The Sorcerer of Pyongyang

Atria. Nov. 2022. 256p. ISBN 9781668002667. $26.99. F
Theroux’s fiction searches for hope in the most oppressive environments; National Book Award finalist Far North illuminated the beauty of life on a post-environmental collapse planet. Here Theroux turns his attention to the transformative power of narrative within the repressive political regime of North Korea. Set in the 1990s, the novel follows the maturation of a young boy named Cho Jun-su, a promising student and obedient citizen. A chance encounter with a Dungeons and Dragons rulebook opens him up to an imaginative world of possibilities that gains him popularity among his friends and the ire of the Ministry of State Security. Much like the roll of 12-sided dice, his life becomes a game of chance as he is subjected to imprisonment and inexplicably rises to the inner circle of the Supreme Leader.
VERDICT Recalling Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son, this intriguing new work from Theroux plunges readers into a dystopian North Korea and extracts the emotional complexity of a single life intended to be lived as a secondary character within its state ideology.
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