My rating: 4 of 5 stars
On its face, this is Hilton’s take on the tale of the lost city of Shangri-la. However, look more deeply and you’ll find a commentary on the clash of Western and Eastern civilizations. It follows three Brits and an American who find themselves hijacked, crashed, and rescued by the occupants of Shangri-la. The main character is a British diplomat. He’s sharp, practical, and likable. He represents the West at its most virtuous. He is tolerant and polite. A second British man, who I think represents “Empire”, has a negative attitude throughout and looks down upon the locals as lesser beings. The third Brit is a missionary woman who represents “religion.” She considers the Shangri-Laians to be “godless” heathens because they aren’t Protestant Christians. But unlike “Empire” who just wants to get “back to civilization”, “Religion” is happy to stay to “save” and convert said heathens. The American represents “Commerce” and / or “Greed”, and is a business man who is on the lam and incognito after being wanted for white-collar crime. He becomes happy in Shangri-la, but only inasmuch as he sees it as a goldmine of opportunities not yet capitalized upon.
It’s an interesting read.