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on 1 May 2012
At first I thought I'm not that interested in these people: a couple of lads on a gap year... Oops then I was completely sucked in. Will and Jake take off on a daytrip with the seedy but knowledgeable guide Howard drawn by the promise of an idyllic waterfall and (for Jake at least) sex with Wa village girls. But just as the sweat and insect bites accumulate so does the snowball effect of things going wrong - even unto murder. As you read on you come to realise that this is more than a gap year thriller. The underlying complexities of such travel: exploitation of ethnic people; a cavalier disregard for local customs and a complete absence of any real knowledge of the place you're travelling in, are all shown to great comic effect. But this is a black, anxious-making humour that ultimately comes out of the characters. Thinking about little more than their own lives and the possiblility of enhancing their back-home profiles: Jake's myopic pleasure seeking; Will's self obsessed but ineffectual conscience and Howard's irredeemable lack of a moral core are for once given a certain and satisfying comeuppance. This is a novel that really works on every level. A really good read.
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on 18 September 2013
... will transform itself into a deadly adventure.

"Border Runs" are called the trips ex-pats in Thailand have to make initially every three months to renew their tourist Visas. They have to cross a border and go for a Visa extension in embassies or Visa offices in Laos, Malaysia, Cambodia.
But here the meaning of Border Run has an entirely new signification...

Here we have two backpackers - Jake and Will - on their gap year travel in a small village in Kunming, China, planning to take the bus to Laos or maybe Burma aka Myanmar. But they are also tired of the usual exotic fruit shakes and noodle soups and Mekhong whisky. And so, when an elderly hippie called Howard invites them on an excursion so really exotic that it will be their experience of a lifetime, to tell their grandsons..., they grab it.
Howard promises them a fun day, visiting local Chinese tribal people totally isolated from tourists along the Burmese border and visiting a unique waterfall only the locals know and go to swim. Howard is also insinuating that there will be some biiiig surprise they have never seen or met before. But surely he has an ulterior, very personal motive of his own that he's keeping hidden from both of the boys.
First they have contact with a soldier but being tourists, he lets them pass with Howard's old jeep. When they arrive at the secret place - yes, there are surprises for the boys, but then locals appear who obviously know Howard well. And a secret change of bags takes place...
And what follows then, is a Greece tragedy of faith and betrayal, lies and half-truths, which ends in a manhunt with tribal crossbows only the fittest can survive...

Simon Lewis has written an extremely interesting, captivating book set in one of the most secluded places on our globe. Really worth the read, and not only for friends and lovers of Southeast Asia.
I also fancied t he previous books written by Lewis Go and Bad Traffic very much.
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Jake and Will are a couple of American buds off on a backpacking tour of Southeast Asia. Southwest China first, then Laos and Thailand, then home.

While in China's Yunnan province, soon to cross into Laos, and with Burma "just over there", our two heroes meet up with Howard, a laid-back hippie dude who lives in the area. Howard promises a day's excursion to a waterfall off the beaten track near the border that tourists haven't yet discovered. Who knows, there might even be naked, native girls bathing in the pool under the falls. Local color, right? Yo, dog, we're in!

The sally-forth pretty much meets expectations until Jake accidently nails a rural customs cop with a crossbow. Then the day becomes a major bummer. Totally.

The focus of this unusual thriller by Simon Lewis is Will, a meek and timid type not comfortable with changes in plan or confrontations of any sort. Here in the jungle he finds he must take responsibility and man-up. Indeed, this is perhaps the overriding theme of BORDER RUN and is thus reminiscent of the 1971 film Straw Dogs [1971] [DVD], though the two plots are vastly different and I'm not sure why I'm compelled to make the comparison. Perhaps senility and the fact that I loved the film for the lesson it taught about getting cornered and the loss of "civilized" escape routes.

In any case, BORDER RUN is an imaginative story of a series of events that spiral out of control through faulty perceptions, circumstance, and just plain bad luck. Will, who could likely represent a lot of us, is the lab rat that must react. I liked this book enough that I'll seek out the author's previous novel, Bad Traffic.
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on 23 April 2012
I was recommended this book by a mate who suggested I stashed it in my bag to cover any dull moments on my trip to Austalia this year. I read the whole thing in one great binge beginning with my train ride out of London and finished it as the plane was taking off! I've never read anything so engrossing! It's action packed, transported me right into the middle of a steamy jungle in Burma and had as company some really interesting characters who you can't help caring about. And just when you think things can't get any worse for them. Guess what...?
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