Clashing Perspectives – The Beach by Alex Garland

Why paradise is impossible to maintain.

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You ever look back at something you read 15 or 20 years ago and have that “A-Ha” moment.

Not the ridiculously good band from the eighties A-Ha (see above), but the mind-altering epiphanic moment when you realize that a plot point that was salient to the whole freaking novel zoomed right the hell over your head. Yup, I had one of those.

I read this book when I was right out of high school and entirely in love with the idea of a wild wonderland. A paradise filled with gorgeous people and no responsibility. I wanted to see, do, and experience that life. I still do now. However, those ideas are now tempered with age, trust,  and hopefully, some integrity.  I think in the end, the soundtrack sealed it for me. Does anyone still like the group VAST? They are one of my favorites still to this day because of that movie. From that moment on I set out to read the book “It will change my life,” I thought. Maybe I could eternalize a little of this wild abandon that I so desperately yearned for.

The problem was that when I read the novel, I was left unsettled and feeling dirty. It felt like someone had taken my brain and used it to scour pans for an afternoon. The book was like a beautiful Honey Crisp apple sitting on a shelf, but when you cut into it,

“Trust me, it’s paradise. This is where the hungry come to feed. For mine is the generation that travels the globe and searches for something we haven’t tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite & never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience— And if it hurts, you know what? It’s probably worth it.”
― Alex Garland, The Beach

the apple had a rotten core filled with maggots. It had not lived up to my fantasies. I felt cheated and weak.  What was actually weak, was my perspective and understanding of life beyond my hometown at the time.  “The Beach” has nothing to do with paradise, but the outlook on what actually constitutes a paradise, the darkness in people, and the lengths of which one would go to protect it.  It is a smart book, and subtle in its narration.  Its overall gravitas was not something I could appreciate at the time, but it is something that I can look back on now and understand.

After discovering a seemingly Edenic paradise on an island in a Thai national park, Richard soon finds that since civilized behavior tends to dissolve without external restraints, the utopia is hard to maintain.

Plot summary – goodreads.com

One of the key things that garland does it keep the undercurrents flowing within the language of the everyday life of the travelers. He describes the day to day tasks that they need to accomplish; Fishing, farming, and partying. While subtly hinting at the darker parts of the characters psyches. Reminds me of a much less ham-fisted and more eloquent “lord of the Flies,” but for a much older audience.  In the end, the characters are scarred both mentally and physically.

“The first I heard of the beach was in Bangkok, on the Ko Sanh Road.” ― Alex Garland, The Beach

If you are looking for a book that tears you up inside a bit, look no further. It is worth the second read, especially if you have some life experiences behind you.

Netflix’s Altered Carbon – Dark, Complicated and Beautifully Crafted

Netflix has crafted a dark and enthralling tale of noir that combines science fiction and cyberpunk with a straightforward detective story. It is visually stunning and does great justice to the sourcebook. Better yet, the plot additions to the original story that make it fit for TV add to the richness of the story. I know many people won’t agree with me on this, but I like how the humanized Tak. They gave him a slightly bigger heart.  They also expounded on the cyberpunk themes; what it means to be human and how one holds on to their humanity when facing forever. Humanity basically becomes an ouroboros and is not so subtly hinted through the story.

 

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Image courtesy of Netflix.

 

The Netflix version added a more substance to some of the supporting characters that fleshed them out. Especially the role of Poe who plays a Hotel and was the most intriguing character on the show. In the source material, the AI is played by Jimi Hendrix, but Poe is a much more fitting nod to the stories’ noir influences.  Instead of just going with a creepy over enthusiastic AI, they gave him a soul and a shotgun. It is ironic because Poe is both the least human and most human character on the show.

 

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Image courtesy of Netflix.

 

 

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Side by Side comparison.

I can’t say much more about the story because it is a “who done it,” and I don’t want to give it away. However, if you are a fan of cyberpunk, binge watch it. It is well worth the time.

 

 

 

 

Review of Gravel, Volume 1: Bloody Liars (Gravel, #7)

I have read a lot of Ellis over the years. A whole lot. The guy is prolific as hell and he has his fingers in a whole lot of pies. For me next to Neil Gaiman, 6498172he is my favorite graphic novelist and Transmetropolitan is absolute genius. Transmetropolitan is a Hunter S. Thompson fever dream.
This makes me very sad to say but this was just eh for me.  Ellis’s writing is always good, and graphically this is well done. Which is loads ahead of most writers, but the story was flat. I felt absolutely nothing for the protagonist. It was as if GI Joe became a magician and killed lots of people in creative ways. Even if Gravel is a badass, as a person or human or whatever he is, he will have downtime moments. He will have moments of humanity. If he sees a kitten the appropriate response to the said kitten is not to shoot it. This is kinda the vibe I got from the story. I wanted to like gravel but he lacked the hook that made me empathize or understand him at all. Plus, combat magician is kind of a thing in urban fantasy right now and sorry to say they did it better. Gravel reminds me of Dresden and John Constantine but without Dresden’s heart or Constantine’s swagger.
It’s still a decent read. I don’t think Ellis can put out anything terrible. He is like pizza, even when it’s sorta bad it’s still damn good. I just don’t think it’s one of his best. I’ll continue with the series if I come across them in the library but I think that is as far as it goes for me. Excuse me while I go hug my Dresden novels.