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Satori Hardcover – March 7, 2011

3.9 out of 5 stars 125 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nicholai Hel was already an accomplished assassin, a master of hoda korosu ("naked kill"), when introduced in Trevanian's 1979 Shibumi. Now Winslow (The Life and Death of Bobby Z.) dons Trevanian's mantle and cloaks Hel in a tangled series of adventures and misadventures in this exciting prequel. Hel's conditional ticket out of an American-run prison in 1951 Japan requires him to acquire a new face and identity and to carry out a probably suicidal mission to assassinate Soviet commissioner Yuri Voroshenin in China. In the guise of 26-year-old Michel Guibert, a French arms dealer, Hel enters a labyrinthine world of intrigue as various Chinese factions and foreign interests struggle for advantage. Winslow successfully fleshes out Hel's mixed heritage (aristocratic Russian mother, surrogate Japanese father and mentor), and eventually takes him to war-torn Vietnam, where Hel's expertise in applying Go strategy is as important to his survival as his physical skills. Winslow has crafted an impressive prelude to a highly esteemed classic thriller. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* In his 1979 international best-seller, Shibumi, acclaimed author Trevanian introduced readers to handsome mystic and ingenious assassin Nicholai Hel. In this compelling prequel, Winslow, whose popular novels include The Dawn Patrol (2008) and Savages (2010), details Hel’s life leading up to Trevanian’s opus. Satori opens in the fall of 1951, in the throes of the Korean War. Twenty-six-year-old Hel has spent the last three years in solitary confinement at the hands of the Americans. Now his captors are offering to release him—at a price. He must go to Beijing and kill the Soviet Union’s commissioner to China. Though Hel is blond with striking green eyes, his worldview is more Eastern than Western. (He was raised by an aristocratic Russian mother in Shanghai and later lived in Japan, where he studied the ancient and notoriously challenging board game, Go.) Hel is a master of hoda korosu, “the naked kill,” and blessed with an uncanny sense of proximity, which makes him hyperaware of potential danger. He’ll need every tool in his deadly dossier to earn freedom. Winslow renders breathless suspense and a cast of dark, devious characters from all corners of the globe. Recommend this one to fans of Baldacci and le Carré as well as, of course, Trevanian. --Allison Block

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (March 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446561924
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446561921
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #825,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
At one point in Satori, the word satori is defined as "to see things as they really are." It's easy to see the novel for what it really is: an old school thriller. It isn't sophisticated or terribly imaginative, but its throwback plot is fun. Satori begins in 1951 with the release of Nicholai Hel (the protagonist in Trevanian's Shibumi) from American custody in Japan. Hel is given a new face, a new identity, and an assignment: to assassinate Yuri Voroshenin, the Soviet commissioner to China. In preparation, Hel is coached in the accent of southern France by the lovely Solange. The first half of the novel follows Hel into China as he pursues his mission. The second half takes him through Southeast Asia and into Saigon where, dodging foreign and domestic killers, he becomes entangled with the mysterious Operation X. Along the way, Hel manages to take on the Russians, the Chinese, the French, the Viet Minh, the Mafia, a Vietnamese crime organization, the Vietnamese emperor, and an assassin known as the Cobra.

Although I liked Satori, several things troubled me about the novel. The characters are caricatures: Voroshenin and the head of the Chinese secret police are cartoonish sadists while Nicholai Hel is the most honorable assassin ever envisioned.
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Format: Hardcover
After reading several of the other reviews, I felt the need to add one of my own.

First, Satori is "based upon Shibumi". At no time does Winslow claim to be Travanian.

Shibumi was and is a book in it's own class. I read Shibumi in high school and it did have an effect on me and my outlook of the world.

Satori did not.

That is not to say that Satori is bad, for it is not. It is quite good. Just keep in mind that it is NOT Shibumi but is rather fan fiction of the highest order.

The novel starts out during the Korean conflict with Hel imprisoned by the Americans. The first few chapters serve both to layout the initial arc of the story as well as to (re)introduce Nicholai Hel to the world. It is done quite well.

As the story unfolds, Hel encounters the Americans as well as a French lady named Solange. Solange serves to introduce him to French culture as well as serving as a plot device to help explain some recurring Buddhist philosophy.

The novel then moves to China and from there the action really starts to heat up.

I'll include no spoilers, but just add that Satori is a fine read on it's own. It is also a fine tribute to Shibumi.

After reading Satori I have decided to investigate other books by Winslow.

All in all Satori is a very good book with a few "oopsies" such as mentioned by another reviewer where instant communication from Beijing to Washington was not possible in the field in 1952 but the communication is required for the plot and to further explain the relationship between several characters and as such is a forgivable faux pas.

Excellent book, read it but read Shibumi as well.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a rollicking good book, independent of Shibumi, one that you will hurry home to pick up, and finish quickly.

The other reviewers here have some valid points about the depth of the characters, dialogue, technology and other attention to detail around the period, which is the early 1950s post war Asia. These flaws are small and do not in any way detract from a really good spy story. The pace, the drama, the intrigue and the style of the dialog and humor will bring back pleasant memories for Trevanian fans.

It's not Trevanian nor was it intended to be, per the author. It was supposed to be a tribute, and it is a very competent one. I think a reader's enjoyment of this book will depend upon managing personal expectations, much like going to a local venue to see a cover band. Obviously you can't see the Doors or the Ramones or Sinatra or Elvis because they no longer exist. You can, however, see dedicated professionals perform their songs. When these covers are well done, in the same style and spirit as the original, it's a fun experience. That is what you'll find in Satori.

I sincerely hope that there are more Hel adventures to follow this one.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
the book, as well as the story does not do it for me.

Don Winslow is one hell of a writer, a phantastic story master. He does a magnificent effort trying to maintain the spirit of the thing ( and he even achieves it, that in itself being the sign of a superb craftsmanship in my opinion ), but he is not Trevanian, neither is Trevanian Don Winslow.

The result is that the book stays way beyond the expectations, be it of a Winslow book, be it of a Trevanian book.

English is not my first language, but I hope you get what I am trying to convey.

Read it, enjoy it BUT afterwards, FORGET it ( and that does not happen with any Winslow or Trevanian book ).
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