1 title per month from Audible’s entire catalog of best sellers, and new releases.
Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Premium Plus plan is $14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $27.97

Buy for $27.97

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

The time is World War II. The place is a brutal prison camp deep in Japanese-occupied territory. Here, within the seething mass of humanity, one man, an American corporal, seeks dominance over both captives and captors alike. His weapons are human courage, unblinking understanding of human weaknesses, and total willingness to exploit every opportunity to enlarge his power and corrupt or destroy anyone who stands in his path.

This enthralling masterpiece about life as a prisoner of war will keep listeners spellbound from the first chapter to the last.

©2015 Blackstone Audio, Inc. (P)2015 Blackstone Audio

What listeners say about King Rat

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    768
  • 4 Stars
    209
  • 3 Stars
    55
  • 2 Stars
    8
  • 1 Stars
    4
Performance
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    768
  • 4 Stars
    124
  • 3 Stars
    28
  • 2 Stars
    4
  • 1 Stars
    2
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    694
  • 4 Stars
    167
  • 3 Stars
    48
  • 2 Stars
    11
  • 1 Stars
    1

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Lord of the Flies; Lord of the Rats. One Together

“King Rat: The Epic Novel of War and Survival,” by James Clavell. Narrated by Simon Vance. The Asian Saga, Book 4. Clavell is one of the more interesting and noteworthy novelists telling tales of Asian continent happenings. His descriptions are educational in that they often explain the oriental milieu and therein mindset. He is one of the best at creating characters one can associate with and find intriguing. He does not fail us in King Rat; it is a great read (or listen).

Audible calls his compilation of works the Asian Saga, although there is no single or universal saga in Clavell's works. They tell of no one heroic and detailed account of a single epoch. Nevertheless, with few exceptions this “Saga” is well worth the read; at least for King Rat, Nobel House and Shogun. They are outstanding works of literature– while the rest are merely good. I would suggest Audible’s Book numbering is way out of kilter. King Rat is his first novel and it should be read first (although its societal teachings discern the distinctions between the British, Australians and Americans rather than in his later books which can be classified as comparisons between western and oriental values).

King Rat is a marvelous read. The setting is a Japanese prison camp for captured World War II ally combatants. From its initial opening lines there is one happening after another in how the weak, the shrewd, the moralistic and the depraved interact under the control of the Japanese to create their own camp or sub societies and conduct commerce among themselves. Clavell manages to put tension and meaning into every sub story and they all culminate into a cliff hanger circumstance by the end of the book. Clavell is a philosopher and through his characters and their personalities he reveals philosophical truths about capitalism and personal honor. He gives the reader much to think about and his stories always leave you with long lingering feelings after the read.

In this work though he takes on much more than mere political concepts. I was surprised that at even this early date (1962) Clavell defends transvestites long before our western societies matured and learned to understand and accept the sexual drives of others. There is more here though; for example he is able to study the place of husbands and wives in enduring long and unknown separations. He does this by at various points in the story, when the story focuses on a particular imprisoned character he often will follow that chapter with a chapter on what did or very well might have happened to their lovers at home while they were in war detention. At the very end of the book we actually learn the truth about many of those sojourns into the lives of the separated spouses.

The main character is the “King,” an American imprisoned soldier modeled after an Ayn Rand entrepreneur type who sets us a moral but very capitalistic system of trade in the camp. The King then meets and takes up a friendship with Peter Marlowe, a British officer with some family ties to the upper middle class, and it the Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn friendship and adventures of the two that make this story great. Truly a fine and engrossing read.

That alone would give this book 5 stars but after the story ends, there is another small story that begins, when the camp is rescued by the allies when Japan surrenders. Remember Clavell, himself, was a prisoner of the war during WWII in a Japanese encampment. He gives us a stunning understanding of the mind of the liberating soldiers, their compassion and total misunderstanding of what three to five years in captivity means. Then Clavell shows us how the inmates react and most of all how the King becomes an ordinary man once the world is put back into its rightful place and we are left to consider who these men we came to know so well are and where they saved or further destroyed in being liberated? This book is very much in the character of a Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Excellent!

