Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The 47th Samurai -- Stephen Hunter

Another tale in the continuing saga of Earl and Bob Lee Swagger, two guys who've spilled as more blood and performed more heroics than just about any father and son in thriller literature. Both appear in this story, Earl in flashback and Bob Lee in the present.

The story begins on Iwo Jima in WWII when Earl takes out a machine gun bunker and takes the sword of a Japanese officer. Earl later wins the Medal of Honor for his heroics, and 50 years later the son of the officer shows up in Idaho and asks Bob Lee for the sword. Bob Lee doesn't have it, but he says he'll see if he can track it down. He does, and he returns it to Japan. The man to whom he gives it is immediately murdered, along with most of his family. Ah, those stupid bad guys. They shouldn't mess with Bob Lee Swagger, who decides it's payback time.

Bob Lee watches every Samurai movie ever made, returns to Japan, and learns Japanese sword fighting in one week. He takes his final test against a 10-year-old girl, whom he barely manages to defeat. After that, he's ready. He proceeds to wipe out legions of other swordsman.

The story is loosely related to the famous tale of the 47 ronin, and the sword that Bob Lee has returned to Japan is a very important historical sword from that tale. In fact, if you're paying attention, you can learn a lot about Japanese swords from this story. Hunter must have done a ton of research, and it's all here.

There's as much blood spilled in this book as there was in Kill Bill (both parts together). Lots of sword fights. Lots of Bob Lee's code (he and Spenser would get along fine, but Bob Lee doesn't need Hawk). If you like this kind of thing, this is the kind of thing you'll like.


Gerard Saylor said...

This one was panned by all the gun-nut fan's of Hunter. Not enough shooting and the idea of Swagger learning enough sword fighting from movies and a week of training stretched credulity.

But, Hunter's action scenes were well done like usual. The sword information was also interesting. Hunter's foreword said how he got sick of Hollywood movies and starting watching old Japanese movies. I think he loved the samurai movies so much he wanted to write a novel on the same lines.

Unknown said...

Well, he came close.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read this one yet, it came out right around the time my ex and I were separating and reading it just got lost in the shuffle.

Now with school I'll have to jam it into the schedule somewhere-I'm a bigger fan of the Bob Lee books than the Earl books.

Gerard Saylor said...

There is a new Bob Lee book out now. "Bob Lee goes NASCAR."