Monday, November 18, 2019

"South by Java Head" by Alistair MacLean

While this won't ever be a favorite MacLean book for me, it was definitely a thrilling ride!  It's got spies (more than you realize), daring rescues, extreme escapes, a cute little kid, several nurses, some treachery, several heroes, and various exotic locations.  Also, terrible storms at sea.  Also, submarines.  Also, various explosions.

Basically, the Japanese are overrunning Singapore during WWII, and a bunch of British soldiers (many of them wounded) need to quick get out of there before they get captured and tortured and killed.  Also, there's a spy who has Very Important Information he needs to get to the Allies.  Also, there are nurses and an orphaned little boy.  They leave, they have many brushes with the enemy, people get captured, people escape, and then the whole thing ends VERY abruptly, with basically no denouement at all.

As always, the make-or-break thing for me with this book is the characters.  While I got fond of several, I never really wanted to be friends with any of them, which is why it's not going on my list of favorite Alistair MacLean books.  But it was still worth reading, and I had fun with it.

Particularly Good Bits:

The wind had dropped away now, the rain fined to a gentle drizzle and a brooding hush lay over the darkened city as it faded swiftly into the gloom of the night (p. 34).

Beyond anger lies fury, the heedless, ungovernable rage of the berserker, and beyond that again, a long, long step beyond the boundary of madness, lies the region of cold and utterly uncaring indifference (p. 266).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for wartime violence, some bad language, hints at what might happen to the nurses if their enemies captured them, and a few discussions of torture (but none depicted).

This is my thirteenth book read and reviewed for the 2019 Mount TBR Reading Challenge!


  1. Love this.This sounds interesting..Thanks for sharing!

  2. My children love his books around the age of about 14 yrs. We’ve also used his non-fiction book ‘Captain Cook’ for Australian History in Year 9.

    1. Carol, that's cool that your kids like his books! My bff read them all the time when she was a teen. I didn't get into them until I was an adult, when she introduced me to his books.


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