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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 19 December 2011
Not particularly well-written, quite disjointed,and with so many 'adventures' attributed to the writer I was left with a yawning credibility-gap. Nevertheless, if you want an undemanding tale of the rather embellished experiences of someone travelling in the Far East etc., I guess it just about does the job. I managed to finish it, anyway, but its no 'The Beach'...
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on 8 February 2012
I did read half of this in the mistaken belief that it was fiction... and thought it was mighty boring and that the novelist had created three singularly dull and unattractive protagonists in his rudderless, pointless young men. Now I realise it's non-fiction (I'm heading towards the end) I'm finding it marginally more interesting but it's hard to care about any of the men who are uniformly free-loading, lazy, and appear to have no desires beyond the next shag or booze/pill binge.

And I'd warn any female reader that you'll feel like slapping the lot of them. If they were even worth that much of your attention: They uniformly treat women like objects - more or less disposable, more or less interchangeable. I'm currently at a rather sickening bit where they gad about a brothel of underage hookers. Oh yes, as you do... that's FUN right?

Suspect this is a boys' novel (and I do use the word boy, not man, deliberately). But personally boys, I'd advise you not to waste your money: This is overlong, badly written, populated by paper-thin characters and expounds frankly rather objectionable views on local people and women.

(ps You may ask why I kept reading - well I didn't really - I had it on audiobook and was on a very long car journey... even then I thought silence might be less dull than keeping on listening!)
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on 17 September 2003
The Backpacker is an interesting read, and the twisting tale takes you through some of the most interesting places and situations. Visiting India, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Australia amongst others, the descriptions of these beautiful countries are enough to get you jumping onto the soonest plane.
However, this book is simply written - the plot is linear and the language basic (and crude) and many of the events leave you somewhat pondering over its distance from the actual events Harris experienced.
A good book for a rainy day, or when your under the weather.
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on 30 December 2004
Having lived in Asia during roughly the same period of time as the story was set,I was gripped by this book. Read it in a day and a half. Whilst I feel that there may be a certain amount of 'embellishment' within the book. I don't think that it actually detracts fom the entertainment it provides. The author has the ability to take you to the scene of the action and actually experience the miasma of emotions that Asia subjects you to. However, It did leave me hankering for an epilogue though. John if you're out there, give us an update !!!
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on 29 February 2016
I thought it was ok actually. I'm an ex-backpacker so I bought it as a holiday read and it was quite good, brought back some good memories and suspect the era this book is based on isn't long after when I was in this area. To criticise this book for potentially embellished is a bit harsh, if you had doubts about this then you shouldn't have bought it, I doubt some of it is true either, but you have to let yourself go and go with it. I thought there were a couple of holes in it, like someone else pointed out, that if one of the friends had died you'd have made a lot more attempt, or at least documented that, you tried to get help and search after him instead of just getting a job on a farm straight away. Maybe John should re-write this bit. Apart from that I thought it was quite good. I'm a travel snob so I thought the route was a bit predictable and uninteresting but the story itself is quite exciting, even if it does seem to burn out the last few chapters. Would have been good with an update right at the end maybe as to what the two remaining friends are doing these days, as I presume this happened at least 15 years ago. I see some reviewers were giving John a hard time for some of his behaviour as a backpacker, but I think if you buy a book called The Backpacker you have to accept there could be some bad behaviour going to happen. It's like buying a book called The Student then being shocked when someone got drunk! Bottom line, regardless of whether its all true or not, as a holiday read it's a pretty good little tale, especially if you are or were a backpacker yourself.
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on 20 March 2011
Thinking back to when I first read The Beach and how much I enjoyed it, and having traveled to most places covered in the Backpacker, I looked forward to reading this book. However, overall the Backpacker disappoints. While the tale itself is an exiting story, it is badly written and skims over detail just when you want to know more, while the main character is very unlikable. He comes across as selfish, judgmental and dismissive of many of places he travels too. Given that the book is apparently auto-biographic (at least to some extent), I imagine these undesirable attitudes are reflective of the author.

The quotes on the front and back cover ('Fresh Direction' and 'M2 Best Books') should be a warning that this book is lacking in acclaim from respected critics. The fact is that John Harris is no Alex Garland and the Backpacker is no where near the same class as The Beach. If all - or even most - of what happens in the book is true, then it is certainly a fascinating tale, however the quality of writing and many flaws can't be ignored.
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on 23 February 2012
I have read many travel books but this has to be the most truly unbelievable and made up story I have ever wasted my time (and money) reading. The author is either very selfish or he is a bad story teller ie the way he treats his girlfriend and many other cases but the most serious being not mentioning he did not notify the emergency services about his friend missing at sea after he foung help.

This book is a complete waste of time
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I picked up 'The Backpacker' in the airport on my way to Spain and started reading it on the plane. I was instantly hooked! And why did I go to Spain and not Thailand? John Harris has had some amazing experiences, and basically defeats death on more than one occasion (in India, in Thailand, in Australia). He attracts incident and women like a magnet. It reads more like a novel than travel writing, which is brilliant because it hooks you right from the start. If you like exotic locations, James Bond-style escapades, sex, sun...this is a book for you. It will give you itchy feet though.
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on 17 August 2003
In a compelling and disturbing scene in the first chapter, while being mugged in a men's room in a Goa bus station, the narrator steps in a squishy pile of human excrement. Good writing and you wanted to go wash your feet right away. Problem is, the narrator then immediately goes out to lunch at an upscale restaurant with his girlfriend and neither she nor anybody else comments on the smell, which, in the intense Indian heat, had to have been horrible. Problem: the writer goofed on the continuity. He just forgot he had excrement on his feet. Later, the narrator opens his eyes underwater, in the Indian Ocean, while inspecting the hull of a boat, and reports in detail on what he sees. Problem: you can't see details when you open your eyes in a clear swimming pool, let alone salt water. As a result of instances like these the entire supposedly true adventure falls suspect, and when you are reading a travel narrative, what good is it if it didn't happen? My theory: the guy wrote a novel basely loosely on his travel experiences that wasn't good enough to sell -- too many coincidences and conveniences, a lot of description and no real character develpment -- so he pawned it off as a memoir. Nice try. To be fair, some of the place descriptions were as vivid as the best travel writing.
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on 19 August 2003
Having just finished reading the book, I'm amazed at the number positive reviews on this site. Make no mistake - this is a very average/poor book. Whilst the book may very loosely be based on the author's travels, I don't for one moment believe that a massive amount of fictional adaptation hasn't gone on. Quite frankly, the plot at times is absolute folly (and I was quite insulted by the stupidity of it all). The thought that some of the other reviewers believed the story actually happenned is unbelievable. Read the book and you'll see this for yourself.
I really wanted to enjoy The Backpacker and am a massive fan of travel fiction, but in the end the book was a massive let down.
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