Review from Los Angeles Times Book Review, 02/02/1997:’ [A]resting though no masterpiece… Garland’s message is complex and acute. The self-indulgence of a generation of young Westerners — seeking isolated and well-funded paradises and ignoring the miseries and needs around them — can itself breed monsters. There is more than one kind of Vietnam… The reader’s suspense in this intelligently conceived and often effective novel, may consist more in wondering what the author will do than in what his characters will do.’ — Richard Eder Review from Times Literary Supplement, 10/18/96:’ This exceptional first novel by… Alex Garland creates a picture of an ideal society gone awry through the heady conjunction of a secret beach on an island in southeast Asia and a cultural breadth of reference determined by pop songs, the Vietnam War, and Nintendo Game boys.’ — Giles FodenFirst Line: Vietnam, me love you long time.
All day, all night, me love you long time.’ Delta One-Niner, this is Alpha patrol. We are on the northeast face of hill Seven-Zero-Five and taking fire. Immediate air assistance required… .’ Publishers note 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, bequeath 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 rumoured, 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 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 is a look at a generation in their twenties, who, burdened with the legacy of the preceding generation and saturated by popular culture, long for an un ruined landscape, but find it difficult to experience the world firsthand.