Conquests by Rich Martin
South Korea after the war is a volatile place. Their version of government doesn’t sit well with many citizens, and they feel President Park is little more than a dictator. There are riots and demonstrations in the streets, and police are cracking down. Just being suspected of illicit activity is enough evidence for arrest or worse. Tom Gates is a Peace Corps volunteer teaching conversational English at a small school in Gangjin. He is far from home and clearly out of his element. He doesn’t fully understand the way things are done, and he is too American for many Koreans. His sarcasm tends to be misunderstood and it has gotten him the wrong kind of attention. When one friendship is questioned and another is betrayed, he will find himself in the middle of a conflict much bigger than he ever realized. Bae works for the KCIA and is extremely loyal to his government. He considers the demonstrators to be nothing but troublemakers and not real Koreans, and his favorite part of the job is tracking down political dissidents. The only thing Bae hates more than demonstrators? Foreigners. Americans in particular. So when he comes across Tom there is an immediate distrust. Bae makes it his mission to personally bring Tom to justice…no matter the cost.
Conquests gives us an inside look at what life in Korea was like after the Korean War and the separation of North and South Korea. It follows several characters as they try to find their place in the world and how they all fit. The writing is well done. It is an intense book, and it is written with intensity. Rich Martin has managed to place us in the middle of this conflict and turmoil. He makes it feel very real, and you are caught up in the story almost from the very beginning. The descriptions used place you right in the story and help you see it as you read it, and help you understand the characters and the world they live in. The characters in Conquest are complex and human. The reader follows Tom on his quest to find where he fits in and his attempt to survive the minefield he has walked into. Bae is full of anger and hatred, especially towards Tom, and you feel every ounce of that hate. You also feel the contempt he has for the people who have the audacity to disagree with him. You feel Kim’s turmoil and confusion as well as President Parks’ superiority. Conquests by Rich Martin is a must-read book for anyone that likes history, wartime books, or a good thriller.