Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Book Review: The 47th Samurai

Book Review: The 47th Samurai by Stephen Hunter

I borrowed this book from the library on a whim after seeing one of my clients reading it. It's a bit of departure for me - military fiction (although I used to be quite fond of Tom Clancy's older work like Hunt For Red October and Red Storm Rising). I was warned the book was ultra violent and so it was. It's billed as a "Bob Lee" story, and I found out that this is one in a series of books with the same character.

Bob Lee Swagger is a 60 year old retired marine master sniper and hero. He is sought out by Philip Yano, the son of the Japanese officer who commanded the bunker on Iwo Jima where Swagger's marine father won the Medal of Honor in 1945. Yano approaches Swagger about a missing sword wielded by his father. The sword turns out to be not just a family heirloom but a national treasure that evokes echoes from the most sacrosanct corners of Japanese history. Yano's eventually gets the sword but is then killed brutally by a mysterious group of Japanese Mafia. Lee goes to Japan and learns their ways so at to get the sword and find justice for Yano's killing.

The book has a lot of information about the samurai and samurai swords which I found to be the most interesting part of the book. Unfortunately most of the other elements of the book are simply difficult to keep believable. The plot is straightforward with a few good twists but unfortunately like many books in this genre, the characters aren't developed enough to make things believable. One almost gets the idea that the story was written in a hurry. Stephen Hunter is a pulitzer prize winning novelist so although the story doesn't flow all that great it is still entertaining, it's just not exceptional. Read it for the samurai trivia, not for it's literary value. Because it is so brutal and so crude I wouldn't read it again. To sum up, it's OK, it's just a little unbelieveable and much too crude. I give it 2.9 ninja stars out of 5.

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