ninja

The Ninja, The Miko, and White Ninja

Book Review
Ninja Eric Van Lustbader

We were obsessed with ninjas in the '80s: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ninja Gaiden, and hundreds of campy ninja films. In 1985, we were also introduced to The Ninja, a crime thriller novel by Eric Van Lustbader, and what I believe to be the single best ninja fiction available. Lustbader wrote five more novels in the series, all centered on Nicholas Linnear, a half-Western, half-Chinese, raised in Japan ninja. I just finished the third novel, White Ninja, and couldn't help but think about the video game possibilities for the series while reading.

I originally found The Ninja while my wife and I were traveling in Ireland. It was by a fireplace in a small Bed and Breakfast in a "take a book, leave a book" box. I didn't have any books to leave, so I guess I broke the rule by taking one. Either way, it was the most interesting book in the box, and I figured I needed to do something with my East Asian Studies major. I had the 500+ page novel finished by the time we landed back in the States.

What makes Lustbader's Ninja series so great is its well written action scenes and devotion to building a believable Eastern mysticism. Unlike what Brandon Sanderson did with the Mistborn trilogy, The Ninja's world ninjutsu feels like it could be real (not ripping on Mistborn, but I suspend my belief at swallowing metals). The lines are often completely blurred between what's actually possible with martial arts, and what's simply just Japanese ninja legend or Lustbader making up (and honestly, even now, I really have no idea where the line would be drawn if you forced me to). It's believable because there is a believable world constructed around our heroes and villains.

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