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Popular Penguin One: Alex Garland’s The Beach

Years ago I read Jack Kerouac’s On The Road right before I read The Beach (coincidentally they are both in the Popular Penguin’s first fifty forty-nine) and there are two immediate observations I can make.
The first is that The Beach is the Yang to On The Road’s Yin. While in Kerouac’s America just jumping on a train to the next town is transporting yourself into a new society, The Beach is fifty years later and the opposite: no matter where you go in the world, everything is exactly the same. Any uniqueness in the world is quickly destroyed by a Lonely Planet Guide and locals rapidly become what they think tourists want.
The second is that Jack Kerouac’s book is often described as stream-of-consciousness (even by Penguin’s own site) which really means complete dribbling shite (but I’m looking forward to reading it again when it’s turn comes around again – it is Popular Penguins Thirty-Three), while The Beach is a rip-roaring great read.
The book is entertaining from start to finish. Builds to a great conclusion, lots of humour, lots of surprises and a hot French chick. What more could you want?

Buy it for tenner. Read it. Five stars.

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