Being young often means being naive to the ways of the world, feeling almost indestructible with a certainty that offers cautionary tales to others.
British backpackers Will and Jake are young and a bit gullible, out to experience the world as they hike through China. Jake, the more spirited of the two, talks Will into following a tour guide he just met into a forest near the Burmese border. Sure, Howard the guide looks a bit weird, but he promises to take the pair to some "amazing secret places," including a picturesque waterfall and the chance to meet some tribal girls who are uninhibited about casual sex. And Will, a photographer, is guaranteed an array of unusual photos. Raging hormones and the idea of an adventure spurs them on, but the reality is different. Sure, it is a beautiful place; but the girls have been paid to be available. And, no surprise, Howard turns out to be a smuggler and possibly worse.
While it's obvious the trip will go bad, Simon Lewis builds the suspense to take a perceptive look at society's fragile rein on our worst impulses. Unfettered by rules, Will and Jake's behavior begins to slide into betrayal, violence, and, finally, homicide. Border Run cleverly descends into a heart of darkness, chipping away at the duo's conscience and morals until they are faced with losing their souls. Border Run becomes a survivor-of-thefittest tale as each young man turns on the other. The two realize they can be as wild as the jungle or try to find their way back to ciilization and their own humanity.
Lewis' novel Bad Traffic, the story of a morally ambiguous Chinese detective who travels to Scotland to find his missing daughter, was a finalist for the 2008 L.A. Times Book Prize. Border Run should bring Lewis an even wider readership.