Author of Gone Tomorrow and the stories that inspired the films Dog Day Afternoon and Eddie and the Cruisers, P. F. Kluge really knows the places that he writes about. In The Master Blaster, Kluge brings us to Saipan, the newest addition to the United States of America. The island was taken from the Japanese during WWII and administered by the US Navy until becoming part of a US Commonwealth in 1978. Since then, very few Statesiders have ventured to the island 4800 miles further west than Hawaii.
When visiting a tropical island, tourists rarely see beyond the veil of rain forests, beaches, resorts, boutiques, and night clubs. On the other side are poverty, corruption, racism, and crime. In this book an anonymous cynic known as the Master Blaster has dedicated his blog to reveal the harsh reality of life on the little known US-owned island of Saipan. He has worked hard to ensure that his site shows up in the front page of all search engines–much to the frustration of the local government, tourism board, and proud islanders.
The story follows four new arrivals to the island who meet while waiting in the baggage claim area of the airport. An educator leaving a failed relationship, a businessman, a down-on-his-luck travel writer, and a foreign laborer all have high expectations and visions of personal success. Each one is convinced they will stay longer than the others. As the story unfolds they each become painfully aware of the Master Blaster’s truths. As they deal with their disillusionment it becomes a contest to see who will stay on the island the longest, challenging themselves to stick it out longer than they might have otherwise. Each character narrates his or her story and since they continue to interact in the tight-knit community, we hear multiple perspectives of the same events.
Having been residents for 17 years on Saipan, my husband and I felt transported right back to our Saipan lifestyle while reading The Master Blaster. I can attest that it accurately depicts life familiar to most Saipan residents, whether transplants from other places or local. Many new residents of Saipan go through the same painful adjustment period that these characters did and either hate life on the island until their employment contracts end (if they even last that long) or persevere to the point of loving the island despite its shortcomings and making it their home.
Check the WRL catalog for The Master Blaster