The irresistible novel that was adapted into a major motion picture starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
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 by Alex Garland -- both a national bestseller and his debut -- is a highly accomplished and suspenseful novel that fixates on 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.
In our ever-shrinking world, where popular Western culture seems to have infected every nation on the planet, it is hard to find even a small niche of unspoiled land--forget searching for pristine islands or continents. This is the situation in Alex Garland's debut novel, The Beach. Human progress has reduced Eden to a secret little beach near Thailand. In the tradition of grand adventure novels, Richard, a rootless traveler rambling around Thailand on his way somewhere else, is given a hand-drawn map by a madman who calls himself Daffy Duck. He and two French travelers set out on a journey to find this paradise.
What makes this a truly satisfying novel is the number of levels on which it operates. On the surface it's a fast-paced adventure novel; at another level it explores why we search for these utopias, be they mysterious lost continents or small island communes. Garland weaves a gripping and thought-provoking narrative that suggests we are, in fact, such products of our Western culture that we cannot help but pollute and ultimately destroy the very sanctuary we seek
From Publishers Weekly
Garland's amphetamine-paced first novel plunks some young European expats down on a remote island in the Gulf of Thailand. There, tired of the prepackaged experience available to them in the West, they try to create their own paradise. The narrator is an Englishman named Richard. Born in 1974, he has grown up on popular culture and is a fan of video games and Vietnam War movies. While staying at a creaky Bangkok guest house, he finds a carefully drawn map left by his angry, doped-up neighbor, a suicide who called himself Mr. Daffy Duck. The map points the way to a legendary beach where, it's rumored, a few favored international wanderers have settled. Richard's new friends, Etienne and Francoise, convince him to help them find the island. But Richard, inspired by sudden anxiety about Etienne, gives a copy of the map to two American backpackers-an act that later haunts him as keenly as the ghost of Mr. Duck. Richard and his French companions find the island: half is covered by a marijuana plantation patrolled by well-armed guards; the other half consists of a gorgeous beach and forest where a small band of wandering souls live a communal life dominated by a gently despotic woman named Sal. At times, Garland seems to be trying to say something powerful about the perils of desiring a history-less Eden. But his evocations of Vietnam, Richard's hallucinatory chats with the dead Mr. Duck and various other feints in the direction of thematic gravity don't add up to much. Garland is a good storyteller, though, and Richard's nicotine-fueled narrative of how the denizens of the beach see their comity shatter and break into factions is taut with suspense, even if the bloody conclusion offers few surprises. 150,000 first printing; $150,000 ad/promo; foreign rights sold in the U.K., Germany, Holland, Italy.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Garland, a British writer in his twenties, captures all the cynicism and disjuncture of his generation in his gripping first novel. Richard, his narrator, is a chain-smoking wanderer who has discovered that "escape through travel works," especially travel in Asia. Not alone in his feeling of alienation from the orderly world of family and work, he quickly makes the acquaintance of fellow disaffected travelers in Bangkok, including a guy who goes by the name of Daffy Duck. Mister Duck (as Richard calls him) bequeaths a carefully drawn map to our hero just before committing suicide, and soon Richard and a young French couple he haphazardly befriends are on their way to the Beach, a forbidden island paradise. Bold and naive, they barely survive their journey, or the shock of discovering that the island highlands are covered with fields of marijuana guarded by vicious Thai commandos and that the Beach is home to a motley collection of pot-smoking Euronomads enmeshed in their own sinister society. Garland is a wonder; he's able to write unrelentingly suspenseful, downright hallucinatory action scenes, then balance them with passages of chillingly accurate psychology. His intensely imagined tale is, on one level, a brilliant update of Lord of the Flies, and on another, a wholly original and unsettling depiction of psyches shaped by the bewildering messages of Loony Tunes, Apocalypse Now, Nintendo, and the age-old cult of oblivion. The Beach has cult status scrawled all over it. Donna Seaman
Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful.
Poor Attempt at Asian Heart of Darkness
By John Fitzpatrick
This novel starts off almost as a murder mystery when the narrator finds the corpse of a Scottish junkie who has apparently committed suicide in a sleazy Bangkok guesthouse and leaves a Treasure Island map behind showing a hidden beach paradise where hippies can spend all day getting stoned.
The narrator teams up with a French couple and they find the place and become part of a community of hedonistic misfits. Of course, the so-called paradise is anything of the sort and eventually turns into hell as the isolated community tries to protect itself from outsiders and then turns on itself in an Apocalypse Now cum Heart of Darkness cum Lord of the Flies scenario. Fantasy and reality mix as the dead junkie comes back to life in the narrator's fevered imagination and the story becomes confusing to say the least.
After a good start, it gets lost as there is virtually no plot or real characterization. The impending danger posed by Thai criminals who are growing marijuana on another part of the island and the threat that other backpackers will intrude and spoil the idyllic spot are unconvincing. The book is far too long and I was desperate for it to end.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
For the first time, I'm actually glad I watched the movie before I read the book. And not just saying that because it starred Leonardo DiCaprio. I was on the beach where the movie was filmed whilst reading this book.
Alex Garland's original version was a much darker tale of miss-adventure in sun soaked Thailand. Corpses on the beach in Koh Phangan and a mysterious new character Jed were nowhere to be seen in the film. In fact, the most scandalous scene would be the sex scene with Sal, which was not in the book.
Richard was impossible to like. His obsessions with vintage video games and Vietnam movies seemed to contradictory for a person who is willing to go native on a deserted island. He was weird, the loser kid in school no one wanted to play with. Etienne and Francoise, who I thought to be interesting, exotic characters, were barely in the story, cropping up every once in a while to ensure the reader didn't forget about them.
Basically, it was the worst parts of the characters, their personalities and habits, amplified until your head explodes with into tiny paper lanterns burning across the sky in Thailand. Sitting on the actual beach, feeling the sand between my toes and the sun on my shoulders, occassionaly looking up expecting Leo beside me in Phuket, did nothing to bring some intensity to this story.
It was very bland.
0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
See all 738 customer reviews...
Better than the movie
By Robert Nevitt
Such a great book. I prefer to read the book after the movie and this was another instance of that. Such an exciting read. Couldn't put it down