The book is intense and fast-paced; fun, relatively short, quick to read, interesting mostly because of the story itself and not so much for the characters in it, who hardly seem to go through any major development, and feel a bit flat (David is just a random dude who didn’t stand out as anyone really interesting in my eyes, and Joan is, well, unrealistically perfect).
Of course, to a 21st century reader, there is something deeper that’s much more evident in the book — the racism present from the first page to the last. Even if you ignore the cruel or condescending attitude that the white characters show towards the natives, and which the author often seems to condone, there is still something significant about the black people in the book: they are all alike. Even the somewhat positively portrayed polynesians (honest, strong, loyal… all in all, good – for servants, of course) are all the same, mutually interchangeable, with only insignificant personal quirks. It seems that only the white man (or woman, in this exceptional case) is allowed a true personality.
Anyway, the hypothesis of a superior race is pretty much irrelevant today; a much more interesting and debatable question is not about races, but about cultures. Are they all equally valuable? Can you really say that a culture which encourages cannibalism, head-hunting, or even just some milder “transgressions” such as lies and violence, is inherently the same, in terms of value, as a more “civilized” one? So many questions arising from what’s supposed to be a light read…