Moth Smoke, by Mohsin Hamid (2000)

A first novel by a former New York corporate lawyer of Pakistani birth who quit his job to move back home and write for a living. Set mostly in upper-class Pakistan among the young offspring of feudal landlords and other rich men who have the money to live a decadent life, including ready access to alcohol and other illegal drugs. This is the world of the 2010 film Slackistan. The central metaphor of the title, about characters who are inexorably drawn to something that will destroy them as moths are drawn to a candle, is laid out a little too thickly, but these are the sorts of minor flaws one forgives in first novels. A welcome antidote to a surfeit of books about south-east Asian countries full of elephants and rajas, beggars, and/or scary religious extremists. I first heard of this author when I came across a trailer for the 2012 film The Reluctant Fundamentalist, based on Hamid’s second novel. I’ve reserved that book at my local library, and reading this one has only made me more eager to get it.