Like Fight Club or The Stepford Wives, THE BEACH is yet another book that has been eclipsed by the movie it inspired--the sort of book that, when you tell people what you're reading, tends to elicit the response, "You mean, like the movie?" Yes, this is THE BEACH, like the movie, but judging from the trailer alone, I'd be willing to say "like the movie, but better" (I can already tell what facets of the plot they blasphemously altered).
And no, I haven't seen the movie. After reading the book, I'm pretty sure I don't want to see the movie, as the book was disturbing enough--brilliant, but disturbing. THE BEACH is the first book I've read in a long time, probably since House of Leaves, that has kept me up at night, thoroughly creeped out (but only at the very end--it's the last ten pages that does it). It is also the first book in a little while to completely suck me in. I read the first half in a single sitting (alright, it was on a airplane, so it's not like I had choices, but still), and after that I was stuck sneaking peeks between family reunion activities, trying to inch my way forward, one page at a time.
I loved Garland's The Coma, but I'd be willing to pronounce THE BEACH an even better novel--slightly less advanced (which is to say, Garland seems to have grown as a writer between THE BEACH and The Coma, and that's obviously not a criticism), but a more engrossing read, with a more noticable point. An excellent book for a long flight.