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The Exotic
The Exotic
The Exotic
Audiobook2 hours

The Exotic

Written by Hampton Sides

Narrated by Simon Vance

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars



About this audiobook

In The Exotic, Hampton Sides leads us on a grand adventure that is so strange and epic, it rivals the greatest tales of myth. Moving between a London high society newly infatuated with the Romantics and the perfumed archipelago of the Society Islands, Sides turns a riveting narrative into a cautionary tale about the heedless cruelty of colonialism and the collateral damage that can result from even the best-intentioned first contact.

—Peter Heller, bestselling author of The Dog Stars, The River, and The Guide

So much is made of “civilized"explorers heading out on grand adventures, but little is said of indigenes on their own journeys of exploration into the heart of whiteness. Sides gives us just that, in a meticulously researched story that is gripping, important, and inexplicably sad. A must-read.

—David Treuer, New York Times bestselling author of Rez Life and The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee

With The Exotic, Hampton Sides paints a superb portrait of a Polynesian Candide, whose picaresque travels to Europe and back in the Age of Enlightenment serve as a heartbreaking parable about human nature and colonialism.

— Julian Sancton, author of Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica’s Journey into the Dark Arctic Night

From the New York Times bestselling author of Ghost Soldiers, In the Kingdom of Ice, and On Desperate Ground, the story of the Polynesian man who became the toast of eighteenth-century English society and whose complicated fate foreshadowed the cultural and racial reckoning of today.

The story begins with a painting: A handsome young man with copper skin and regal posture gestures with a delicately tattooed hand. He is dressed in a turban and flowing robes and has the indisputable look of a prince from a foreign land. Painted in 1776 by Joshua Reynolds, the portrait is widely considered to be the artist’s masterpiece. But the man it depicts is a deception.

Since the 2001 release of his New York Times bestseller Ghost Soldiers, Hampton Sides has been celebrated for his ability to discover little-known stories that bring fresh perspective to momentous historical events. In the new Scribd Original The Exotic, Sides tells the story of a South Seas native who, in the 1770s, became the first Polynesian to set foot on British soil.

Having lost his home in an attack by invaders from Bora Bora, twenty-year-old Mai swore revenge. When Captain James Cook’s ships landed in Tahiti in 1774, during the renowned explorer’s second voyage, Mai saw his chance: He begged to be taken to England, where he hoped to amass the guns and ammunition with which he would return to Polynesia to destroy his enemies.

In England, Mai was feted as a “human pet”—an exotic creature from a wild place who provided high society with a source of entertainment and cultural study. But throughout his two years in England, he never lost sight of his goal: to return to his homeland and avenge his family. To that end, he agreeably played his part, living in pampered comfort and charming the British nobility, most notably King George III, who eventually agreed to fund Mai’s return voyage with a shipful of weaponry.

The Exotic follows Mai’s journey from Tahiti to England and back again, during which time he transformed into someone not quite Polynesian, not quite British. Mai represents the countless number of Indigenous people who lost their identities, if not their lives, as the result of their encounters with the Western world. His story raises questions with no easy answers: What is Mai’s legacy? How do we reinterpret the complicated role of an explorer-like Cook? How do people retain their heritage while also assimilating?

Both a cultural study and an entertaining historical yarn, The Exotic explores the ramifications of European exploration and colonialism that changed the world forever.


Release dateSep 15, 2021

Hampton Sides

Narrative historian Hampton Sides is the New York Times bestselling author of Ghost Soldiers, Blood and Thunder, Hellhound on His Trail, In the Kingdom of Ice, and On Desperate Ground. He is a contributing editor to Outside magazine and a frequent contributor to National Geographic and other publications. His work has been collected in numerous anthologies, and he is a two-time finalist for the National Magazine Award for feature writing. Hellhound on His Trail, about the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. and the hunt for his killer, was the basis for the acclaimed PBS documentary Roads to Memphis. Sides lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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