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The Beach [Paperback]

Alex Garland
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (684 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A mesmerizing first novel, already a hit in the author's native England, that manages to be many things at once: a smart look at a generation way beyond mere disillusionment, an anti- travelogue to the most exotic of locales, a study in small-group psychology, and a convincing profile in madness. All this, and the dynamics of a fast-paced thriller. The narrator, Richard, adrift in ``backpacker land'' (i.e., Southeast Asia), craves ``something different,'' the ultimate travel spot unspoiled by his own kind. Like most of the travelers he meets, Richard's bored with the usual dissonance of Thailand and Burma. His problems are solved (or just begin) when a crazed suicidal Scotsman, his neighbor in a Bangkok flophouse, leaves him a map to a new Eden, a beach on an uncharted island off-limits to tourists. With a French couple who also crave new thrills, Richard begins his journey ``in country,'' his lingo drawn from the Vietnam War as filtered through TV and movies. A gruelling trek brings the three to ``the Beach,'' a remote strip of perfect nature reached after forging a dense jungle, crossing a marijuana field guarded by armed natives, and then jumping into a 40-foot waterfall. Once there, the three are welcomed by the strange commune of international drifters who have nurtured their compound over six years, surviving on spearfishing, local produce, and lots of pot. Like characters from an adult Lord of the Flies, the 30 or so inhabitants polarize into groups, and chaos descends after a series of ugly incidents. As nutty as Richard seems to grow, the commune's leader is even crazier in her desire to preserve a glorious isolation. The horrors accrue as the moral ambiguity deepens. Garland owes as much to Conrad and Golding as he does to Coppola, Stone, and Warner Brothers cartoons, and it's that wild mix that helps make for a riveting read. (First printing of 150,000; $150,000 ad/promo; Book-of-the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club selection) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"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.  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 that’s not snide or reflexively cynical.  I suspect many young readers will be deeply grateful for this British novelist’s levelheaded observations and will clutch this book tightly to their chests.  (Look for tattered copies of The Beach tucked into backpacks across the world next summer, right next to the de rigeur Lonely Planet guidebooks.)  The rest of us will just be happy to tag along for the ride.  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." --The Washington Post



“What makes The Beach a truly awesome piece of work is Garland’s understated, assured depiction of the perils of pop...Is The Beach a Gen X novel?  I concede to the marketing people on this one and depart here, cowed.” --The Village Voice



“You have in your hands one great book...The Beach will astonish readers.Garland manages to hook in the reader from the first page...The Beach builds to a crackling finale, complete with interesting moral questions.Not since reading Donna Tartt’s The Secret History has this reader been so impressed and taken with a first novel.”--USA Today



“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.  Garland’s literary antecedents are Lord of the Flies and On the Road, with maybe a little Animal Farm 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.”   --Sunday Oregonian



“The novel’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.  Deftly, he uses real-life travel details--smells, optical effects, quirks of language, social rituals--to keep the reader’s disbelief at bay.  For about two-thirds of the way, his novel is a genuine page turner, full of color and menace.  . . . the final chapters are suitably nightmarish and exciting...The Beach is impressive in its group portrait of a new generation of young vagabonds.  Raised in an era of diminished confidence, they have set out in search of something that feels genuine and fulfilling.  What they find turns out to be not utopia but hell.”   --The New York Times Book Review



“Remarkable....astonishingly assured....The Beach is distinguished by Garland’s bracingly transparent prose and tells a classic story of generational envy and displacement.   Echoing Dog Soldier as much as Lord of the Flies, Garland discovers the hell lurking in heaven’s tide pools while delivering as much  karmic payback as anything since Treasure Island.  Primitives vs. sophisticates, nature vs. culture, life vs. art--it’s all here, in language whose gripping and deceptive simplicity masks something dreadful and true.  Garland’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....Garland’s deceptively transparent book would have been just as momentous and refreshing if it had been written 20 years ago.  Take it for what it is: a luminous voyage into the dark side of humanity’s increasingly tenuous dreams of paradise.” --Salon



