and the proliferation of firearms have made the samurai class much less invincible to the West. Where Shogun's Englishman Anjin-san was educated in the "superior" ways of Japan's strength and culture, Gai-Jin's Japanese characters have to face the culture-shock of the barbarian's "superior" technology and firepower. All in all, Gai-Jin is not Shogun 2, nor is it Tai-Pan rehashed. They've already been done. It is simply a less epic novel that has more flawed characters in the volatile situation of an industrialized West meeting the ancient East.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Gai-jin - An unworthy end to a great career., September 10, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Gai-Jin (Mass Market Paperback)
I was captivated by Shogun, and it sparked what has come to be a life-long fascination and study of Japan. As I learned, I recognized that Clavell's characterization of Japanese culture and this particular period in Japanese history was not entirely accurate. But he was telling a story for Western audiences, and it was an historical novel, not a history. Had he not taken artistic license, perhaps I would not have been so entranced.

The opening of Japan is one of the country's most fascinating periods, when centuries of tradition were turned topsy-turvy and the way of life was wrenched into the Modern Age almost overnight. I eagerly awaited Gai-Jin and Clavell's interpretation.

Perhaps he was old and forgetful, perhaps he was too sick, or maybe he was so important a writer that no one dared tell him, "Jim, you need to do more research before you publish this -- your Japanese characters are using Chinese(? - anyway, not Japanese) words, and phonemes that aren't even in the Japanese language. You've given men's names to women, and bonze (Buddhist priest) names to young men who haven't retired to the priesthood, and your leading Japanese character only has half a name." (Yoshi is a sometimes a modern nickname, but for a "full" given name like Yoshinobu, Yoshitada or Yoshi-e. No samurai or noble would have ever used a half-name in a formal introduction.) As I read further, I found that the mistakes weren't just in the details, but even in the fundamental characterizations of the factions and forces that were struggling within Japan about what to do with the foreigners on their shores.

Historical fiction has constraints that other forms of fiction do not, and writers who choose the genre have a responsibility to their readers to provide a well-researched framework in which to cast their story. To the best of my knowledge, Clavell did this in the other books of his Asian saga, but when it came to Gai-Jin, he apparently couldn't be bothered. I felt cheated, and did something I have never done before: halfway through, I threw the hardcover book in the garbage.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A defense of Mr. Clavell, August 23, 1998
This review is from: Gai-Jin (Mass Market Paperback)
Well, i have heard many a scathing remark about Gai-jin. I have read the book and think it deserves to defended. The book is definitely not the sequel to Shogun, but does act as a nice epilogue to the book Taipan (perhaps my favorite of Clavell's books). There are many subtlties to the book, such as the shishi and Yoshi and the Toranagas, and I have heard criticism as the historical innaccuracy behind all this. Clearly, Mr. Clavell did not intend to use the real names or else anyone whose read japanese history would already know the end. Yoshi is clearly not a real name for such a nobleman, but if he were named Yoshinobu, its obvious who he is and what happens to him. This can also be said of Shogun. The toranagas are obviously the Tokugawa family in real life and so on. But anyhow, others criticize the book is too long and could be written half as long. This is true, but Shogun and Noble House were equally. Besides, a book is never fun when its over in 300 pages or less (believe me I know all about it). Is the book racist? I doubt it. It probably wasn't researched as well as it could have been, but then again, since none of use have been there, we don't know if the Japanese really did say "eeeee" and "so sorry" all the time, though the modern day phrases "eee", or yes, and "anou", or excuse me, are probalby what he was trying to use. As for the Chinese, I found them most fascinating. I don't know my Cantonese, or my Hong Kong culture, but I think that Clavell had a great interest in their culture, rather than disdain, otherwise Taipan probalby would not have even been written. So I doubt Mr. Clavell is a asian-hating racist.
Most importantly though, remember that he was very sick, and had already written a number of fantastic novels already. I think this was a nice "last novel" and considering the shape he was in, as good a novel as anyone could write.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Above average, but hardly exceptional, May 29, 2001
By 
R. Smith (Los Angeles, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Gai-Jin (Mass Market Paperback)
While I enjoyed Gai-Jin, I was also somewhat disappointed. While it didn't have the atrocious endings of Clavell's earlier efforts (Shogun, Noble House) and indeed has a giant surprise 75% into the story, there was absolutely nothing exceptional about it. I was never on the edge of my seat like I was in Shogun (bad ending, notwithstanding) or especially in Tai-Pan. Having read all of Clavell's novels--excepting Whirlwind--I have a pretty good idea of his strengths and weaknesses. So unless you're a diehard fan of his, skip this novel and read King Rat or Tai-Pan instead, then go to Shogun and Noble House, and if you're still up to it, read Gai-Jin.
(One major source of my disappointment is with the story's two Western protagonists: Malcolm and Angelique. They were, for most of the story, such empty-headed idiots, concerned more with soirees and dances. I was a lot more intrigued by Hiraga and Yoshi and the machinations of Japanese characters, and it's a same that Clavell didn't give them equal time with the English characters. Instead, 75% of the novel is spent with the antics of the idiots, and 25% with the truly fascinating characters! At least in Tai-Pan and Shogun and Noble House, whatever their flaws as novels, they had incredible protagonists.)
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good story, but not up to previous works, March 15, 1998
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This review is from: Gai-Jin (Mass Market Paperback)
Before this book was, I wanted nothing more than another Clavell novel. King Rat was probably the moodiest book I have ever read (Very well done movie adaptation, too), Tai Pan the most exciting and both Shogun and Noble House the grandest. Gai Jin, like his previous efforts, had a wonderfully complex plot, with many interesting characters and scenes of extreme violence.
The book also gave a good view of 19th century Japan, but made many errors. While I can't remember the particular details (I read it four years ago), I do remember many errors in Japanese naming, wording (I speak Japanese and have read 19th century literature), and political events. I can forgive a lot for a good story, and this qualifies, but being from Clavell, I expected perfection.
That he was old and sick when he wrote the book does make me thankful that at least I got one more Clavell novel to enjoy. It is still better than the Asian Historical Fiction of most other authors (and there are so few).
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too Many Typos, November 18, 2010
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I am a fan of James Clavell. I enjoyed the story as I have enjoyed all of his other books. Gai-Jin is the first of his books I have read on my Kindle. I could not believe how many serious typographical errors were in the e-book. Most could be figured out by context, but some were so bad the intended word was completely lost. One was nothing but numbers. It was apparent a non-English speaking person transcribed the book into electronic format. This book makes me apprehensive about buying future e-books if they are so poorly transcribed.Gai- Jin.
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Gai-Jin
Gai-Jin by James Clavell (Paperback - May 19, 2009)
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