Sunday, December 1, 2013

47 Ronin, by Joan D. Vinge. Dedication to Paul Walker. Book-to-Movie Now Available on Blu-ray and DVD!

47 Ronin, by Joan D. Vinge,
is a book scheduled to come to the big
screen on CHRISTMAS DAY, 2013.
This book cover image is the front of the
paperback book. The image is of actor,
Keanu Reeves, in the starring role as, Kai.
As the book cover indicates, the screen-
play is by Chris Morgan and Hossein
Amini, and Screen Story by Chris Morgan
and Walter Hamada; Novelization
by Joan D. Vinge.

DEDICATION: This blog post is dedicated to Paul Walker--see the full dedication, below.
Book Review by: Sharon Powers.

     The real-life story of the Forty-Seven Ronin took place in Japan in the early days of the Eighteenth Century. The legend of the 47 Ronin is a well-known story about the samurai and their code of honor, called bushidō. This story exalts the loyalty, sacrifice, honor and dogged persistence and patience of this famous group of men. 

     The Forty-Seven lost their "daimyo" (feudal lord), Asano Naganori, when the lord was compelled to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) for the offense of assaulting a court official (Kira Yoshinaka). Without a leader, the 47 became "Ronin" (wandering Samurai who have no daimyo/feudal lord). 

     In real life, the Ronin waited and planned their revenge for two years before the 47 were able to avenge their lord by killing the court official. In turn, the 47 were required to commit "seppuku." The graves of the 47 have been preserved with honor at Sengakuji Temple, Japan.

The grave site of the 47 Ronin, Sengakuji Temple, Japan.
     Since the time of 47 Ronin, various stories and fictionalized accounts have been told about leaderless men. The Japanese call these accounts Chūshingura; these accounts were made into innumerable plays (call- ed bunraku and kabuki). A festival to honor the 47 Ronin is held every year at Sengakuji Temple, in Japan, on December 14th.

     Numerous books have chronicled the story of the 47 Ronin. The book I review for you, today, is one of the newest, having been released on November 26, 2013. This particular version or story about the 47 Ronin is one which will come to theaters on Christmas Day, 2013.

Image of a Samurai warrior in full armor during battle.
      Kai, at the beginning of the book, is rescued by Lord Asano, and brought to live with him in his village. But Kai's past is mysterious and murky, and everyone doubts him and looks down on him as a mongrel and a half-breed. 

     In this fictionalized version of the story about the 47 Ronin, Kai's standing causes him to live as an outcast in society, as "half-breed," one that is suspected of being a demon. At one point, Kai is even disciplined as "...Lord Asano's disobedient freak of nature...." [Kindle location 2106, 30%] As Kai grows up in the village, he is befriended by Lady Mika (Asano) and falls in love with her. His love is one that is hopeless and his pining is futile since Kai really has no place in society, nothing to offer Mika, and no standing to be able to claim the woman of his dreams. 

Samurai Sword. The Samurai believe
their soul resides within the sword. In
the book, when their swords are taken
from the Samurai after surrendering,
they feel as if they have lost everything.
     In spite of all these limitations, Kai eventually joins the 47 warriors, led by Oishi, the leader of the men. The 47 want to seek revenge on the treacherous overlord who killed their beloved lord, Asano Naganori (fa-ther of the beautiful Lady Mika). The Overlord's murder of Lord Asano was an act that left the group of 47 warriors banished. The banished Ronin follow a series of trials and tribulations, seeking to overcome hardships and working to restore their honor.

The 47 Ronin signing their pact. The story is so popular that it has
appeared in comic book format. Another form in which the
famous story has appeared is the graphic novel.
     One of the most evocative parts of the book arises as Kai, in an attempt to save the honor of the Asano clan, conceals himself in the armour of Yasuno (who is knocked out and cannot do battle). His identity concealed, Kai enters the tournament arena to fight a "...giant in black armor..." whom he can see has demon eyes of "sulfer-yellow." After a long battle, Kai is defeated and his identity revealed when his helmet is knocked off his head--it is then that the Shogun orders Kai to be killed. In begging for the life of Kai, Lady Mika throws "...away her honor, disgracing her father's good name...." The Shogun commutes the sentence to a brutal beating.

One of the characters in Joan D. Vinge's book, 47 Ronin, is the man
with the tattoos on his body
. His tattoos made him look like a skeleton with
muscles, ligaments, etc. This man, a gaijin (an untrustworthy stranger), was
one of the men on the Dutch Island (traders). Oishi meets this man
when he goes to the island to rescue Kai from the Dutch traders.
     What follows the scenes of Kai's, Mika's, and Lord Asano's disgrace before the Shogun, is a wonderful interplay of family dynamics. Mika goes to her father and tries to apologize, he refuses and walks away from her pleading with him, calling out to him. He gives her his back in silence, lost in pain of his own. "...Lord Asano had been humbled in the dirt at the Shogun's feet, because..." of his daughter's public display. [Kindle Location 2064] The scene is heartrending.

