Monday, January 10, 2005
3. Bangkok 8 by John Burdett
This book was going around my family last year with much recommendation and my parents ended up giving it to me for xmas. It's a detective story set in Bangkok dealing with the sex industry, heroin and jade. It's a classic policier in structure (and that aspect of it is also fairly well done) but what really sets it apart is the protagonist and his perspective. He's a low-ranking Thai detective, the only honest one in Bangkok, it seems and his approach to the case and the world around him is an appealling mix of buddhist remove and sophisticated modernity. The author is english, I believe, but he's spent a lot of his life in the east. I don't know if it's accurate or not, but he's created a mind set that really makes western notions of capitalism, hard work and morality seem ridiculous. At the same time, he is subtly arguing for an Asian future for the world and the way he portrays this is convincing and interesting. There are even some precursors to cyberpunk ideas in the plot here. He also gives such a rich portrayal of the Bangkok sex industry that I feel I don't really need to go see it for myself anymore. It's a lot of fun, with rich characters and great language. I recommend it.