SATORI by Don Winslow “A Novel Based on TREVANIAN’S SHIBUMI” is the full title. This is my commentary on-the-fly, as I read, since I don’t do in-depth, analytical, reviews per se.
I received an email from my local library that this book, my hold request, was now available for pickup. In the several months since I had placed the request I’d forgotten about it or even where I’d heard about the book. I think I had been browsing lists for best fiction or best science fiction and stumbled across it.
I haven’t read the cover leafs as I don’t like to be too well informed of a plot, but I did read, on the library website I believe, that this is a ‘prequel’ to the Shibumi series. I gather the original series is by someone named Trevanian, and his estate (I presume he is deceased) has authorized someone named Winslow to write Satori. I’ll attempt to verify all this when I finish the book. On that note, it’s difficult to discuss the book without revealing some of the plot. If you want to remain totally uninformed perhaps you shouldn’t read commentaries and reviews. Stop now.
The book starts in early 1950s (1951), post-WWII Japan and soon shifts to China. The story is of the spy/assassin genre. The CIA is involved and Langley is mentioned. (Did Langley exist then? This page at the CIA’s own site indicates Langley wasn’t considered as a site until 1953 and the HQ wasn’t built until the late ’50s. A lazy author’s faux pas perhaps?)
Main character back-stories are told, laying the foundation for who they are. There are numerous Japanese references to traditional gardens and tea services. There is a surprise attack by ninja types (Chinese as it turns out). They are quickly and effectively dispatched. The plot thickens. I’m less than 1/5th into this 500+ page novel. It’s time to read more.
By the way:
“Satori was the Zen Buddhist concept of a sudden awakening, a realization of life as it really is. It came not as a result of meditation or conscious thought, but could arrive in the wisp of a breeze, the crackle of a flame, the falling of a leaf.” (From Page 7 of the novel.)
(Brief intermission here. Reading… Reading…)
(24 hours later, real time not reading time, I’ve finished the novel.)
GOOD READ! Gripping. Action builds and builds to the very end. So much for on-the-fly analysis. I couldn’t put it down. A veritable tapestry of woven intrigue, sort of like the board game Go. Hmmmm.
I like it so much I’m picking up a copy of Trevanian’s SHIBUMI today. It’s supposed to be highly acclaimed. There are notes at the end of SATORI about Winslow getting permission to write this prequel to SHIBUMI, which was first published in 1979 under the pen name Trevanian by Rodney William Whitaker (1931-2005). Whitaker wrote The Eiger Sanction and other books. The plot gets even thicker. 🙂