October 5, 2011 by Nicholas
An intimidating book to say the least. Picking it up and flipping through the pages will make you question if it’s worth starting. At times I questioned whether it was worth finishing, but by the end I was incredibly happy I did.
Shogun by James Clavell left me wanting more. It was an excellent book about a time in Japan where samurai were revered and the Way of the Sword was equivalent to a religious pursuit. Looking for something similar, searches kept coming up recommending Musashi. 1000 pages wasn’t too intimidating considering Shogun was no short story.
Inevitably, comparisons will be made between Shogun and Musashi although the latter proceeded and should be given credit as the muse for Clavell. Both center around the samurai culture but where they differ is in Shoguns plot focusing more on evolution of a man through his love story where Musashi follows the evolution of a man through a spiritual pursuit.
Shogun draws you into the story with it’s plot, Musashi draws you in with it’s detailed look at The Way of the Sword.
From a rebellious youth, anxious to prove himself, to a famous swordsman still renowned in Japanese folklore, Musashi follows the journey of Miyamoto Musashi as he strives to become the greatest swordsman in all of Japan. The book has numerous plotlines and even more characters that is confusing at times. Because all the characters have Japanese names that English speakers don’t hear too often, it’s easy to find yourself lost when characters come in and out of the story. Usually context jumps in to help jog the memory.
Throughout I never felt much of an attachment to any of the characters, even Musashi, until the end. Approaching the final act, it dawned on me that I cared what happened to Musashi. Whether that means the book is good or bad I’ll leave to you.
If you’re looking for a fast read that has you gripped from start to finish, turn to Shogun, but if you’re looking for a more authentic and deeper look at samurai and Japanese culture, Musashi is a great read.