When I was a young college student, I knew a fellow whose company I enjoyed immensely, which belies the fact that I can’t remember his name. However, one of the discussions/arguments we enjoyed was about the value of accumulating books. Perhaps a victim of the the acquisitive impulse, I dreamed of building an extensive library, while my friend considered a book once consumed a having lost value as a possession. The only valid argument I could make to this was the fact that I have always enjoyed re-reading books.
I display the same behavior with movies. If it’s a well-made movie, or a well-written book, I come to a greater appreciation to the artistry of the works’ creators each time I experience the work again.
King Rat is much the simpler of the two novels, inspired by (but not based on) Clavell’s experience in the Changi Japanese prison camp during WWII. I’m always impressed by the ability of Clavell to keep the reader constantly aware of the ambiguity, and in some cases hypocrisy of the actions and attitudes of the characters in this book. Clavell is highly skilled at spinning a yarn, and at creating characters of some depth that makes the stories very engaging.
Tai-Pan (which sadly – in contrast to King Rat – was very poorly transferred to the film medium) is a much more complex novel, incorporating a broad sweep of British colonial history in Asia, and employs a much larger cast of colorful characters, and a wheels-within-wheels plot.
Since acquiring an e-reader a few years ago, I have started building an e-library of the books that I keep repeatedly returning to. In addition to the two Clavell novels mentioned above, the following are a few of the books that have withstood the test of time, and continue to impress each time I read them:
- All the King’s Men (Robert Penn Warren)
- The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (Robert A. Heinlein)
- A Canticle for Leibowitz (Arthur M. Miller)
- The Mote in God’s Eye (Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle)
- A Clear and Present Danger (Tom Clancy)
- The Stand (Restored edition – Stephen King)