KING RAT by Clayell, James


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Set in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Singapore in 1945, King Rat is concerned with the varying responses of different types of men when their survival and their very humanity are at stake. Most of the prisoners in Changi are English and Australian who have lost their war in the Far East but there in also a small group of Americans who can provide, within the novel, a democratic counterpoint to the pro of the other officers and enlisted men. Chief among the characters is Corporal King, a brash American, who is hated, feared and granted a grudging respect by the prisoners and guards alike. King is essentially an entrepreneur and his various black market projects in the camp keep him well-fed and clothed while his comrades make do with perpetual short rations. Then King discovers a friend in Peter Marlowe, a young Englishman who can never make up his mind about his benefactor. Is King a villain does he represent some kind of Darwinian triumph over impossible odds? Marlowe can never and lives in a state of moral vacuum throughout the relationship. But the King gets his eventual comeuppance when the camp is liberated and his privileged position is destroyed. All of this might have been as satisfactory as but the characters lack the depth to elicit sufficient interest in their very real dilemma. The however affords a new look.

Publisher: Little, Brown