RogerBW's Blog

The Hostile Shore, Douglas Reeman 08 June 2014

Twenty years after the Second World War, a crippled veteran travels to the Pacific to try to find out what happened to his family during the evacuation of Singapore.

Unlike some of Reeman's earlier books, this one is mostly about the characters. There are five principals: Blair, the veteran; Myers, the diver he's brought with him; Gillian Bligh, the American reporter sent to cover the search; Fraser, the captain of the small boat to be used for the last stage of the journey; and Tarrou, his half-caste mate. They're all broken in one way or another, absorbed in their own particular problems; one doesn't want them to die in a storm or be killed by cannibal islanders, but…

Blair throws his weight around and always reckons he knows what's best, while quietly despising himself and his wife (back in England). Myers shirks and drinks. Bligh has a do-gooder's attitude to the natives, and doesn't notice the lust she inspires in every man who sees her. Fraser cares only about his boat and getting paid. Tarrou is obsessed with proving himself "European" rather than black. Sadly, none of these is really somebody I want to spend a couple of hundred pages reading about.

In a way this book feels as though it's commenting on traditional adventure stories full of danger and derring-do. It blends the physical hazards one would find in them with the damaged people and gloomy psychological realism that one sometimes met in the 1970s. Unsurprisingly, the people don't come off very well.

This is even grimmer than Dive in the Sun. It's interesting, but I don't think I can really recommend it, unless you're already in a pretty dark mood.

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