The Ninja by Eric Van Lustbader
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received a free copy of The Ninja by Eric Van Lustbader from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. This book was first published in 1980; Open Road Media is re-releasing some of the titles in the Nicholas Linnear series. The Ninja is the first book in the series. There are two more books available for the Kindle. Before I was completely finished with The Ninja, I purchased both those titles.
It took a little longer than usual for me to get into this book, but once I did, there was no stopping until I was finished. I know very little about Ninjas insofar as what it takes to train oneself to become what is essentially a killing machine. I'd never even watched a Bruce Lee movie all the way through because martial arts never interested me very much. The closest I ever came to understanding what it takes to control one's mind and body to this kind of discipline was from watching The Karate Kid. After that I knew the difference between a dojo and a sensei, and I got the concept behind "wax-on; wax-off". None of that helped me one bit in fully understanding what it is a Ninja does. I'm still no authority, but I have a much clearer picture not only of Martial Arts but also the Asian background experience with it.
When the book begins, Nicholas Linnear is about to quit his job and completely give up the life he had made for himself in this country. He's walking toward his office to give his boss the news that he's leaving just as a body is being pulled from the ocean. Because he doesn't believe the body has anything to do with him, Nick proceeds with his plans for the day and ignores all the attention the discovery of the "floater" is attracting. Later he finds out that the dead man was someone he knew because the man lived a few doors down from him on the beach. The story then shifts back and forth from Nick's childhood in Japan to the present time when the dead bodies begin to accumulate. While the current state of affairs with the murders is interesting and well written on its own, Nick's background is equally as fascinating as we learn more and more about the Eastern mindset as opposed the the Westernized version of life as Nick it lives now. He is aware of a continuing conflict inside himself in trying to combine two very different ways of not only living but also thinking.
Nick's father was instrumental in helping to rebuild Japan after World War II. Nick's mother was Japanese, and she saw the worst of the war when her husband was killed before her eyes. Nick grew up combining the best of both cultures in his home. It was only when he became a young man that he was drawn into the complexities of two very different cultures.
I am not a huge fan of gratuitous sex scenes in books or anywhere else for that matter. I usually end up trying to figure out if the couple groping and slobbering all over each other could really perform all those acrobatic moves in real life. Eric Van Lustbader indulges himself in some wordsmith creativity when it comes to bedrooms, living rooms, or wherever is handy to do some bodice ripping and sexual contortionist tricks. It added absolutely nothing to the story and was distracting. Once I got past all that though, the book improved enormously. Van Lustbader had a very involved plot that was full of historical detail as well as explaining what the art of Kenjutsu entails. Given that this book was first published in 1980, it is very much to the author's credit that the story held up with the passage of so much time. There really was life before cell phone texting and Twitter.
This was not a quick read. There is a lot of background content to cover in understanding how all the bodies do relate to one another. For me, the more I read, the more deeply involved I became with the characters. I look forward to following more of Nick's storyline with the other characters who survived this first book of the series. I'd recommend this book to people who enjoy reading about vastly different cultures along with interesting historical references to Japan's involvement in World War II.
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