27 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Clavell is a Master

This is my second-favorite Cavell novel, behind Shogun. This story of WWII POWs in the Pacfic Theater both humanizes and brings to life the sub-human conditions that these heroes were foced to endure. Clavell himself had been a POW during this period, lending a personal level of authenticity and unique detail to the story. Highly recommended.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A clash of personalities inside a POW camp.

After finishing Clavell's Shogun earlier this month I immediately turned to Wikipedia to read more about the author. There I learned that he had been imprisoned by the Japanese during WW2, a POW in Changi Camp, and that he later wrote King Rat about a man he knew in that camp. I was fascinated by the idea of a semi-autobiographical story in this setting as I was convinced that the story would feel more authentic. And I was correct.

The story is incredible right from the beautiful first line:

Changi was set like a pearl on the eastern tip of Singapore Island, iridescent under the bowl of tropical skies. It stood on a slight rise and around it was a belt of green, and farther off the green gave way to the blue-green seas and the seas to infinity of horizon.

It feels as though the book will be a magical and lovely tribute of sorts to an equally magical and lovely place. I found the deep irony of that to be a fantastic way to introduce a novel of war.

Clavell's writing is very good. He takes you on a journey into the POW camp where you find yourself wasting away from lack of food, and willing to do almost anything to stay alive. The story is gripping and shocking. We find ourselves living among men living in the most extreme circumstances, and we see exactly how that can cause some people to act.

The two main characters of the novel are very different from one another and yet it is believable that they forge a friendship. The man called the King is a clever, smart, young American who takes advantage of everyone. He is not likable, and operates in such a way as to inspire both fear and revulsion but also some measure of admiration. The second man is a British officer named Peter Marlowe who has always thought that the upper classes of civilian and military societies were better people than the lower classes. When Marlowe comes into contact with King and finds himself needing King's skills his views begin to change. This is where the book sings, in my opinion.

The men are courageous, brave, and have the greatest survival instincts. But they also show a lack of scruples. They are flexible which allows them to adjust to one another. What can a person do to survive the worst? What will he have to change about himself? How will he adjust when the war ends? Will he take away anything positive from the experience? Will the people he love before remain in his heart and he in theirs? This book provokes thought about all of these things and now I wish I could find a biography of the author with more insight.

4.5 stars.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent!

I loved Shogun and Tai Pan. Personally I didn’t like Noble House.

This book is great. I was worried it would be a depressing slog through misery.

This Book is touching but not in a sentimental way. It’s also captivating and tense. Read it.

The author gave us so much great stuff. I’m grateful.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing Novel, Superb Performance!

I first read this book as a teenager (I'm now 56) and it is one of the most memorable of my life. I decided to listen to the audiobook recently and could not be more pleased. The story had as much emotional impact on my middle-aged mind as it did on my teen-aged one, and the reader, Simon Vance, is superb. If he is doing the different voices of the characters in the dialog, he is amazing. It sounds as though they are different people with different accents done perfectly! If they are different actors doing the various voices then, likewise, the production of this recording is extremely well done. Either way I absolutely loved it.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • OB
  • 04-05-20

Not shogun or Tai-Pan but good

Well written and thought provoking. A little desperate but I suppose life in a pow camp would be. I wonder what became of the king. I’m almost glad we don’t know.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Iit is still a relevant story, so well written.

This will take you out of your world and dunk you into a universal reality. Worth the listen.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Good Book

I had listened to Shogun before this one and was told that this was better or the same as Shogun and while it’s good Shogun is just in a league of its own.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Very very good, interesting characters,great story

loved the book. I know it's not the 1st book in this series and when I got the print copy of the book as a Christmas gift for someone I was very interested in it myself and decided to get it, not knowing it was book 4 or 5 in a series of 7 or more, but did not feel lost or that I didn't know what was going in or the characters in the story, I was introduced to all the characters like it was the 1st time and have gotten the 1st book in the series and hope it is as good as this one. highly recommend this for people who like stories of survival, what it takes to survive in hostile situations, what extended time away from civilization can make you and how the people in this time had to operate. throughly enjoyed

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

95% of the story was good

but the end is rushed. the king would have been better prepared for it.