The Ninja (Nicholas Linnear, #1)

ISBN: 0449209164
ISBN 13: 9780449209165
By: Eric Van Lustbader

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Reader's Thoughts

David Graham

I remember my older brother bought The Ninja by Eric Van Lustbader in the mid ‘80s and I pestered him to let me have it. When he finally did let me read it I was blown away. The titular subject may have become a bit of a cliché since with everything even turtles adopting it but I still think with the story’s broad international sweep and large cast of characters it is an exemplar of a particular kind of thriller. When it was written, international travel was nowhere near as accessible and this added to the glamour of the book for the reader. Nearly all of Van Lustbader’s books of that period such as Shan, Jian and Blackheart followed the pattern of having two interlinked stories from different time periods where Lustbader brought the reader back and forth between the two. Later books in the Nicholas Linnear series featured more overt fantasy-like elements than Ninja but in that first book Nicholas Linnear was easily the equal of Jason Bourne, Nicholai Hel from Shibumi and more recently the likes Jack Reacher in terms of how lethal he was and how much of an enigma he presented. I actually think The Ninja has aged better than virtually all of its contemporaries.


The Ninja, by Eric von Lustbader, is a reprint, finally transferred to e-book for those of us who love the Nicholas Linnear series! This book, written in 1980, is an intriguing tale of murder, love lost and gained, revenge, and Japanese martial arts and mysticism. It's described as a crime and suspense novel, and it does not disappoint!Admittedly, it does have its slow points. However, the book is divided into five "rings", as an homage to Miyamoto Musashi's, The Book of the Five Rings. This prevents any one part from dragging you down. The writing is quite verbose and lengthy, so if you were looking for a cheap, imitation Kung-Fu thriller, this isn't it. Eric von Lustbader seamlessly weaves together his characters' modern-day history with their past in Japan in a captivating blend that keeps you reading until the last page. With graphic sexual descriptions and intensely violent battle scenes, this book is not for the faint of art, nor for children. With that being said, one of the things I find most interesting about this novel is that it gives Westerners a glimpse into the mindset of the Japanese that a lot of us are truly fascinated by. I hold great respect for the Japanese people and whether it's reciprocal or not, I think there is a lot the West could learn from them. This book offers an opportunity to know them a little better. While pretty straightforward in plot, this novel did have some unique surprises that kept me engaged until the last page. I eagerly await the release of Miko, the next book in the Nicholas Linnear series, to be released as an e-book.

Yatish Joshi

I came to know Eric Lustbader when he started writing the sequels to Robert Ludlum's famous Bourne series. This though was my first exposure to a purely original Lustbader work and it was a pleasure. I read this book right after completing Barry Eisler's Graveyard of Memories which was set in modern Japan so it felt surreal traversing medieval Japan via Linnear's eyes and covering its ninja/samurai history.It was a fascinating read but I felt that the love story and the fantastical elements incorporated in a ninja's armory detracted from an otherwise engaging read.

Ron King

I really enjoyed parts of this book. Not sure I would read it again, but I made it to the end and gained a few insights along the way. If you choose to check this out, be warned, there are numerous very graphic sex scenes. I could not recommend this book.

Dave Etherton

I first read this book in the early 80 when it came out and I loved it then.Got it reduced price on kindle I had wanted to re read it and have thoroughly enjoyed it again the second time round. but it does mean I will have to get the rest of the series now......


I'm probably giving this book a higher rating than it deserves, because I'm remembering it from when I read it as a teenager. It's a cheesy, blood-splattered "Oriental" (I deliberately use the pejorative term) novel of dubious verisimilitude with steamy but pointless sex scenes. It was written when the ninja craze was just beginning in the U.S. In short, it's mindless pulp entertainment with not much of a plot, but I still have fond memories of it.


I read a lot of Van Lustbader's books as a teenager. Always a little shiver of "whoa, I don't think I should be reading this at my age". Sigh, that innocence is long gone.

Kathy Russo

This novel was first published in 1980; Open Road Media is re-releasing some of the titles in the Nicholas Linnear series by Eric Van Lustbader. The Ninja is the first book in the series.The plot itself is divided into five 'books,' each is then further separated amongst the past and present. This method helps illuminate the story for readers, as well as skilfully evading overuse of flashbacks. Van Lustbader has a gift for effortlessly moving among periods of history, from A.D. 792 all the way to the [presumably] 1980s. He exhibits a deep understanding in the variances amid Eastern and Western philosophies.The interactions, with their parallels and disparities between Eastern and Western train of thought, were enthralling to see. Although the story was evidently fictional, it was exceedingly well examined and felt realistic. The imageries all assisted to set not only the tone, but also the stride of the novel.In the end the novel returns to the inner division in a man with his feet in two immensely diverse societies, and his struggle to merge the fluctuating parts of his heritage. The Ninja is a great read for fans of historical fiction. An Advanced Readers Copy of the book was provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.


I wanted to like this book. It has some of the goofy trashiness of an 1980s ninja movie -- sword battles, wall climbing, hypnotism, throwing stars, all that good stuff.Unfortunately for a book about ninjas it is overwritten and takes itself way too seriously. There's an overabundance of back story for the main character and there are too many unnecessary characters. It takes the focus from the sweet ninja action I want from a book titled "The Ninja." A good editor could easily chop 25% out of the book and lose nothing.


