Author: Richard Arthur
I of the Sun is completely different from anything I have ever read before. It’s a life story but it constantly dips into the psychological and philosophical. It’s travel writing but not in the traditional sense.
I of the Sun follows the journey of Richard Arthur as a 22 year old following his dream and travelling around South East Asia. We follow Arthur through every high and low of his trip every perfect whim and every bad mistake. As you start the story as the reader you want to urge Richard forward to go to more interesting and exotic places and tell you about more beautiful sunsets that he encounters. But as Arthur seems to keep going in circles back to places he has visited before you begin to realise that that is not what the book is all about. It’s not a travel brochure of where to go and where not to go it’s an honest account of one man’s adventures and that’s what makes it such an interesting read.
Arthur starts his journey in the big lights of Kuala Lumpar travelling across his beloved Thailand as well as Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. As a part of the world with mixed fortunes it was interesting to see Arthur’s perspective on how everything different from place to place; from the relative wealth of Thailand to the poverty witnessed in Laos. With Arthur it’s not just the sights, it’s the sounds, it’s the smells, and it’s the adrenaline pumping through him. In short it’s every emotion a backpacker could feel travelling halfway across the world with no return ticket home.
Arthur is very blunt about his exploits, he doesn’t make it an exotic fairy-tale he acknowledges in the book the sense of guilt he feels travelling round places like Vietnam whilst seeing the damage the war caused to the landscape. He gets into extremely dangerous and scary circumstances; a real eye-opener for anyone planning a similar trip. And yet at the same time he makes the whole experience attractive to the reader. He talks of the simple pleasures and beauties that we perhaps take for granted in life whether he is watching the sun set of bathing in clear, blue seas.
You get the sense reading the book that Arthur grows as a person during the book. Yes there are moments of alcohol or drug fuelled revelries that go awfully wrong but he comes out the other side stronger and more determined not to make the same mistakes again.
The story of his adventures is interspersed with scientific and theological debates. It makes for confusing reading at the start of the novel but the further you get in the more it starts to make sense. Arthur is helping us to redefine our ideas particularly on life and living and although it take a long time for the reader to understand this by the time you reach the end it becomes clear that Arthur himself has had some similar epiphany.
The end of the book is left temptingly open with the promise for a new adventure in Beijing whilst making us aware of the fates of the friends he made on the trip. Arthur ends in the philosophical mode that has come to define half of the book by asking us the reader “What are you doing now?” A simple but interesting question provoking thoughts of am I making the most of my life? In this reader. All in all I of the Sun was a thought provoking and moving work brilliantly mixing adventure and travel writing with philosophy.