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Highways to a War (Beware of the Past #1)

4.24  ·  Rating Details ·  374 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
"Pick any highway, I was told: all of them go to the war. I thought it was a joke, at first."
Ray Barton travels to war-ravaged Southeast Asia to search for his missing friend Michael Langford, a brilliant, risk-taking combat photographer who has stolen into Khmer Rouge Cambodia on a mysterious mission and disappeared. The search illuminates Langford's heroism, his fierce
...more
ebook, 496 pages
Published June 1st 1996 by Penguin Books (first published 1995)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Christopher Lane
With the last leg of our travels taking us through the Indonchinese countries, I spied this book in Kuta and snatched it off the shelf. The story as summarised on the back of the cover told of Mike Langford a photo journalist who became lost in 1970s Khmer Rouge occupied Cambodia, probably dead, and it was left to his friend Ray to find out and if appropriate execute Mike's will and distribute his belongings. In the course of searching for Mike the reader finds thought Mike's own audio diaries a ...more
Adam Piore
Sep 19, 2007 Adam Piore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes books about Cambodia or the Vietnam war
Extremely well written book that comes closest to evoking the sensuous magic of Southeast Asia as any book I have read in recent months. It also captures the lure of danger and promise of adventure that drew war correspondents to the area throughout the Vietnam War.

The author is Christopher j. Koch, the guy who wrote 'The Year of Living Dangerously," which became a movie with Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver about reporting in Indonesia.

Highways to a War centers on a swashbuckling Australian War
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Alex
Aug 10, 2015 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This an excellent novel by a venerable Australian author, Christopher Koch, probably best known for his novel set in Jakarta in 1965, The Year of Living Dangerously, filmed by Peter Weir and starring Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver. In Highways to a War, Koch returns to South East Asia, and the great conflagration which engulfed Indochina between 1965-1975. The hero of the story is Mike Langford, a Tasmanian (like the author himself) who travels to South East Asia in 1965 to make his name as a n ...more
David
Mar 05, 2014 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian
This is the third of (the late) Christopher Koch's novels I've now read, and he is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. 'Highways to a War' covers similar ground to 'The Year of Living Dangerously', both being fictional examinations of recent political situations in South East Asia, seen through the eyes of foreign correspondents and photographers, but for me this was even better than the earlier book. A superb examination of what leads a person or a country to war, of what makes someone w ...more
Dick Gullickson
Aug 26, 2012 Dick Gullickson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the one of the best novels based on the Vietnam War and the war in Cambodia that I have read. It’s written as an account of the life of a fictional war photojournalist, Mike Langford, an Aussie hops (yes, the grain used to brew beer) farm boy, who disappears inside Cambodia. It provides a fascinating account of political issues, the life of a war correspondence, the hazards of covering military conflicts from the front lines. I especially appreciate the respectful and loving treatment of ...more
Lynette
Aug 31, 2012 Lynette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
His descriptions of Tasmania are sublime, his portrait of his main character and the events are riveting. I immediately borrowed the biography of Neil Davies, on whom his main character is based - One Crowded Hour by Tim Bowden which is also amazing.
Velvetink
Forgotten I had read this one. Excellent. Mine has a different cover. It was this book that led me to Koch's writing. His epic "Out of Ireland" is terrific = highly recommended.
Allie
May 03, 2008 Allie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book that leaves me shaking and crying is rare.
David Winger
Sep 27, 2012 David Winger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Possibly an ever better book than the more famous 'Year of Living Dangerously'. Criminally underrated.
Bronwen Heathfield
I found this book exciting and beautiful. The depiction of South East Asia in the 60s and 70s was fascinating. Recent history that you think you are familiar with but still much to learn. Well written characters, lots of tension and evocative descriptions of colonial cities and asian countryside. A war novel but much more than that. If you have ever been to Vietnam or Cambodia or met someone from either country you should read it.
Jen Crichton
Feb 24, 2017 Jen Crichton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary, travel
I read this book whilst travelling in Vietnam and absolutely loved it. It is the fictional account of a real-life Australian wartime photographer during the Vietnam War and is so heart breaking at times, but also incredibly moving and interesting.
karl levy
This book gets it seems either rave reviews at 5 stars or 2 or 3 stars for disappointing. From the famous Australia Author Christopher Koch of The Year of Living Dangerously fame it is loosely based novelization around the life of the Australian Combat photographer Neil Davis, his life captured as a biography in One Crowded Hour. This is what creates the divergence in reviews. Koch's connection is that he came from Tasmania and knew him. Its interesting that this novelization was created as One ...more
JDK1962
Jul 08, 2016 JDK1962 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I have a 50-page rule, where I've given myself permission to abandon a book that doesn't grab me within 50 pages. This book is making me think I need a two-week rule.

