The beach

Alex Garland.

The Khao San Road, Bangkok--first stop for the hordes of rootless young Westerners traveling in Southeast Asia. On Richard''s first night there, in a low-budget guest house, a fellow traveler slashes his wrists, bequeathing to Richard a meticulously drawn map to "the Beach." The Beach, as Richard has come to learn, is the subject of a legend among young travelers in Asia: a lagoon hidden from the sea, with white sand and coral gardens, freshwater falls surrounded by jungle, plants untouched for a thousand years. There, it is rumored, a carefully selected international few have settled in a communal Eden. Haunted by the figure of Mr. Duck--the name by which the Thai police have identified the dead man--and his own obsession with Vietnam movies, Richard sets off with a young French couple to an island hidden away in an archipelago forbidden to tourists. They discover the Beach, and it is as beautiful and idyllic as it is reputed to be. Yet over time it becomes clear that Beach culture, as Richard calls it, has troubling, even deadly, undercurrents. Spellbinding and hallucinogenic, The Beach is a look at a generation in their twenties, who, burdened with the legacy of the preceding generation and saturated by popular culture, long for an unruined landscape, but find it difficult to experience the world firsthand. Praise for THE BEACH Winner of Britainrsquo;s Betty Trask Prize for the best first novel by a writer under 35 A selection of NPRrsquo;s "Talk of the Nation" Book Club Chosen as Favorite Book of the Year by Newsdaynbsp;and The Sunday Oregonian "A furiously intelligent first novel about backpacker culture in Southeast Asia, a book that moves with the kind of speed and grace many older writers can only day-dream about.nbsp; Just as impressively, Garland has written what may be the first novel about the search for genuine experience among members of the so-called X Generation thatrsquo;s not snide or reflexively cynical.nbsp; I suspect many young readers will be deeply grateful for this British novelistrsquo;s levelheaded observations and will clutch this book tightly to their chests.nbsp; (Look for tattered copies of THE BEACH tucked into backpacks across the world next summer, right next to the de rigeur Lonely Planet guidebooks.)nbsp; The rest of us will just be happy to tag along for the ride.nbsp; THE BEACH combines an unlikely group of influences-- The Heart of Darkness , Vietnam war movies, The Lord of the Flies , the Super Mario Brothers video game. . . . THE BEACH is ambitious, propulsive fiction." nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; nbsp;nbsp; --The Washington Post ldquo;What makes THE BEACH a truly awesome piece of work is Garlandrsquo;s understated, assured depiction of the perils of pop. . . .nbsp; Is THE BEACH a Gen X novel?nbsp; I concede to the marketing people on this one and depart here, cowed.rdquo;nbsp; nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; -- The Village Voice ldquo;You have in your hands one great book... THE BEACH will astonish readers.nbsp; Garland manages to hook in the reader from the first page... THE BEACH builds to a crackling finale, complete with interesting moral questions.nbsp; But this is no mere thriller. . . .nbsp;nbsp; Not since reading Donna Tarttrsquo;s The Secret Historynbsp;has this reader been so impressed and taken with a first novel.rdquo; nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; -- USA Today ldquo;Generation X has its first great novel... THE BEACH is an awesome first novel that works as an adventure story, an allegory and an explanation for why every human since Adam and Eve has an irresistible impulse to create a perfect world and destroy it.nbsp; Garlandrsquo;s literary antecedents are Lord of the Flies and On the Road , with maybe a little Animal Farmnbsp;thrown in for extra nastiness, and it is a testament to his achievement that THE BEACH can hang with those classics on a purely literary level and as a postmodern update of them...A wonderful adventure and allegory that may be the best novel written by anyone currently younger than 30.rdquo;nbsp;nbsp; --Sunday Oregonian ldquo;The novelrsquo;s detailed account of their journey...is not only suspenseful but surprisingly plausible..Alex Garland...has a clear, engaging storytelling style and a vivid imagination.nbsp; Deftly, he uses real-life travel details--smells, optical effects, quirks of language, social rituals--to keep the readerrsquo;s disbelief at bay.nbsp; For about two-thirds of the way, his novel is a genuine page turner, full of color and menace.nbsp; . . . the final chapters are suitably nightmarish and exciting... THE BEACH is impressive in its group portrait of a new generation of young vagabonds.nbsp; Raised in an era of diminished confidence, they have set out in search of something that feels genuine and fulfilling.nbsp; What they find turns out to be not utopia but hell.rdquo;nbsp; nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; nbsp; --The New York Times Book Review ldquo;Remarkable....astonishingly assured.... THE BEACH is distinguished by Garlandrsquo;s bracingly transparent prose and tells a classic story of generational envy and displacement.nbsp;nbsp; Echoing Dognbsp;Soldier nbsp;as much as Lord of the Flies , Garland discovers the hell lurking in heavenrsquo;s tide pools while delivering as muchnbsp; karmic payback as anything since Treasure Island .nbsp; Primitives vs. sophisticates, nature vs. culture, life vs. art--itrsquo;s all here, in language whose gripping and deceptive simplicity masks something dreadful and true.nbsp; Garlandrsquo;s timeless fluid sentences seem to seek the clarity that Hemingway sought, without descending into self-parody for an instant....The book concludes perfectly, with an image as confusingly beautiful as modern primitivism gets....Garlandrsquo;s deceptively transparent book would have been just as momentous and refreshing if it had been written 20 years ago.nbsp; Take it for what it is: a luminous voyage into the dark side of humanityrsquo;s increasingly tenuous dreams of paradise.rdquo;nbsp; --Salon ldquo;This much-hyped first novel manages to transcend the P.R. BS.nbsp; A riveting read about disaffected twenty-somethings searching for a real-life Eden as they backpack through the pop-culture wasteland of Asia.rdquo; --Details ldquo;Generation X meets Lord of the Flies in this ripping good adventure yarn...Garland shows a precociously sure hand in this taut, exotic thriller.nbsp; For a young author, he knows too well the peril of finding paradise on earth...a s


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Tim AndrewsPosted May 18, 2010

Alex Garland's The Beach was not a something I would have read if I didn't know the premise before picking up the book.  This is the second review in a row where I am mentioning the cover art, so maybe I do judge books by their covers... and tit...

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