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Satori Hardcover – March 7, 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 148 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Nicholai Hel watched the maple leaf drop from the branch, flutter in the slight breeze, then fall gently to the ground.
It was beautiful.
Savoring the first glimpse of nature that he’d had after three years of solitary confinement in an American prison cell, he breathed in the crisp autumn air, let it fill his lungs, and held it for a few moments before he exhaled.
Haverford mistook it for a sigh.
“Glad to be out?” the agent asked.
Nicholai didn’t respond. The American was as nothing to him, a mere merchant like the rest of his compatriots, peddling espionage instead of automobiles, shaving cream, or Coca-Cola. Nicholai had no intention of engaging in meaningless conversation, never mind allowing this functionary access to his personal thoughts.
Of course he was glad to be out, he thought as he looked back at the bleak gray walls of Sugamo Prison, but why did Westerners feel a need to voice the obvious, or attempt to give expression to the ineffable? It was the nature of a maple leaf to drop in the autumn. I killed General Kishikawa, as close to a father as I ever had, because it was my filial nature — and duty — to do so. The Americans imprisoned me for it because they could do nothing else, given their nature.
And now they offer me my “freedom” because they need me.
Nicholai resumed his walk along the pebbled path flanked by the maple trees. A bit surprised that he felt a twinge of anxiety at being outside the closed, small space of his cell, he fought off the wave of dizziness brought on by the open sky. This world was large and empty; he had no one left in it except himself. His own adequate company for three years, he was reentering a world that he no longer knew at the age of twenty-six.
Haverford had anticipated this, having consulted a psychologist on the issues that face prisoners going back into society. The classic Freudian, replete with the stereotypical Viennese accent, had advised Haverford that “the subject” would have become used to the limitations of his confinement and feel overwhelmed at first by the sheer space suddenly confronting him in the outside world. It would be prudent, the doctor warned, to transfer the man to a small, windowless room with voluntary access to a yard or garden so that he could gradually acclimate himself. Open spaces, or a crowded city with its bustling population and incessant noise, would be likely to upset the subject.
So Haverford had arranged for a small room in a quiet safe house in the Tokyo suburbs. But from what he could learn from what there was to be learned of Nicholai Hel, he couldn’t imagine the man being easily overwhelmed or upset. Hel displayed preternatural self-possession, a calm that was almost condescending, confidence that often crossed the line into arrogance. On the surface, Hel appeared to be a perfect blend of his aristocratic Russian mother and his samurai surrogate father, the war criminal Kishikawa, whom he had saved from the shame of a hangman’s noose with a single finger-thrust to the trachea.
Despite his blond hair and vibrant green eyes, Haverford thought, Hel is more Asian than Western. He even walks like an Asian — his arms crossed behind his back so as to take up as little space as possible and not cause inconvenience to anyone coming from the other direction, his tall, thin frame slightly stooped in modesty. European in appearance, Haverford decided, Asian in substance. Well, it made sense — he was raised by his émigré mother in Shanghai, and then mentored by Kishikawa when the Japs took the city. After the mother died, Kishikawa moved the boy to Japan to live with and study under a master of the impossibly complicated and nuanced board game Go, a sort of Jap chess, albeit a hundredfold more difficult.
Hel became a master in his own right.
So is it any wonder that Hel thinks like an Asian?
Nicholai sensed the man’s thoughts on him. The Americans are incredibly transparent, their thoughts as obvious as stones at the bottom of a clear, still pool. He didn’t care what Haverford thought of him — one doesn’t solicit the opinions of a grocery clerk — but it did annoy him. Shifting his attention to the sun on his face, he felt it warm his skin.
“What would you like?” Haverford asked.
“In the sense of what?”
Haverford chuckled. Most men emerging from long confinement wanted three things — a drink, a meal, and a woman, not necessarily in that order. But he was not going to indulge Hel’s arrogance, so he answered, in Japanese, “In the sense of what would you like?”
Mildly impressed that Haverford spoke Japanese, and interested that he refused to surrender such a small stone on the board, Nicholai responded, “I don’t suppose that you could organize an acceptable cup of tea.”

“In fact,” Haverford said, “I’ve arranged a modest cha-kai. I hope you find it acceptable.”
A formal tea ceremony, Nicholai thought.
How interesting.
  --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

DON WINSLOW was born in New York City but raised in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. His books include The Power of the Dog and The Life and Death of Bobby Z. In addition to his writing, Don has been an actor, director, movie theater manager, safari guide and private investigator. Don lives in the San Diego area with his wife, Jean, and son, Thomas. He invites you to visit him at his website www.donwinslow.com.

TREVANIAN's books have been translated into more than fourteen languages and have sold million of copies worldwide. In addition to Shibumi, Trevanian is the author of seven novels including The Eiger Sanction and The Loo Sanction.

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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: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #851,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By TChris TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 4, 2011
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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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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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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