Friday, October 29, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 79

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as fantasy author.

by James Clavell

ShogunI was first introduced to the story that is Shogun when I was 10 years old and watched the television mini series based upon the novel. Since then I've gone back and watched the show a couple of more times, and I hate to say it, but most of the acting sucked except for Toshiro Mifune as Lord Toranaga. But then, I've always had a soft spot for Mifune because of all the Kurosawa film he's starred in.

But the basic plot and background of the mini series was still pretty strong, and it got me to invest in a copy of the actual novel.

The story of Shogun begins with Englishman shipwrecked in Japan in the early 1600s, and goes on to become quite political when the Englishman joins in an alliance with a Japanese warlord. Battle ensues. As does a romance. The rest ... well, you'll have to read the novel. I don't like giving away too much information.

This novel is a great fish-out-of-water story, basically a story in which the protagonist is dropped into a totally unfamiliar situation and/or setting. Not only is the story good, but it's educational to general readers and to writers, especially fantasy writers because of the uniqueness of the novel's setting, 17th Century Japan.

If a fantasy writer can't learn from this novel, then they've got to be pretty dense. Turn Japan into a foreign fantasy nation with an unfamiliar culture, and you've got the basic plot for literally scores of fantasy novels already on book shelves. This novel can show how to work such a plot quite well, and shows how the protagonist can be integrated well into such a story.

And, besides all that, it's just a darn good book worth your time to read.

Up next: Gone With the Wind


David Barron said...

"Tai-Pan" by the same author will always be my favorite, but "Shogun" is great.

The focus on characters first, culture second (but still doing the research!) was a major influence on my writing, and, let's face it, my life.

Charles Gramlich said...

I liked this one a whole lot so I'm not sure why I haven't read more of Clavell's stuff. Maybe it was because Shogun was in fact very long.