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The Beach Paperback – February 1, 1998
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"A book that moves with the kind of speed and grace many older writers can only day-dream about. 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." --The Village Voice
“The Beach will astonish readers... Not since reading Donna Tartt’s The Secret History has this reader been so impressed and taken with a first novel.” --USA Today
“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. A wonderful adventure and allegory that may be the best novel written by anyone currently younger than 30.” --Sunday Oregonian
“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.” --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. A luminous voyage into the dark side of humanity’s increasingly tenuous dreams of paradise.” --Salon
“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
About the Author
Alex Garland is the author of the bestselling generational classic The Beach (which was adapted into a major motion pictures starring Leonardo DiCaprio) 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.
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Now first I have to say that besides being a very avid reader, I also love movies. The Beach is one of my favorite movies and for some reason I was unaware that it was of course based on a book. I have seen the movie probably 20 times, so I was afraid that might ruin the book for me. However, I was very wrong. First, like a lot of book to movie adaptations, the movie is much different from the book, the plot line is not the same, huge scenes are left out or changed and a great deal of detail is missing in the movie. Second, I have to say that although I was impressed by Garland's writing, I imagine that not everyone would enjoy this book. Garland has a unique writing style and it is also very descriptive. Even if you have never seen the movie, the way he paints the picture of the beach and lagoon is amazing. I feel like I can see the whole layout of the island. There are part of this book that are quite violent and Garland's writing made them stand out to me that much more.
Richard is the only character that I feel like I really got to know, although we do learn a lot about the other characters involved, there are so many people interacting with Richard on a daily basis. It would have been difficult for the author to describe each one of them in as much detail as Richard. The book is told from Richard's point of view and starts off when he arrives in Thailand before ever meeting Daffy or acquiring the map to the beach. The "feel" of the writing, is that Richard is writing this story a year or two after is happened, but then some chapters sounds more present tense. I don't really know how to explain it, but it worked really well. The book is also broken down into both sections and then chapters within those sections.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book; it's a lot different then what I have been reading lately. If you have seen the movie, the book is not only a lot different, but I also enjoyed it a lot more. The things the movie left out, make the book. The way it ends was absolutely perfect after the events leading up to the "climax". It is most certainly a book I would recommend to anyone looking for something a bit different, happy reading!
“The Beach” will have its greatest appeal with travelers because understanding the mindset of a traveler versus that of a tourist (vagabonds versus regular folk, if you prefer) is essential to being able to feel the realism in the behavior of the book’s characters. (If you don’t know the difference between a traveler and a tourist, it’s safe to say that you are a regular person who travels as a tourist.) Like “Moby Dick”, this is a book about all consuming obsession, but the obsession is in finding and protecting the traveler’s paradise. (Such a paradise is partially defined by a complete lack of tourists.) Unlike “Moby Dick”, “The Beach” isn’t rambling, and it maintains tension throughout.
The story beings on Khao San Road in Bangkok, a familiar haunt for backpackers and other low budget world travelers. The protagonist, Richard, has just gotten in to Bangkok and checks into a hostel. Rooming next to Richard is a Scottish man named “Daffy” who seems to be a complete lunatic and who keeps talking aloud to himself about a “beach.” Owing to the accent, Richard first thinks Daffy is talking about a “bitch,” but soon realizes the man’s obsession is with a patch of sand. Richard has a brief and unusual interaction with Daffy, who throws a lit joint onto Richard’s bed. In the morning, Richard finds a meticulously hand drawn map on his door with “the Beach” prominently labeled. When he goes to see why the crazy stranger left it for him; he knocks on Daffy’s ajar door to find the man has committed suicide.
The beach is on one of the small islands that are kept off-limits as part of the Thai National Parks system. Richard teams up with a French couple who was also staying next to him. While Richard had heard their amorous sounds through the thin walls on the night he met Daffy, he didn’t meet the couple until they were all called in to talk to the police about Daffy’s suicide. For some reason Richard is unwilling to tell the police about the map, but he does tell the Frenchman. The map leads them to the island. It isn’t easy to get to. Once on the island, they discover they must get through a grove of marijuana guarded by heavily armed locals to get to the fabled beach.
It turns out a small community of travelers has already set up on the idyllic beach. As with any group, some people get along well and others rub each other the wrong way. We get the best insight into those individuals who become the friends and enemies of Richard, and many of the others are the novel equivalent of movie extras. At first, all is well on the island. Richard and the French couple have to do work a few hours a day on the fishing detail, but otherwise they are living in their Eden. However, as things begin to go wrong—and they do go frightfully wrong—Richard and others begin to be confronted by the question of what they are willing to do to protect the Beach, and how will their personal moralities be twisted in the process.
Garland uses a couple of interesting techniques in the book. First, Richard is plagued by dreams featuring Daffy, and later--as the burden of secrets to which he is party piles up—he begins to have hallucinations of Daffy during the day. In both cases, it seems that the dreams and hallucinations are an attempt to help him work out the mysteries of the Beach. No one on the island will tell him about Daffy, and he is desperate to know what drove the man mad—or whether he was always like that. There’s one character, Jed, who goes off every day and no one seems to know where he goes or what he does. Eventually, Richard comes to be in on some of these secrets (e.g. becoming Jed’s partner), and the burden of knowledge doesn’t improve his state of mind. In the end, Richard seems to realize that he is the new Daffy, and what drove Daffy into madness will surely do the same for him if he doesn’t get off the island.
Second, Garland uses what—for lack of a better term—might be called foreshadowing. However, it’s not so much a matter of subtle hints as a bold statements such as [paraphrasing], “It’s too bad _________ would die, especially in the way he did.” This should have seemed ham-handed, but there’s always enough mystery about what will come next that the these tips were like lighter fluid to intensify one’s reading so one could find out what would happen next and how.
I whole-heartedly recommend this novel, and think it’s one of the best pieces of travel-oriented writing that I’ve read. It’s a page-turn from beginning to end.