“This much-hyped first novel manages to transcend the P.R. BS.  A riveting read about disaffected twenty-somethings searching for a real-life Eden as they backpack through the pop-culture wasteland of Asia.” --Details



“Generation X meets Lord of the Flies in this ripping good adventure yarn...Garland shows a precociously sure hand in this taut, exotic thriller.  For a young author, he knows too well the peril of finding paradise on earth...a skillful first novel about the demise of an earthly paradise.” --People



“[G]ripping, intelligent and written with a discipline many young writers only grow into."  --New York Newsday



The Beach makes for a relevant and fascinating read....an excellent critique of the backpacker phenomenon--its nouveau colonialism and its tragically misdirected idealism.” --Time Out



“Garland’s provocative style--somewhere between Joseph Conrad, Bret Easton Ellis, and Stephen King--creates a modern-day Eden where Nintendo Game-boy, "Apocalypse Now," and a drug-trafficking Thai militia blend seamlessly into the landscape.”  --Vogue



“A mesmerizing first novel that manages to be many things at once: a smart look at a generation way beyond mere disillusionment, an anti-travelogue to the most exotic of locales, a study in small-group psychology, and a convincing profile in madness.  All this, and the dynamics of a fast-paced thriller....Garland owes as much to Conrad and Golding as he does to Coppola, Stone, and Warner Brothers cartoons, and it’s that wild mix that helps make for a riveting read." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)



“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 The Lord o 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."   --Booklist (starred review)



“This impressive debut by a 26-year-old British writer could well achieve the cult status of William Golding’s nightmarish 1954 classic, Lord of the Flies, with which it shares a theme--the dark side of human nature that’s exposed when the thin veneer of ‘civilization’ is rubbed off through an encounter with raw nature. . . . [T]he author masterfully manages to maintain the suspense as it begins to boil over.  Highly recommended.” --Library Journal



“This 26-year-old Londoner’s atmospheric debut novel, The Beach, may follow Trainspotting across the pond--and wash up on our shores as the Next Big Thing.”   --Time Out



“Amphetamine-paced...Garland is a good storyteller...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.” --Publishers Weekly



“This exceptional first novel by twenty-six-year-old Alex Garland creates a picture of an ideal society gone awry...An action novel that provokes subtle responses, The Beach takes in ideas about man’s inevitable progress from noble savage to social breakdown–the line of thought followed by Golding and by Aldous Huxley in Island–but it is also concerned with the related tradition of nature versus art.” --The Times Literary Supplement



“At only 26, [Alex Garland] has written one of the most gripping and intelligent pieces of fiction I’ve read in a while...Read it and you’ll want to recommend it to everyone you meet.” --The Bookseller



The Beach is a gripping adventure and also a fascinating jigsaw...Cleanly written, strongly driven, this is a terrific debut.”  --The Times Newspaper



Lord of the Flies and The Magus lurk at the roots of this novel, but Garland reshapes them with panache into something terrifyingly new.” --Mail on Sunday

From the Inside Flap

The Bookcassette® format is a special recording technique developed as a means of condensing the full, unabridged audio text of a book to record it on fewer tapes. In order to listen to these tapes, you will need a cassette player with balance control to adjust left/right speaker output. Special adaptors to allow these tapes to be played on any cassette player are available through the publisher or some US retail electronics stores. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Alex Garland is the author of the bestselling generational classic The Beach and of The Tesseract, a national bestseller and New York Times Notable Book. He also wrote the original screenplay of the critically acclaimed film 28 Days Later.

From AudioFile

Before committing suicide, a deranged Scot gives Richard a map of "the beach," an Eden on an island near Thailand. Richard and a French couple find the place and begin a communal life--of work, sun and drugs--with about 30 others until a series of events causes it all to unravel. Michael Page adeptly captures Michael's world-weary cynicism, as well as the often extreme emotions of the beach's inhabitants. His first-person narration, while on target in conveying Richard's personality, also manages to differentiate the other characters--no small task. This is a trip no listener will forget. M.A.M. (Also available abridged from Nova/Brilliance.) (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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