Review: Journey to Rai-Lay by Michael Joseph

Journey to Rai-Lay is the sequel to Journey to Angkor. It follows Henry, whose brief affair with Piero causes the Sicilian to be sent off on his journey to Angkor. Separated from the man he thought he might love, blaming himself for it, and still under the thumb of his uncle, Henry spirals into a deep depression, seeking sex in the underbelly of London’s docks, where more often than not he’s beaten and abused. But it’s while nursing a beer in a seedy docklands pub that Henry meets James Brooke.

Henry’s chance meeting with Brooke launches him on a journey of discovery. A journey that has him learning the ropes as a sailor, and learning more about himself and what he really needs. Sometimes we find what we need in the most unlikely places.

ebook only–122 pages

Review by Erastes

This is a sequel of sorts to Journey to Ankhor which I reviewed last year. I say of sorts because it follows Henry’s story who Piero left behind in England, and doesn’t feature Piero in person at all. For those who have been, or who would like to go to Singapore and Rangoon and other places in the area, it’s written by a man who has been based in Bangkok for 20 years and his experience helps. He writes well and descriptively and it’s clear he’s been to many of these places. He works as a travel writer and it shows.

But while the scenery is hotly pretty and the sex pretty hot, I had two problems with this book, one of which is probably more subjective than the other. Firstly, it’s again (I had the same problem with the first book, if I remember)  more of a travelogue than a novel, and doesn’t go into nearly enough detail to be a proper travelogue, so it falls between two stools and doesn’t really succeed in either genre. Basically nothing much happens. The only conflict–other than Henry “running away” from his not-actually-very-wicked-at-all-Uncle in the first place–is when he’s swept overboard when pirates attack the ship he’s on. As with so many other characters in books, he’s taken on the ship in the first place knowing nothing, learns how to do everything with no real problems at all, and makes friends wherever he goes.

After he’s swept overboard he floats around for two days before being washed up on a beach and amazingly the village he’s rescued by is manned (scuse the pun) by men who prefer men, and these men all welcome him with open arms. It really stretches the bounds of imagination here. To be washed up exactly there has the same coincidence factor as Doctor Doolittle sticking a pin in an entire atlas in order to find the Giant Pink Sea Snail. If Henry had, perhaps, heard of this village, if it had been a dangerous journey or trek to find it, and he’d arrived half dead but having achieved this aim, it would have been 1. more believable and 2. more of a story.

As it is, there’s a lot of making love, picking fruit, making love, picking fruit and then two journeys to visit the parents of each protagonist where some stuff is eaten and no-one cares that they are shagging like rabbits in a wooden bed on wooden floorboards, not even the Victorian parents of Henry. Nothing dreadful happens and they return to their fruit picking to live endless and dreary lives full of amazing sex. A couple of things struck me as the weeks went on in the book were:

1. Why he took so long to start learning the language – long after he’d started a relationship with one of the natives and

2. why it took him so long (people arrived on the island to “rescue him” before he really thought it necessary) to think about other people and how worried and sad his parents and friends would be having thought he had perished at sea. It was hugely selfish of him.

It’s not a bad book, and it absorbed me enough to keep me reading but if I hadn’t been reading for a review I would have given up because the second major problem I had with this book was the editing. I can excuse a few typos scattered here and there but there are just so many here that it seems that it wasn’t even run through Word, or had even the most cursory “here, mate, have a look through this and point out the typos” wasn’t done, let alone any kind of professional editing. There are just too many errors to be excused. I don’t think the word “led” was ever used when “lead” could be put in there instead. So many words missing, so many letters missing “The could see the gathering dark clouds ahead of them.” is just one example. So many misspellings, it was simply inexcusable. I can understand that professional editing for self published authors can be out of the price range, but there are many people on the internet who would be happy to enter into a quid-pro-quo arrangement editing books. Even a grammar check on Word would have found many of these mistakes.

It’s a shame because Joseph lets himself down in this respect and readers are unlikely to have the patience I had. I found that instead of letting myself read and enjoy the story–even though it was slightly uneventful it did show that Joseph’s credentials as a travel writer were solid–I found myself tensed up waiting for the next mistake, which did, I’m afraid, happen on just about every Kindle page.

The historical time line has been altered, but Joseph mentions this, which is helpful, and I wish more authors did the same.

