Customer Reviews (635)
I really was afraid to read this book, because back when Leonardo DiCaprio was good-looking I watched the movie. I should have realized earlier that the book would assuredly be better. Garland is brilliant, and considering this was a debut novel, I'm awed. The thing that impressed me most about the book was that despite having very little plot--location choices, if nothing else, were limited--you still wanted to inhale it and still wanted to see what would happen next.
In many ways the "plot" is predictable. Richard, a young Englishman in Thailand, stays a few nights in a sleazy hotel where he is given a strange map of a supposedly deserted island-paradise by a strange person known only as Daffy Duck. The night after receiving Daffy's map, Richard finds him dead. Accompanied by two fellow hotel-guests (Francoise and Etienne), Richard decides to go to the island outlined on the map. Thinking that someone should know where they are going, Richard informs two American college students of his plans, giving them a copy of the map.
Of course, what happens next is nothing unexpected. Adventures ensue as Richard, Francoise and Etienne try to make it to the designated location; upon their arrival they encounter a 'village' of about twenty people, some of whom are disappointed to learn of Daffy's death; the traveling trio decides to stay on the island, and Richard begins to panic that the Americans may show up; Richard continues to panic to the point of hallucination, and camp relations start to get tense; the Americans show up, the whole island oasis life is shot to hell, and Richard, Francoise and Etienne barely escape.
Still, the book is addictive. It creates a feeling of suspense that I have not felt from another book. The characters and the interactions between them were increasingly complex. Issues of "Can utopia stay utopian?" "How selfish is this isolated, island lifestyle?" "Do vacations have to end?" and "When is this going to become like Lord of the Flies?" keep you turning the later pages.
This is definitely a book worth buying, or at the very least checking out of a library. It really is an fun and sometimes thrilling read.
Great read, I enjoyed it.I never really considered reading the book after watching the movie two or three times over the years.But I picked it up and flipped through it in a bookstore/coffee shop in Thailand, after reading a few pages I bought it and couldn't put it down.The plot is very different from how it was portrayed in the movie once they arrive on the beach, so it was like taking in a completely fresh story.
Island fantasy gone very wrong
Given time, Shangri-La never is.
You must grow up and live in the real world, complicated and unpleasant as it may be. Seems to me this is something every generation has to figure out for itself, with assistance or hindrance from various psychoactive substances.
Richard, age 21, goes to Thailand and finds his way to a hidden settlement on a secluded island that is supposed to be off-limits to tourists. The people there are enjoying an Edenic existence, getting nearly everything they need from the land, including unlimited doobies for all. Circumstances arise that divide the group, and the copious THC rations only provide fuel for the paranoid delusions and poor judgment. Eventually it all dissolves in a rather grisly fashion.
3.5 stars, but I can be generous and round up to 4 because the youthful author showed a convincing grasp of group dynamics and self-interested behavior. The rivalries, jealousies, and power struggles felt very true to real life.
I should add that if you are squeamish, you might want to avoid this book. The author didn't go overboard with the gross-out detail, but there are some pretty graphic scenes I could have done without.
Be careful what you wish for
The Beach by Alex Garland is about not liking where you are and wishing you were somewhere else.Even with all its grittiness and suspense this is a coming of age story, but it is an outstanding one and it doesn't matter if you are a Gen X or a baby boomer, this tale will touch you in subtle ways.
Richard is tired of being surrounded by tourists everywhere he goes.Everything is dirty and crowded and sucks and he doesn't want to go home and get a job and be like everyone else.Then Mr. Duck gives him the map and it all changes.
Suddenly there's a beautiful girl in his life, even if she belongs to some else.Her boy friend's okay and besides Richard's new friends see the world pretty much the way he does, they don't want to stop bumming around the world and go home either, but they're tired of the same old third world thing.The three of them band together to find the perfect island on the map, it takes a little doing, but eventually they get there. At first it's all paradise, but just like bumming around the world with a backpack is paradise at first, it gets old fast.
Even in paradise sooner or later it all becomes day to day.Richard is not happy with his life again and for a while it looks like he might end up like Mr. Duck, who doesn't go away just because he's dead and stays with you long after the book is finished.It all gets serious fast and Richard comes to grips with the fact that in real life there are bad people and bad things happen just like in fairy tales, but in real life not everyone gets to live happily ever after, in fact some people don't get to live at all.
Entertaining but unexpectedly gory
I have to give it at least two stars because the story was well crafted, even though the characters were not really developed, as others noted, with the exception of Jed and Keaty. However, the style of writing is convincing - a young traveller's diary, so you can hardly expect great depth. The adventure really starts out as promising, and the "be careful what you wish for" story starts to develop toward the latter part of the book, but excessive gore at the end really destroys it. The author really botched it badly - it would have been more convincing had it been less grossly violent and gory. It had destroyed whatever was built up to that point, the climax overpowered the buildup to such an etxent that it had me toss the book away in exasperation.
The movie was quite a bit better, in my opinion, because there is no way it could reproduce the sort of depravity described in the book, yet it captured the main storyline with a few deviations, rather well. The acting was excellent, and nothing was exaggerated, as I feel was in the book.
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