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South by Java Head by Alistair MacLean

South by Java Head (1958)

by Alistair MacLean

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478521,584 (3.55)6
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Showing 4 of 4
One of the last ships out of Singapore is carrying a man with critical intelligence on the Japanese --then the ship is hit. The radioman dies horribly while staying at his post. and I stopped reading, but I hope to finish it some day. ( )
  antiquary | Jun 23, 2014 |
St. Bart's 2014 #9 - This nail-biting adventure from MacLean that is so chock-full of David vs. Goliath encounters between some horribly outgunned sailors and civilians at sea and the evil WWII Japanese fighting force, that it is almost exhausting to read. In fact, that is a possible reason 4 is as high as I was willing or go...it borders on too much. And there is some inherent unbelievability throughout this that also keeps my rating down. But with that all said, I did enjoy the book quite bit.....you can't help but root for the 'Davids,' especially when they have no chance to survive, and then the odds get worse....and I kept asking myself, could I have thought of that??? Anyway, fun stuff and a great read for my final book of my 2014 island vacation. ( )
  jeffome | Jan 28, 2014 |
South by Java Head, a review.

I was woolgathering in my library the other day and my glance fell on an old book, on the shelves for a long time it had been gathering dust and had about it a film of neglect. And such a shame for it to have been so neglected. Written by Alistair MacLean and published in 1958, the story is set in February 1942, in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Singapore. As the British stronghold of Singapore falls to the invading Imperial Japanese Army, a mixed collection of soldiers, nurses, fleeing civilians, a small boy, and at least one spy attempt to escape the burning city aboard the Kerry Dancer, a battered freighter manned by a disreputable captain and crew. The Kerry Dancer is crippled by Japanese aircraft, and the refugees are rescued by the Viroma, a tanker also fleeing Singapore; however, the Viroma is also sunk by the Japanese, and the survivors take to open boats open sea. Led by stalwart First Officer Nicholson, they attempt to flee to safety across the South China Sea, facing death by thirst and exposure, typhoons, and pursuit by the relentless Japanese. As tension amount in the small boat, Nicholson realizes that they are equally at risk from traitors in their midst.

Having spent two years in Indonesia as the Air Attache and being fortunate enough to have been brought to fluency in Bahasa Indonesia courtesy of the US State Department, the novel awakens memories. Taking part in several memorials to Indonesian intellectuals murdered by the Japanese and hearing their stories, made the events in South by Java Head very poignant.

Of course one truism that can be said of Mr. MacLean’s heroes, they are typically a male character who is depicted as physically and morally indestructible. The kind of character all men aspire to. Unlike the “tainted hero” who skirts or outright flaunts a disregard for law and justice to obtain the correct outcome, MacLean’s protagonists adhere to the straight and narrow and overcome what appears to be insurmountable odds. With conversation frequently laced with a dry, sardonic, self-deprecating humour, the hero guides us on to a satisfying end. ( )
1 vote WhitmelB | Jun 18, 2013 |
This is a typical and one of the better MacLean thrillers, laid at the time of the fall of Singapore in February 1942. The people trying to escape to Australia have a horrendous time, and escape death miraculously time after time. It is action packed and some of the events are surprising. I enjoyed the reading. It is the sixth MacLean book I have read, and is a mighty good one. ( )
  Schmerguls | Aug 10, 2007 |
Showing 4 of 4
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» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alistair MacLeanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schøning, Einar Th.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vuoristo, AaroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Choking, dense, impenetrable, the black smoke lay pall-like over the dying city.
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As Singapore falls to the Japanes, a small grop of men and women set sail on desperate journey. One of them carries a cargo without price, the complete plans for the Japanese invasion of Australia. In order to get at there is nothing the Japanese will not do. They will stop at nothing.… (more)

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