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The Beach Paperback – July 5, 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 718 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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (July 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141031778
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141031774
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (718 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,152,122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. Whitman on November 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Here's the quick synopsis: Richard, a 24 yo Englishman, escapes heartaches and realities at home by backpacking in Thailand (and it's written in the 1st, and told as if he's sitting around, writing a biography). He hooks up with a French couple and they travel to a legendary beach on an island in the Thai Marine Park (where they join a colony). Richard talks to a dead man, lusts after Francoise, and recons the dope farmers who live on the other side of the island -- things quickly go wrong (surprise, surprise). It's like watching war films and listening to the doors ... throw in a bit of discontented 90s youth and there you go.
When I recommend this book, I quite often get the "Oh the Leo Beach movie" stare of disdain. It's very much more than that. This is an intelligent novel that examines the intersection of Vietnam war films on a generation of people who have lived without war, the elite repulsion Westerners have for the "Disneyification" of Third and Second World nations, and the ethnocentric enclaves created within "foreign" territories.
This book functions on two levels: as an enjoyable quick read for someone who is looking for a pop culture punch of action and as a text that deserves a closer observation.
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Format: Paperback
Ready for some excitement and adventure? Pick up The Beach and lose yourself on a tropical island...
Richard, a twentysomething backpacker who spends most of his time searching for bigger and better places to see, finds his way to Thailand for a little R&R. But something is definitely different about this trip and most of it comes in the form of his crazy hostel neighbor, Daffy, who talks incessantly and angrily about a beach. Tucked away in a remote and off-limits part of Thailand, the beach Daffy speaks of is considered a utopia, a perfect world that is unspoiled by tourists, a prize at the end of a tiring quest. Naturally Richard is curious, so he sets out with a French couple, Etienne and Francoise, and a map drawn by Daffy in search of this pristine fantasy land.
The island commune in The Beach would definitely pass for a secret Woodstock hideaway. Richard's journey is like no other; a riveting and spectacular adventure. Reading this book was the next best thing to swimming in their private lagoon, spearing fish and viewing the underwater corals. Island politics and the obsessive desire to keep the island's secrecy plays a heavy role in this novel and is also a prime example of how, even in paradise, one can somehow manage to destroy it.

Dark and sinister, as well as sarcastically funny, The Beach is a fast and furious novel that transports readers to another place in the blink of an eye. Alex Garland's writing is razor-sharp and indicative of his amazing storytelling talent. The movie cannot begin to touch the depth and fascination of this unforgettable novel.
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Format: Hardcover
Many other reviews here have been comparing "Beach" to other books. Yes, there are shades of "On the Road," "Lord of the Flies," Michener's "Drifters," and maybe even a little "Sand Pebbles" thrown in. That's fine - I like new stories to remind me of other great tales. Good writing examples complement each other; it's not one book vs. another. And this is good writing. Garland keeps the basic story simple; it's easy to follow and relatively believable. One of the best things done is that Garland creates a sort of tension throughout the book. The reader is not able to relax and simply glide along. You know something's going to happen but not what or when (you do know, of course, that Richard will make it due to the first person narration). When things go wrong, they do so in a wild but logical manner. Nothing goes too far over the top with characters commiting improbable acts (read "A Simple Plan" for the exact opposite, though it's still a fine story). The dream sequences enhance the story, rather than annoy the reader as often happens. This is a modern tale of adventure that ranks right up there with other generation-defining work. I haven't seen the movie nor do I plan to, this is good enough.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book 2 1/2 years ago, before there was any mention of a movie. when I started reading this, I couldn't believe how accurate his depictions of the backpacker culture were. I felt , whilst reading this I could have written it myself as I had travelled the exact route Richard had 3 years earlier.His experiences were identicalto mine for the first half of the book. I loved his characterizations.I'm sure we all know some of those characters.I felt this book was written with such honesty,that I'm sure some of us have thought the thoughts of Richard before. An excellent read. I have been telling anyone who will listen to read this book for years.Anyone of the Generation X will empathise with this character.I saw the movie this week and I was quite pleased with how it turned out,although the nationality switch of Richard was disappointing and I feel they played safe with the portrayal of Richard,in that as soon as he started showing his madness they pulled the character back. The performances were commendable & I think Leonardo did a good job although he wouldn't have been my first choice, Robert Carlyle was superb as usual. The saddest part was that they butchered the ending, Hollywood couldn't resist the Happily Ever After!
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