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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Survey of a Pakistani Metropolis
I'm fascinated by Pakistan, so I snapped up "Instant City" since I know that the subject of the book, Karachi, is a microcosm of many of the problems besetting Pakistan.

For the most part, I was not disappointed by the book. Reading it, I learned a great deal about the rise of Karachi from minor colonial outpost to teeming Third World metropolis. Inskeep's...
Published on November 12, 2011 by maskirovka

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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Karachi, one of the world's largest cities and least well-known
First time author, Steve Inskeep, NPR radio announcer and reporter takes on Karachi. Readers may already know (and if they read "Instant City") they will for certain, Karachi is at "the other end" of Pakistan.

Karachi is a port mega-city on the Arabian Sea. Most terrorism incidents that have occurred in Pakistan in the last decade have been in the northern...
Published on November 7, 2011 by James Denny


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Karachi, one of the world's largest cities and least well-known, November 7, 2011
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This review is from: Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi (Hardcover)
First time author, Steve Inskeep, NPR radio announcer and reporter takes on Karachi. Readers may already know (and if they read "Instant City") they will for certain, Karachi is at "the other end" of Pakistan.

Karachi is a port mega-city on the Arabian Sea. Most terrorism incidents that have occurred in Pakistan in the last decade have been in the northern part of the country, near or along the Afghanistan border. The terrorism incident that occurred in downtown Karachi is a central theme that Inskeep will keep returning to.

Inskeep provides historical background on the partioning of of Anglo-India, "the jewel in the crown" of former British colonies, into Pakistan, East Pakistan and India, which occurred in 1947. India was to become the predominant home to Hindus and the two Pakistans, to Muslims. Later, East Pakistan left the fold in rebellion to become the independent nation of Bangladesh. The mass movement of people following the partitioning of Anglo-India involved the migration of literally hundreds of millions of people in both directions. The rise of Karachi as an "Instant City" is a direct consequence of this mass movement. The process continues, driven now primarily by internal migration, rural agrarian-to-city.

Inskeep's background as a reporter is both a strength and a weakness of "Instant City." Inskeep meets and interviews scores of people whose stories he tells. It's a journalistic style of writing that while providing highly personal narrative often results in redundancy. The overall flow is often choppy and disjointed. A good fifty pages could have been cut from "Instant City" to make for a more concise read with a tight focus.

There are some fine passages in "Instant City" that provide historical context; one in particular I enjoyed is his short narrative on the "literal rise" of cities over time. Due to the accumulation of garbage and trash, inadequate drainage and the crepuscular movement of private holdings into public space, streets literally rise and dwellings sink as time passes. This pattern has persisted throughout human civilization. Because of the rapid growth of Karachi, a megacity with little regard for planning and considered infrastructure, the rise is occurring at an accelerated rate.

A good bookend to Inskeep's "Instant City" is Doug Sander's "Arrival City: How the Largest Migration in History is Reshaping our World."
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Survey of a Pakistani Metropolis, November 12, 2011
By 
maskirovka (Herndon, Virginia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi (Hardcover)
I'm fascinated by Pakistan, so I snapped up "Instant City" since I know that the subject of the book, Karachi, is a microcosm of many of the problems besetting Pakistan.

For the most part, I was not disappointed by the book. Reading it, I learned a great deal about the rise of Karachi from minor colonial outpost to teeming Third World metropolis. Inskeep's history of the terrible sectarian and religious violence besetting the city was particularly interesting and heartbreaking.

However, as one other reviewer here has already pointed out, the book is somewhat choppy in terms of the narrative. Also, despite promising to focus the book on one terrible day in 2009 when a Shi'ite procession was attacked by Sunni extremists, Inskeep wanders pretty far afield from that narrative. It's all generally interesting, but if you say you intend view your subject through a particular lens, you ought to stick to it.

But overall, the deficits of "Instant City" are outweighed by the pluses,so read it and learn something.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An objective overview of Karachi, November 29, 2011
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This review is from: Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi (Hardcover)
`Instant City' captures the essence of Karachi. It takes the readers into the history and transformation of Karachi as it details the events of a horrendous day in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on a religious procession. Karachi is no ordinary city and it's impossible to encapsulate its complexities in a mere 200 pages. However, Inskeep does justice to the subject matter. Instant City is a wonderful book and a must read for those who wish to broaden their understanding of the developing world. Karachi is the backbone and melting pot of Pakistan - a country riddled with uncertainties and one at the nexus of modern day geopolitics.

