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.
“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 foll