I have no idea why it has taken me this long to read Alex Garland’s novels. Everything he’s done with Danny Boyle that I’ve seen I’ve loved. Couple this with the fact that it seems like every time someone finds out I’m an Irvine Welsh fan they rave and recommend Garland to me and it’s just boggles my my that somehow I just didn’t listen. Until now…
First I read Coma after finding it for $2 at a used shop on a whim. Coma is a short book, written almost more like a grown up’s storybook, complete with illustrations by Alex’s brother Nicholas who is (or at least was when the book was published in 2004) the political cartoonist for the London Daily Telegraph. Coma is an odd little book that revolves around a man who is beaten by thugs on the Underground and left for dead. When he awakens in a hospital what follows is a Jungian fugue state riddle that, while not action packed or Slam/Bam/Wham at all, will keep you flipping the pages with the kind of curiosity one often feels for the films of David Lynch – you’re dying to find out what’s real and what’s not and just what exactly the hell is actually going on here!
Next it was The Beach. Luckily despite my Danny Boyle love I’d never seen the flick. Still haven’t. I absolutely loved the novel – it was not what I was expecting at all, and now I’m kinda scared to rent the movie. Most of you probably know the plot but if you’ve been in the dark like me let me briefly summarize – Western travelers find an unmapped island off the coast of Thailand that is a veritable paradise unmarred by tourists or society as we know it in the City/State realms. Upon the island they find a commune of young people living a simple and fulfilling life off the land. This includes smoking a shit load of pot all the time because my friends, the other half of that island is a massive pot plantation, complete with AK47-toting Thai guards. Now, for some reason I’d had it in my head the main conflict of the book revolved around the Travelers colony on the island being at odds with said Thai thugs but that is not it at all. What Garland gives us with The Beach is alot of insight into the social structures of societies, big and small, and how people deal with these structures within themselves. There is a conflict similar to what I mentioned at one point, but most of the book is location and character developement, specifically the Narrator Richard’s mind – the routines he conjures when taken out of the modern world and transported to a veritable Eden. Truly an East meets West kind of thing, complete with the pop culture tranplant associations that keep him wired into the world he’s left behind, from his assimilation of Vietnam movie references into live action video game type time-passers to an lowly gameboy that keeps him and one of his friends company, and I think, linked to the mtv/technology upbringing they’ve had even while they leave it behind for what they feel they truly want.
Be careful what you wish for, right?
Soooo, now I have to find his third novel, The Tesseract which appears to be out of print. Shouldn’t be difficult, in fact I just found one on Amazon while writing this. And to juxtapose a great modern writer I’ve just discovered with what the publishing industry thrives on, here’s a link to what currently occupies Amazon’s home page:
24 hour guard? Chain Link enclosure? To quote Daffy Duck, Oh Brother!
I’m sorry, but Dan Brown is a fucking hack. To loosely quote Lois Griffin, “… and the chapters make you feel so smart, they’re only a page or two long.’ Happy reading to all fans of the thriller albtross, you deserve what you get. I’ll be in the corner with my Alex Garland.