Webb - The Emperor's General

July 23, 2004

James Webb
The Emperor's General.
New York: Broadway Books, 1999.
ISBN 0767900766

Does this count as a read or as a did-not-read? I read the first half, skipped to the end and read the last 12 pages. I had the book for over two months, and if I had it for another month I still probably would not have gotten through the rest of it.

The good - Webb has developped a mature prose style that is both powerful and mauve (not quite purple). He has created an interesting character, both capable and flawed, in his narrator. The demon lover - both corrupting and empowering - is Douglas Macarthur, another interesting character. The story tells of our hero's cooption and corruption by Macarthur, the whole set against the beginning days of Macarthur's occupation of Japan.

The bad - I found myself deciding that I did not care about the characters enough to turn the pages. The introduction of the book told us the basic path of the tragedy, the love forsaken, the honorable man murdered, the enabler fleeing. The rest of the book explains how we got there. That structure has some advantages, your foreshadowing does not get much stronger. It also loses much of the suspense. Instead of asking "what will happen" I found myself asking "how will it happen." And, well, that by itself was not compelling enough to keep me turning pages.

Posted by Red Ted at July 23, 2004 10:59 AM | TrackBack
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