Tuesday, September 18, 2007

he did a bad, bad thing

Wheeler, Tony. Tony Wheeler's Bad Lands: A Tourist on the Axis of Evil. April 2007. Lonely Planet. 344p. maps, color photo signatures, reference lists. ISBN: 978-1-74179-186-0. $14.99.

for Library Journal

With the ranks of global jetsetters increasing, travel journalists no longer enjoy any distinction as elite rangers of far-off, exotic lands. Leave it to Lonely Planet founder and veteran travel journalist Tony Wheeler, however, to bring back this bygone mystique by going where no author has gone before with the travel narrative: rounding up in one volume what he deems the most forbidden—and forbidding—lands on earth. The book, Tony Wheeler's Bad Lands, works hard to do it all: to educate, entertain, debunk, evoke, and provoke. Ultimately, though, it burns much of its fuel presenting the basic history lessons necessary for any readers unfamiliar with nine touristically idle places such as Iran, Afghanistan, and Burma. Bad Lands makes light fare of political and cultural devastation, cataloguing countries by what Wheeler calls his EvilMeter(TM), jokily characterizing North Korea as a "gulag run by Monty Python," or capriciously reflecting on the accommodations of "guests" at Gitmo. Add to this questionable taste the even more questionable judgment involved in presenting his own experience touring as a seasoned, well-connected, knowledgable traveler as that which any brazen, but woefully green, wayfarer might now expect to have after reading this book, and Wheeler's handy reference may be, by far, the most dangerous development to come of his global romps. Recommended with caution for public libraries. Elizabeth Kennedy, Oakland, CA