"Satori, A novel based on Trevanian's Shibumi" by Don Winslow; 978-0-446-56192-1; 512 pages; $25.99; Released March 7, 2011; Hardcover; Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group.
With current news focused on the tragedy in Japan, it's a bit ironic that the novel reviewed this week is about that part of the world. But's that's pretty much where the coincidences end. "Satori," by Don Winslow, starts in Tokyo in 1951 but is not about atomic energy or anything related to it.
"Satori" is considered a prequel, one that resurrects Nicholai Hel, a martial arts expert created by Trevanian in 1979 in "Shibumi." The original book sold 2.3 million copies and has been considered by many as one of the classic thrillers of the 20th century.
Trevanian is the pseudonym for Rodney Whitaker, who died in 2005. He may be better known to some for "The Eiger Sanction," his first novel.
Carrying the baton in the next leg of the career of Nicholai Hel, Don Winslow is no stranger to the literary scene, having written "The Power of the Dog," "The Life and Death of Bobby Z," and "Savages," to name a few.
Creation of a masterful character took some clever thought to what attributes he must possess and how to use them. Nicholai Hel is wrapped into a complete package that opened when he used his skills. He is a master of hoda korosu, or "naked kill," fluent in seven languages, and had honed extraordinary "proximity sense" - an extra-awareness of the presence of danger. He becomes the world's most fearsome assassin and the CIA recruits him. In exchange for the promise of money, freedom, and a neutral passport, he is to go to Beijing and kill the Soviet Union's Commissioner to China!
SATORI: A Japanese Buddhist term for individual enlightenment, or understanding. A flash of sudden awareness, or enlightenment.
The resilience of Hel is shown several times as the novel unfolds. He is attacked by assassins, shot by others and is forced to defend himself by killing several enemies at a time. He is 26 years old and has mastered his destiny in becoming a great spy. Winslow is able to intricately weave situations where the reader will be swept into the action and must move through the chapters in rapid succession so that the impact of what is happening is not diminished.
This book could become a classic spy novel in its own right without smudging the memory of Nicholai Hel's creator, Trevanian. Don Winslow should be proud of this accomplishment and write sequels to this prequel! "Satori" is highly recommended for mystery and spy fans as a must read in the 21st century!
Week of March 15
1. Sing You Home, by Jodi Picoult
2. The Wise Man's Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss
3. River Marked, by Patricia Briggs
4. Minding Frankie, by Maeve Binchy
5. Treachery in Death, by J.D. Robb
1. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand
2. Blood, Bones, and Butter, by Gabrielle Hamilton
3. Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Stories, by Peter Guber
4. Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff
5. A Simple Government: Twelve Things We Really Need from Washington (and a Trillion That We Don't!), Mike Huckabee
Clark Isaacs is an accomplished book critic who is published in local newspapers and national book review lists. He is a member of the faculty of Mohave Community College in Kingman. Visit Clark Isaacs at http://clarkisaacs.ning.com and tell him what you would like to have him write about.