     Also taking place after Kai's beating, is a sweet scene with Basho and Lady Miko. Later, after Kai had been taken to be treated, Basho went to find Lady Miko. Basho told her, " someone born with the sacred words of Buddha inscribed on her heart. Buddha once said, 'Radiate your loving-kindness to every living being without discrimination.' In the end the kindnesses we offer, and the kindnesses we take into our hearts, are all that remain with our souls...[Kai's life and yours] will be a better one, for having shared your kindness." [Kindle Location 2166] Basho is one of my favorite characters in the book--he was a monk and left that life to be Samurai. But it seems to me he still lives the life of a Bhuddist monk by the way he treats everyone.

A scene from the movie where Oishi (in the front) has surrendered
his sword to the Shogun. The other Samurai are following suit. Oishi
does this to prevent the other Samurai, the villagers, and Lady Miko
from being killed. This scene is just before they become Ronin.
     The story of the 47 Ronin, as stated above, is based on the "real life" account of the 47 Ronin. In this fictionalized version, it includes magical creatures and even demons. Joan D. Vinge seems to utilize these elements to show how the Japanese people of that era viewed demons, ghosts, and the outcast half-blooded people. It also seems to show the influences from all manner of legends, historical influences, and even the influences of social standing. Including these fantasy-like elements helps make the book better by placing the reader within the mindset of the people of the an odd way it makes it more convincing.

The Samurai and Bushido.

Bushido was a roadmap: something meant to show a man the way home, after he had been in the wilderness too long; to guide a warrior back to his humanity, to help him remember which things were really worth fighting for, and how to live in peace again. A map was a reminder that even a sheet of paper had two sides. Justice and valor, courage and compassion, courtesy respect, honesty, loyalty ... honor. Those described an enlightened being--or one who came close to enlightenment [Kindle Location 6854].
     My favorite quote from this book is about the attributes a Samurai strives to live every day. It was the code that the 47 Ronin held to in avenging their Lord's death. It was the code they lived, in holding on to each other, friendship, and the duty to make things right. I like this quote because it shows that the Ronin weren't just out for blood, for vengeance. They were living the code of Bushido and dedicated to make things right for their Lord, Lady Mika, the villagers, and even themselves. It is a beautiful description of their code.

     The movie of the 47 Ronin is scheduled for release on December 25, 2013. I will certainly be joining my family, and undoubtedly, many other people to see this exciting movie. I hope the movie is as good as the book, for I enjoyed it thoroughly!

Joan D. Vinge writes science fiction.
She has won the Hugo Award
for the novel, The Snow Queen., 
in 1981 (The Snow Queen was also
nominated for the prestigious
Nebula Award, in 1981). Joan D.
Vinge also wrote the novelization
of the movie, Cowboys & Aliens.
She received her B.A. in
Anthropology from San Diego State
University (1971) and has been
married twice. She lives in Wisconsin
and has taught at the Clarion
MY RATING FOR THIS BOOK: This book was a fun read and I have to say I very much enjoyed the book. Having read and enjoyed the book so much, I understand why they picked Joan D. Vinge's version of the 47 Ronin to make into a movie. I only hope the movie is as good as the book. It was an easy book to rate and it easily earned its four star rating.

4 Stars out of 5.

Pages: 446
ISBN: 0765369648
Publisher: Tor Books (November 26, 2013)
Sold by: Macmillan
Language: English

DEDICATION: Out of respect for Paul Walker and his wonderful work as an actor, I dedicate this post, today. Paul Walker died yesterday, Saturday, November 30, 2013, at about 3:30 p.m., in Valencia, California in a car crash. Paul Walker starred in numerous movies including the Fast and Furious, Eight Below, Pleasantville, Flags of Our Fathers, and Varsity Blues. He also appeared in numerous television productions among which are, Touched by an Angel, Highway to Heaven, Who's the Boss?, and Charles in Charge. My heartfelt condolences to family and friends of Paul Walker. You are all in my prayers.
     I thoroughly enjoyed being with you, today, in my blog post. I hope you have enjoyed reading about the 47 Ronin by Joan D. Vinge. Please join me next week for another book post.

Until next time...
White Rose.
...many happy pages of reading!


_____________________________________________________ - Dedication to Paul Walker; - Cover image of 47 Ronin; - 47 Ronin info. from Wikipedia; - Definition of "Ronin"; - Grave site of the 47 Ronin, Sengakuji Temple, Japan; - Image of Samurai Warrior (red); - Samurai Sword; - Scene from the comic book about the 47 Ronin; - Amazon: 47 Ronin graphic novel; - Man with skeleton tattoos; - Scene from the movie; - Bushido; - YouTube Video: Trailer of 47 Ronin; - Joan D. Vinge; - 4 Stars out of 5; - White Rose.