SHOGUN

by James Clavell


The term “epic” is often overused, but this 1975 novel by James Clavell sets the standard for the term, and perhaps even exceeds it. At well over a thousand pages, the book certainly qualifies by length, but it is the sheer sweep of the story that makes this novel the true masterwork that it is.

The book takes place in the late sixteenth century when the Dutch ship, Erasmus, runs aground on the shore of feudal Japan. The crew, commanded by an Englishman, Pilot-Major John Blackthorn, is decimated and dying of starvation and disease. They are taken ashore in the land of the gods and the clash of cultures begins.

I’m grateful that this is a recommendation and not a review, because this novel is so sweeping in its scope, so immense in its ambition, so compelling in its plots, and so captivating in its characters, that I would have to stop and read it yet again, for it is nearly too good. The reader becomes so involved in the place and the time, and so in tune with Toranaga-sama, Mariko-san, Blackthorn, and the other people that populate this work as to nearly become lost inside the story. This book happens to whoever turns the pages. Its vista is immense, and it is nearly impossible for the reader to stay at a safe distance.

SHOGUN has sold over fifteen million copies, was made into a nine-hour television mini-series, and has absolutely set the standard for a work of this type. It is a dangerous book for it can capture, control, and consume the reader. Jump in and let it happen.

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