This book was written the 90s and very popular. It is being release in e-format. It is not my kind of book, I am sure if you like adventure and suspense you will probably like it. I will not finished and gave it 2 stars for the excellent writing.Full Disclosure: I received a free copy from Netgalley for an honest review.


I don't even know how to begin a review of this "book." It's a "book" only so much as it is a bound collection of words that form a "story" (I guess). Though to use either term in describing this incredibly juvenile masturbatory fantasy is an offense to books and stories everywhere. I started reading it at the behest of a neighbor with normally impeccable taste in books- he's previously turned me on to both Carson McCullers and Dow Mossman. Sure, I was forewarned that it wasn't very good but that he had "loved it when he was a teen."Now, I love people's guilty pleasures when it comes to reading. The books that people don't really even want to admit to reading, let alone enjoying. I probably think that one of my guiltiest pleasures is the John Steakley human-in-powersuit-fights-giant-ants scifi schlockfest Armor. I like to think (delude myself into thinking) that if I read someone's guilty pleasure then I'll get some sort of insight or understanding into their character. My penchant for "me vs. the horde" tales like those in Armor or the countless zombie books I've read probably speaks volumes about my distrust for large groups or what-have-you. All I learned about my neighbor by reading Van Lustbader's The Ninja is that he was an exceptionally horny teenager (but who wasn't).One would think that with a book titled The Ninja that the pages would be a blood-spattered mess right out of some John Woo spectacle. Instead the bulk of this 500-odd page book are filled with 75% porn of a decidedly uninteresting (or at least extremely poorly written) variety. Mailer and Updike are often derided as writing some of the worst sex scenes in print but they don't even hold a candle to the mess that Van Lustbader contrives here. I don't know. Perhaps he's unlucky in love and feels the need to write out rather than act out his various fantasies. After reading some of these fantasies I could definitely understand why he'd be unlucky. Still, why share this with the world? Is it really necessary? I'm not even going to talk about the "plot" of this mess. I could easily deride the writer for his endless stereotyping of Asia, in general, and Japan, in particular, (I mean really how many times do I have to read that Japanese are "inscrutable" and "hard-eyed" or that tired old phrase "East meets West?" In fact, I am banning the use of that phrase forever more. Hollywood, take note!) but really what would be the point? Instead, I'll leave with a quote from the book that brought home to me within the first 30 pages just how bad the experience of reading this would be. I should have thrown my copy at the wall immediately upon reading "East meets West inside me like swirling currents and there is a kind of tug of war." Really?


Found this at a ice cream shop on the outskirts of Vegas, needed a read having finished Fear and Loathing on the plane. Pretty unmemorable for the most part; I gave up when he introduced a peripheral character (a minor character's daughter) who happens to be a high priced hooker of the stars so he can include a chapter of lesbian hot tub sex. He didn't mention the hooker again for fifty pages, so I became disgusted and put the book down. Bummer. Not recommended.

Shawn Mcvay

Spy novel meets fantasy.I read this book in High School. I am past Graduate School now. At the time I read it, I was moving from Tom Clancy novels toward fantasy, and this was an excellent step. The main character is a Ninja, but a Red Ninja, more or less neutral. The author toys with how much neutrality, as he should, and a human being would. Black Ninjas are evil, they are out there, and the hero is working against them. There are also White Ninjas but that is a complete novel of its own in the series. If you like spy novels, action novels, read this. If you like fantasy that tends toward tactics and politics, read this. You will not be disappointed.


Excellent book....Nicholas Linnear is an excellent protagonist who excells @ martial arts . I have enjoyed all of the Linnear books and only wish there were more of them.

Schuyler Wallace

Prolific writer Eric Van Lustbader has created an impressive resume of novels and short stories of the thriller and fantasy genre; so many, in fact, that gathering together the titles into some sort of a timeline and subject tally becomes an impossible dream. I’ve read many of them and dreamlike could describe the construction of most. They are generally so layered with history, fable, eroticism, quirky characters, and mystery that keeping a grasp on the storyline becomes challenging. But Van Lustbader makes the process work and the reader is swept into the entanglement by a clever plot written in elegant language.“The Ninja,” originally published in 1980 and the first of the Nicholas Linnear series, was an immediate hit with readers and was famous for Van Lustbader’s daring use of violence using Japanese martial arts as a backdrop and his vivid sexual images. I read it once more in its new edition and was again smitten with the beautiful writing, the extensive research, and a storyline that was spellbinding despite the author’s tendency towards pomposity and a know-it-all attitude.In the novel Linnear is seemingly known worldwide for his knowledge of Japanese martial arts, its history, and its application. Law enforcement officials everywhere call upon him to solve mysterious deaths that appear to be caused by the maniacal attacks of rogue practitioners of the “gentle” art. It entered my mind many times as I read that a ninja would be wise to sneak up behind Linnear and quickly put a bullet in his head rather than to try and engage him in the traditional battle of swords, sticks and hands. But there apparently is some sort of honor code that prohibits such practicality and, of course, would erase a character that Van Lustbader relies upon to make a lot of money.So I read Van Lustbader, suffer through the confusing cast of characters he always presents, drool at his descriptive sexual antics, recoil at the violence of the numerous physical encounters he describes, and when the book is finished move on to something less complex while feeling entertained and more intelligent. I recommend Van Lustbader’s work if you have an interest in sagacious writing and over the top sexual encounters. It would help if you also like the sound of swords hissing through innards, bones disintegrating, and the gurgle of life’s blood through crushed windpipes. Apparently I find these niceties appealing enough to give the book three stars.

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