Another aspect that renders credibility to this book is the authenticity and nonpartisan approach of Steve Inskeep. Inskeep's fascination and intrigue with Karachi is apparent and his outstanding ability to present facts objectively is ever present in his interviews with personalities from varied backgrounds. This is crucial to understanding Karachi's diversity and how its multilayered outlook shapes its destiny. In addition to delving into the historical, cultural and political transformation of Karachi, Instant City explores its mammoth growth. It is interesting to read how the city owes its sustenance to improvised mechanisms that somehow defy the conventional wisdom of urban planning.

As a Karachite, I am extremely fascinated and excited about this book and feel sincerely indebted to Inskeep for this wonderful effort. He is a wonderful reporter and has convincingly demonstrated his writing skills in Instant City. It is a fabulous read and highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars astonishingly knowledgeable and readable, March 7, 2012
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This review is from: Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi (Hardcover)
As a Karachi native, I was skeptical about yet another white Western perspective on my hometown. But since the writer was Steve Inskeep, I thought I'd give this book a chance. I'm so glad I did. Thoroughly and conscientiously researched, the book gives us Karachi's realities unflinchingly, but with heart. Inskeep analyzes and recounts, but he also sees, feels, and connects without ever succumbing to cop-out sentimentality or worse: condescension. The narrative takes the time and trouble to sift through the chaos and create nuanced meaning out of it. Things I grew up knowing but not knowing acquired shape and definition as I read this book. And last but not least, the prose glitters with beauty. The final image of the reluctant sparrow says it all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Depth and complexity versus glib pronouncements, January 7, 2012
This review is from: Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi (Hardcover)
Right at the point that I had despaired of Pakistan always being presented in the media (Fox News particularly!) through the dual prisms of perfidy and terrorism, I read this amazing book that captures the complexity that is Karachi. Pakistan may be resource poor, but her greatest richness lies in her people. The citizens of Karachi are decent people simply trying to survive in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. While the book's focus is the impact of the Ashura bombing, we come back again and again to the braveness of spirit, gallows humor and sheer courage evidenced by ordinary Karachites. It also shows that while the country is poor, society at every level is strong and constantly reinforced with extended kinship bonds. Steve Inskeep writes in the best tradition of journalism, namely covering one's subject in depth and seeking to see the situation as it is, rather than putting one's own cultural assumptions onto it. This book should be required reading for Department of State folks that get posted to Pakistan. It is very fashionable now at the think tanks (Robert Fisk sarcastically terms them 'tink thanks') to speak about the imminent demise of Pakistan, but as this book proves and as Galileo famously said "Eppur si muove and yet it moves!"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written - but difficult read, December 24, 2011
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This review is from: Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi (Hardcover)
Steve Inskeep made several visits to Karachi in recent years, and researched their complicated and violent history (and present). He tells the story of the region with a focus on various individual stories. Inskeep is an excellent story teller, which is necessary with the real life traumas of this report.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vivid portrayal of the troubles that mirror a troubled country., December 12, 2011
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This review is from: Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi (Hardcover)
Steve Innskeep has managed to vividly capture the scope and magnitude of issues and problems confronting this troubled country in his portrayal of Karachi. It made me want to dig deeper, which I immediately accomplished by reading Playing with Fire -Pakistan at War with Itself by Pamela Constable. Both are first rate and quite complementary.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Review of Post-Partition Pakistan and Karachi, November 26, 2011
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This review is from: Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi (Hardcover)
This book is a very readable review of the phenomenal growth experienced by Karachi following the 1947 creation of Pakistan. I found interesting both as a history of the city and the country. Inskeep is a great storyteller who manages to make vast political, demographic and sociological changes intensely personal by following the lives and experiences of a diverse group of Pakistanis. I highly recommend this book and look forward to learning more about Pakistan's complex history.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking work of staggering (in)significance, November 6, 2011
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This review is from: Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi (Hardcover)
I live in Karachi, even after living in US for 30 years. I visit occasionally and I was transported as I opened this book. I was very aware of the incident which is recounted in the first chapter but I sat wiping my eyes as I rode the train from New York to Toronto.

The book has hard facts not just about Karachi but other "instant cities." Problems Karachi faces are problems other cities are facing to greater or lesser degrees. Political jockeying does not allow the problem solvers to solve the city's myriad problems.

Book is written very well and the story of Karachi comes alive with stories of its inhabitants.
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5.0 out of 5 stars For those who know little more than headlines....., June 10, 2014
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Very well-written volume. History and current situation told through key personalities. This is one of those places that has dug a deep hole.....Today I saw ambulances on the news from the company that Inskeep profiles.
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Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi
Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi by Steve Inskeep (Hardcover - October 13, 2011)
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