I do recommend the book for people interested in the area, or who enjoy a nice uneventful story with plenty of perfect sex, but a story to fire my interest has actually to have a story not just a documentary style of discovering new people and nothing happening. If you do try it, I’d advise you to wait until the author issues a new edition because I am sure any reader will find the legion of errors very distracting and perhaps off-putting. Edited to perfection this would get a 3½, but in the state it’s in now, I can’t give it more than 2½ which is a shame.

Author’s Website

Buy at  Amazon UK | Amazon USA | Gumroad ePub MOBI PDF

Review: Journey to Angkor by Michael Joseph

Piero leaves his home in Taormina to go to work for a renowned naturalist in England. Unfortunately, he hadn’t reckoned on falling for the Professor’s handsome young nephew, but it seems they have only just begun to explore their mutual attraction when the Professor discovers their relationship. To avoid scandal, he sends Piero away on a mission to Indochina, to explore the region and document the things he finds there. It’s truly a chance of a lifetime for Piero, even though he doesn’t want to leave his new friend.

On the voyage to Singapore, Piero meets a mysterious Siamese gentleman who, when they meet again in Bangkok, arranges for the Italian to meet Plai, a young Siamese man who will become Piero’s guide, interpreter, and more. As the two young men explore Siam and Cambodia, they encounter stinky fruits, stingy kings, lascivious princes, and the wonders of Angkor, an ancient city unknown to Europeans of the time.

Review by Erastes

Having just read one man on erotic foreign travels, I was hoping that Journey to Angkor would be out of the same stable, but I was a little disappointed.

The copy I had originally had a real problem with punctuation and homonyms, discrete, complement, that kind of thing – but when I mentioned this to the author (always awkward when you are in communication with authors, but in this genre, it’s difficult not to be) he edited the file again and put up a fresh copy which has ironed out many of these issues. 

Putting that aside, for those who don’t care and won’t notice the grammatical problems, the fact of the matter is that nothing much actually happens. Granted, Piero travels all over the place, “taking samples”—but there’s no conflict, other than at the beginning when he’s forced away from Henry, a young man he slept with once (and is in love with—he’s one of these guys who mistakes sex for love, all the time.). There’s a small wobble towards the end when the ship ALMOST hits a rock and some bloke we never met falls overboard, but other than that, everything is just lovely. The natives are lovely, the governors are lovely, the sailors are lovely, and Piero and his fuckbuddy Plai swan around having rampant noisy sex everywhere and no one bats an eyelid. Even in a boarding house where the clientele is both male and female – no one hears or sees anything and no one suspects.

I admit I was hoping that they would run out of food, or be abandoned by their guides, or get malaria, or have an elephant tread on them, but no!

I couldn’t really work out WHY Piero had been chosen to go to Siam. The author says in his afternote that the journey closely follows a French explorer, Henry Mouhot—but Piero seems an odd choice. If it had been a case of Henry’s father wanting him out of the way, then I could understand it, but for some reason, The Royal Society thought he was the best man for the job. He’s not an explorer. He’s not a botantist, or a biologist—he’s an artist—and his brief is to collect samples of flora and fauna he’s never seen before. And seeing he came from Sicily, that would be just about anything.

This aspect of the book is very much sketched over, too. I would have been rather interested in what he found and the descriptions he uses to catalogue them, but other than some butterflies that he gets the children to catch in one village, we are just told they are “samples”, and nothing more. It could have been a plant collection book along the lines of Philipa Gregory’s Earthly Joys, but it isn’t, and this gives us no insight into the work of plant collectors. How the samples were to be preserved and packed would have been interesting to know. Instead of which we just get a travelogue where nothig much happens.

I’m afraid to say that a period in a much unexplored area of the planet – which should have enthralled me – didn’t do that for me, and that was the major disappointment.

The writing isn’t bad, and with professional editing, it could be much improved, along with the bland-nothing much happen-ness. But, for all that, it’s little more than a travelogue with many sex scenes, and–as in The White Rajah reviewed a little while back–I got similarly annoyed with the fact that Piero, who had not been anywhere other than Europe took everything in his stride. Whether it was talking to local people, experiencing the different foods and geography of the areas, or being taken in as guest by dignitaries, he didn’t seem very impressed. I’m a mid 20th century baby, and I travelled in these areas in the 80’s and I went around with my jaw on the floor most of the time.

The author has plans to continue the story of Piero and Plai, but will be following the story of the lost lover, Henry, first.

If you are really interested in this area of the world, it is probably worth a read.

Buy at Smashwords

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