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Mary Grey James, general manager, Parnassus Books: The Orphan Master's Son, by Adam Johnson (Random House, $26.00)

"The majesty of this impressive novel is undeniable and the talent of its author unmistakable. Set in the harsh, elusive setting of North Korea, Johnson has managed to create a personal story in a country known for its impersonal tyranny.

"Pak Jun Do (yes, the John Doe is intentional) is a full-blown character for whom the reader can cheer, all the while being horrified at what he is made to do. His upbringing in a work camp for orphans steels him for his life as a professional kidnapper and torturer; but his love for the beautiful actress Sun Moon enables him to commit the ultimate treason — betraying Kim Jong-Il.

"The author managed to spend time in North Korea, and his story rings with authenticity. The stunning writing, though, comes from the mind of one of our most impressive literary talents."

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