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Posted on Friday, August 26th, 2011

Dave!My favorite novel of all time is Noble House by James Clavell. It's a story of contemporary 1960's Hong Kong that weaves a fictional story with actual history in a way that only the author of Shōgun could manage. It's beautifully realized, filled with dozens of interesting characters and locations. It's remarkably complex, having several intertwined plot threads and story elements. It's richly satisfying, overflowing with tiny details that come together in fascinating ways (I've read it over a dozen times, and still feel like I'm missing something). To me, Noble House is about as close to perfect as a book can get...

Noble House Book Cover

For the most part, people either love the book or hate it. The people who hate it usually end up griping about it's high page count or complexity, which I immediately dismiss. Mostly because I think it's funny how people choose to review a book by saying they were too lazy or stupid to get into it, but I'm judgmental like that. Other negative comments I've read make no sense. My favorite "review" of Noble House ever written is this one...

"The weakest of Clavell's Japan novels. I didn't enjoy it near as much as Centennial and Tai Pan, but still rich history, characters and plotting as well as the usual healthy dose of foreign culture. This one takes place in modern Japan."

The reason it's such a great review is that the book takes place in Hong Kong not Japan (as did Tai-Pan). And, though "modern" is subjective, it takes place in the 1960's. Furthermore, the book Centennial was written by James Michener not James Clavell (who wrote The Asian Saga... not "Japan novels"). Did this dumbass even bother to read the book, or did he just review it sight-unseen so he could look smart? We may never know.

Eventually the book was made into a television mini-series starring Pierce Brosnan. They moved the story from the 1960's to the 1980's and jettisoned dozens of plot points, but it was still darn fine entertainment...

Noble House DVD Cover

Anyway... the reason that this novel has been on my brain today is because we've got Hurricane Irene happening on the east coast, and Noble House opens up with a "tai-fun" (typhoon, or "supreme wind").

When I first read the book decades ago, I remember wondering how a typhoon is different from a hurricane and how both are different from a cyclone.

Turns out they're all pretty much the same, it's the location which determines what we call a massive tropical storm in English...

World Map Tropical Storm Names

It's not a perfect map, of course... but it basically boils down like this: Historical British colonial regions like India and Australia use "Cyclone." The Americas use "Hurricane." Asia uses "Typhoon." There are variations on all those. And, of course, local languages have many different names in their native tongues.

My thoughts are with those in the path of Hurricane Irene. Indeed, it's difficult to think of much else.

Stay safe everybody.

Noble House on Apple's iTunes Book StoreNoble House on Amazon's Book/Kindle Store

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Categories: Books, News - Politics 2011Click To It: Permalink


  1. Lynne says:

    Am 78% through it right now on my Kindle. First race has just been run on Race Day.
    Isn’t this a great book?!

  2. Dave2 says:

    IT’S AVAILABLE ON KINDLE?!? I’ve been waiting for that to happen for YEARS. Thanks so much… now I have something to read on my iPad when I’m on vacation next month!

    I’ve added links for Amazon and Apple iTunes to my entry.

  3. Etienne says:

    As in most places where this stuff is possible to happen they have different degrees of hurricane tidal surge designated. Wouldn’t you know in NYC I’m 1/2 block inside of the first one and the mayor has called for a mandatory evacuation. So, I’m off to NJ to a friend’s house for a sleepover. It’s probably a good idea as I can’t imagine my street looking like Rangoon during a monsoon but, with plastic trash bag floating around like corks.

  4. Mooselet says:

    Not that anyone should take a hurricane lightly, Irene doesn’t seem particularly dangerous. A typical, albeit large, Category 2. The way some people are carrying on you’d think it was a Katrina or Andrew. Stay safe but keep it in perspective. (And yes, I have been through many a hurricane in New England and the infamous Blizzard of ’78)

  5. Sybil Law says:

    That review is classic! What’s sad is he really might’ve read it – I am consistently horrified by people’s reading comprehension!
    Another book to add to my list. Woohoo!

  6. Invader_Stu says:

    I never knew that either. I always thought they were different too.

    The books sound interesting too. I might check them out.

  7. LizP says:

    James Clavell is one of my favourite authors! Thanks for the Kindle link to the book, now I’ll have something to read on my business trip next month!

  8. Thanks for the great recommendation. I’ve never read Clavell (I know), but I just purchased the Kindle version and can’t wait.

  9. Blah blah blah. Pierce Brosnan! Blah blah blah. I’m only mostly kidding. He’s my Liz Hurley. 🙂

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