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Bad Lands (Lonely Planet) (Travel Literature) Paperback – April 15, 2007


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Product Details

  • Series: Travel Literature
  • Paperback: 327 pages
  • Publisher: Lonely Planet (April 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1741791863
  • ISBN-13: 978-1741791860
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,354,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Wheeler traveled through nine countries--or, if you prefer, bad lands--Afghanistan, Albania, Burma, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia. Some were selected because of their human-rights abuses; Libya because it has done absolutely everything wrong; Afghanistan for harboring terrorists; and Albania simply because it's an example of a little dictatorship that cut itself off from the outside world at considerable cost to its own people. Wheeler posits that his book is not an account of the Most Dangerous Places because he's "careful, cautious, and has a low tolerance for pain." He describes the weather, hotels, restaurants, shops, museums, and the people he meets. The author, Lonely Planet's cofounder, wrote his first guidebook in 1973 and since then has written or contributed to 30 more titles. Readers can join him traveling through some of the most repressive and perilous countries in the world without fear of being attacked. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

"...humane, politically astute and very funny..." --Wanderlust Magazine, April/May 2007

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Customer Reviews

Unfortunately, the author is much better at the former than the latter.
David
Some of the countries, like Cuba, are rather open for visitors to explore on their own; others, like North Korea, certainly are not.
J. I. Uitto
While this travel writing is not of the caliber of Theroux or Chatwin, it's really a fun and rewarding read.
Matt Hill

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By T. Jacob on August 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
Knowing Tony's adventurous spirit, I was so excited to get this book and read his take on these mysterious countries that people know so little about. The book, it turns out, is more or less a collection of Tony's musings, combined with historical antecdotes and the occassional use of the words "bad lands" or "danger". It struck me as a last minute, pull-something-together-so-we-can-make-money project that would not have been published if the author didn't own the company. Yes, Tony does some cool stuff and goes off the beaten trail, but then he bogs it all down in an overkill of historical research and tries to paint a slick coat of "Danger!" all over it. It just doesn't work it so many places, and makes for a cumbersome read. Lonely Planet remains my absolute favorite source for travel information, but this mode of expression doesn't seem to suit Tony as well as others.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
"Libya is one of the most comprehensively trashed countries I've ever visited." - Author Tony Wheeler in BAD LANDS

Co-founder (with his wife, Maureen) of Lonely Planet Publications, Tony Wheeler here describes his travels through nine countries generally considered "bad lands" by Western societies because of their poor treatment of their own citizens, their involvement in terrorism, and the threat they pose to other countries. The nine are Afghanistan, Albania, Myanmar (Burma), Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia. Except for areas in Iraq which Wheeler was careful to skirt, none of the nine are particularly dangerous for the individual visitor.

In the genre of travel essays, BAD LANDS is commendably out of the ordinary in that it includes a 16-page center section of color photographs. I guess if your book is being published your own publishing company, you can afford this extravagance.

While reading the first chapter on Afghanistan, I thought Wheeler's writing rather stiff and I was somewhat dreading the experience of the whole. But in following chapters, he loosens up considerably and becomes a congenial and wryly humorous guide. For instance, this paragraph about Cuba:

"Every other woman walking by was wearing the standard Cuban fashion statements: short, tight, low, high, stretched. Preferably in Lycra ... In Cuba no women can be too big, too wide, too round for Lycra. 'Thrusting femininity' was the two-word definition of the Cuban approach to fashion, according to one visiting travel writer ..."

Published in 2007, BAD LANDS provides a roomy front window for the reader to peer out into the contemporary society of each nation visited, as well as useful rear window overlooking their recent pasts.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Chan Joon Yee on October 31, 2007
Format: Paperback
Tony Wheeler writes about his trip to Afghanistan, Albania, Myanmar, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia.

Apart from Saudi Arabia, the rest of the countries in the list have all been demonised by the Western media. Are they really that bad? This book does not pretend to have all the answers or even the last say. Wheeler's writing style is rather typical of the humourous, cynical, sarcastic and sometimes overly opinionated style that you may encounter in Lonely Planet guides.

There's quite a bit of on-the-road reports and even more "background info" which is obtained more from research than personal experience. Informative this book is, but it is certainly not a scholarly piece or anything close to investigative journalism. Wheeler was just a tourist (and he states that explicitly on the cover of the book). There were only a couple of times when the author encountered danger. You won't read about any prohibited entries into restricted areas, illegal investigations, shocking revelations and close brushes with the authorities. It's just the sort of travelogue that you and I might write if we ever dare to go to all these places. I have only been to Myanmar myself. Afghanistan and Iraq? No way. This is certainly not the sort of travelogue that anyone can write. For that and for readability, I give the author some credit even though there is nothing sensational about this book.

At the end of the book, is an Evil Meter. True to the judgemental Lonely Planet spirit, he author judges the evilness of each country by his own subjective and limited knowledge - which is probably an unintentional joke. It doesn't spoil the fun of reading the book, but the author doesn't win any credibility points either.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David on November 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is a mix of tour guide and political commentary. Unfortunately, the author is much better at the former than the latter. While Israel was not considered a badland, chapters on every country have comments indicating that the author does not believe the "badland" is really as bad as Israel. Why not then include it as a badland from the start and present a more thorough analysis? About the United States, the author really seems to have a lack of understanding of American political thought. The complexity of US foreign policy (that I also frequently disagree with) is unfortunately turned into a simplistic sterotype. While the author is trying to be iconoclastic and present readers including Americans with a non-American perspective of the world, this should have been done in a deeper, more thoughtful and more systematic way. Parts of the book read like a superficial knee-jerk. While, comments about North Korea genuinely believing that it might be attacked are probably right, discussion about the US invading Afghanistan instead of Saudi Arabia after 9/11 mainly because Saudi Arabia has oil seem off the mark. Overall, the political commentary is superficial, naive, and sometimes illogical. The author should have collaborated with a historian or political scientist in writing the book.

On the other hand, the narrative is entertaining and the travel log discussion is interesting. I bought the book to learn things about the countries he visited and what life is like there for both locals and tourists. The book is not a complete failure from this perspective, but I expected better.

Find a book written by a political scientist or historian on these countries instead if you are looking for what I was looking for.
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