But in the end, “the trail” catches up to these benign first-wave travelers. A piss-and-vinegar-filled Australian arrives ready to import the party scene from Thailand and Laos. Hippies and a new age cult come in tow, upsetting the delicate local balance.
Taylor doesn’t let us forget that China, after all, is not Thailand. One techno rave at a time, a conflict builds between the young Turks of the party crowd and the conservative local community, before finally exploding in a nervous showdown of violence. In the process, Matt and the other long-termers are caught between their shallow-rooted desires to remain, involuntary instincts to shield fellow Westerners, and the moral abyss of giving in to
By the time things come to a head, it is too late for any easy outcome or good decisions. Though not overly dark, Harvest Season is a cynical novel, with the barbs directed at both travelers and travel writing alike. You can get a dose of the flavor from one character’s swipe at the Peter Mayle memoir A Year in Provence. He pronounces that in “A Year in Shuangshan,” you “get wasted, end up with the wrong woman, watch paradise go to the dogs — that’s life, that’s the real world.” It’s a bleak fate for a die-hard traveler, and a warning of what might happen if the permanent vacation truly fails to end.