I've abandoned this at page 128. I loved The Year of Living Dangerously and sought this out because I wanted to read something else by this author. But it's just...so...dull. I pick it up, read a bit, set it down, then have no desire to pick it up again. I force myself, read 75 pages at a go to see if I can get lost in it, set it do
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Kate
Dec 01, 2013 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After hearing recently that Christopher Koch had passed away, I thought it would be fitting to re-read my favourite Koch novel 'Highways to a War'. The slow start had me worried and I thought for a moment that it would be one of those books which get elevated to 'classic 'status by a nostalgic mind, but that actually fail the standards of a critical eye. I shouldn't have worried: by the time the story reached Vietnam I was utterly captivated by 60's and 70's South East Asia and the slowly unfold ...more
Kristian Brockmann
A study from university days when some of my research was on the manufacture of Agent Orange, and a family friend was a photo journalist who endured the Vietnam conflict in his own way, surviving the front line and living to tell stories through photography. An old neighbour of ours was a veteran, heroically saving a chopper from danger, although both of these characters in our lives have played the last post. The story is a good one, of glory and excitement and yes, adventure too, the dramas of ...more
Donna R
May 05, 2013 Donna R rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: period, australia, war, awards, asia
On the final day of the Save the Children annual book fair a box of books will set you back $7. This is one out of my box, I picked it without reading the dust jacket thinking it looked like a memoir and interesting to boot.
What a gem! To this point, if everything I've read or watched about Vietnam/Cambodia was placed on a set of scales there would be an over representation of American military novels, movies etc. On the other side and stuck up in the air was "The Killing Fields", and now the
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Emi Bevacqua
This was super depressing from the opening on. I liked the descriptions of wartime in Southeast Asia (super evocative), but even though the main characters were mostly likable and quite righteous, I had trouble keeping many of the secondary characters straight and I just didn't like the way so many of them were introduced but then went away without factoring in to the plot... meh.
Christine Bowen
Feb 23, 2013 Christine Bowen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was the kind of book I used to dismiss as a man's book; but I really enjoyed it. I remember all the news reports on the Vietnam War when I was growing up - it seemed to go on for ever and I never really understood much of what was going on. . This was a good introduction and I'm now reading another Vietnam war book A Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan.
AC
This book is a fictionalized, novelistic account of the life and death of the award-winning Australian war photographer, Neil Brian Davis. The book is fairly interseting in places, evocative - though not nearly as taut as The Year of Living Dangerously.

I would have read the rest of it if I had nothing else to do, but I got somewhat bored and so decided to move on.
Jerry Peace
Apr 16, 2015 Jerry Peace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A treasure of surfeit- heroism and cowardice, supreme arrogance and humility, greed and giving away, corruption and the scary purity of fanaticism, love and indifference and.... I was going to say "truth," but in this book about Vietnam and Cambodia during the sixties' and their fall in the seventies', perhaps the only truth of this life is death.
Jillian
Jul 28, 2011 Jillian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was a great story, I felt educated after reading it and am keen on finding the companion book. The only complaint is about the clunky editing, it can be a bit confusing who is actually telling the story.
Lea
Highways to a War is absolutely incredible. This is now one of my favourite novels. The world is so vivid and feels real. The characters have so much depth. This novel conveys the hopelessness and wonder of war, and it is gripping from beginning to the end.
Chris Parkhurst
Jan 05, 2008 Chris Parkhurst rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am currently reading this book for a third time. The war photographers in this story serve as inspiration for my documentary work. Truly at The Heart of what was going on in both Vietnam and Cambodia 30 years ago.
Apurva Shukla
Feb 02, 2016 Apurva Shukla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Absolute vividness and beautiful prose allowing the reader to be fully immersed in the forgotten history of both the Vietnam War and Cambodian Civil War.
Ian Hefele
Sep 13, 2015 Ian Hefele rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
One of the best things I've re-read in awhile. First read in 2004 in Australia and I still think this is one of the best writers from Australia to date.
Edward
Apr 24, 2009 Edward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This won an Australian literary award in 1996. It deals with Vietnam and Cambodia. It is the first in a two novel series. It is very very good.
Jenna Williams
Jan 10, 2008 Jenna Williams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't believe I enjoyed this book...it's pretty macho. The narrative can be a bit annoying, but as someone who knew very little about war in Cambodia it was a good read.
Travis Kendall
Aug 06, 2011 Travis Kendall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Amazing novel. Great characters and very well detailed and researched".
John Sheahan
Mar 23, 2014 John Sheahan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The ending haunts me still. It emphasises the pointlessness of lives lost in the power struggles that result in slaughter.
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Christopher Koch was born and educated in Tasmania. For a good deal of his life he was a broadcasting producer, working for the ABC in Sydney. He has lived and worked in London and elsewhere overseas. He has been a fulltime writer since 1972, winning international praise and a number of awards for his novels, many of which are translated in a number of European countries. One of his novels, The YE ...more
More about Christopher J. Koch...

Other Books in the Series

Beware of the Past (2 books)
  • Out of Ireland

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