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Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East? Hardcover – August 1, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: NBM Publishing (August 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1561634549
  • ISBN-13: 978-1561634545
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #462,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Part travelogue, part primer, Road meanders through the often-overlooked stans of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, with occasional excursions into the Xinjiang province of China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. From 1997 to 2002, Rall endured a series of treks through the deserts and mountains of Central Asia. He had a knack for showing up at exactly the wrong time: he traveled through Kashmir just as the Taliban entered Pakistan as part of General Pervez Musharraf's 1999 coup, only to return a year later to lead a group of tourists into the middle of a siege as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan invaded Osh. Interspersed throughout this text, Rall's editorial cartoons provide breathing spaces in the form of graphic novellas. The author's travels are rife with indigestion, extortion, and 120-degree heat. Nevertheless, his awestruck descriptions of the region's natural beauty, crowded bazaars, and chaotic sporting tournaments will make adventurous readers want to see it all firsthand. The author takes a serious subject and infuses it with humor, examining the corruption, poverty, and political struggles that define Central Asia. Each page includes at least one illustration–photographs and maps as well as cartoons–and the volume includes historical summaries and country profiles that contextualize the events depicted.–Heidi Dolamore, San Mateo County Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Ted Rall's Silk Road to Ruin is a rollicking, subversive and satirical portrait of the region that is part travelogue, part graphic novel. It's fresh and edgy and neatly captures the reality of travel in the region." -- Lonely Planet Guide to Central Asia, 2007

More About the Author

Ted Rall is a nationally syndicated political cartoonist, columnist, graphic novelist, editor, author and occasional war correspondent.

Twice the winner of the RFK Journalism Award and a Pulitzer Prize finalist, Rall's important books include "Revenge of the Latchkey Kids," about the travails of Generation X, and "Silk Road to Ruin," a survey of ex-Soviet Central Asia. He traveled to Afghanistan during the fall 2001 U.S. invasion, where he drew and wrote "To Afghanistan and Back," the first book of any kind about the war. He was also one of the first journalists to declare the war effort doomed, writing in The Village Voice in December 2001 that the occupation had already been lost.

Rall's latest book is "The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt." His next book, "After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan," comes out in November 2013.

Inspired after meeting pop artist Keith Haring in a Manhattan subway station in 1986, Rall began posting his cartoons on New York City streets. He eventually picked up 12 small clients, including NY Weekly and a poetry review in Halifax, Nova Scotia, through self-syndication. In 1990, he returned to Columbia University to resume his studies, from which he graduated with a bachelor of arts with honors in history in 1991. (His honors thesis was about American plans to occupy France as an enemy power at the end of World War II.) Later that year, Rall's cartoons were signed for national syndication by San Francisco Chronicle Features, which is no longer in business. He moved to Universal Press Syndicate in 1996.

His cartoons now appear in more than 100 publications around the United States, including the Los Angeles Times, Tucson Weekly, the Harrisburg Patriot-News, Pasadena Weekly and MAD Magazine.

Rall considers himself a neo-traditionalist who uses a unique drawing style to revive the aggressive approach of Thomas Nast, who viewed editorial cartoons as a vehicle for change. His focus is on issues important to ordinary working people--he keeps a sign asking "What do actual people care about?" above his drafting table--such as un- and underemployment, the environment and popular culture, but also comments on political and social trends.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 11 customer reviews
The book has some enlightening and funny comic strips in it.
Gen Res
After reading this book, I am of the opinion that there is no way I am going to visit Central Asia.
D. Hawthorne
Ted Rall is best known to me for his inciteful and incendiary cartoons.
Amy Curtis

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on March 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is a winner for both armchair travelers and those with a serious interest in international geopolitics. Intrepid journalist Ted Rall has become an expert on the obscure lands of Central Asia. This vast but little-covered area covers the five former Soviet republics known collectively as the "Stans," plus parts of Afghanistan and non-Chinese far-western China, all of which are strongly integrated in culture and history. Here Rall reports, with both journalistic insight and a brutally engaging writing style, about his extensive trips through the region. In an often rip-roaring read, we learn about the various horrors of traveling in Central Asia (the corruption and diarrhea there are both among the worst on Earth), while also gaining knowledge on the region's complex politics and infighting. Rall also provides enjoyable coverage of some of the region's offbeat personalities, locations, and culture - such as Turkmenistan's incompetent dictator Turkmenbashi, or a bizarre sport called buzkashi in which many meatheads die painfully for fun and glory.

Central Asia will soon be a world quagmire that will make the Middle East look like a hissy fit. Age-old ethnic tensions, corrupt dictators, irredentist meddling, and the hangover from Russian and Soviet brutalization will all soon combine with the worst of energy politics, as Central Asia's immense fossil fuel resources attract money and influence from power players. Ted Rall usefully clarifies what's really happening in Central Asia from the ground, and points out the geopolitical disaster that will occur if we merely view the region through the lenses of terrorism (i.e. everyone who disagrees with America is in league with Al Qaeda) or petropolitics (i.e.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By D. Hawthorne on September 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a jolly good read. The mixture of travelogue and political analysis is quite a surprising combination.

In this book, you will learn:

(1) Why Crocodile Dundee would not last five minutes in Central Asia (p.179);

(2) How to talk your way out of being shot by the Taliban (pp.130-137);

(3) How to stage a revolution without really trying (p.156);

(4) When a toilet stop in a minefield is a good idea (pp.180-181);

(5) What international sport considers the use of AK-47 bad form but not illegal (p.274);

(6) How not to photograph a rampaging horde of wild Mongol horsemen (p.276);

(7) How to survive eating in the world's worst restaurant (pp.109-113);

(8) Why "problema" is the most common word in Central Asia;

(9) Why drink driving sometimes is a good idea (p.199);

(10) How to pick up women or die trying (p.218).

Ted Rall has a writing style that blends serious political analysis with comedic understatement. Mr. Rall is keen to see that the USA does not spoil its chances for positive influence in Central Asia and thereby get access to the vast oil and gas reserves there. However, the Russians, Chinese, and Indians appear to have different ideas.

After reading this book, I am of the opinion that there is no way I am going to visit Central Asia. Apparrently, Mr. Rall is going back again soon.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Laurence Jarvik on September 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ted Rall's book is worth reading, for a damning self-portrait of an "ugly American" version 2006--huckster, radio host, cartoonist, coldly cynical, thrill-seeking, slumming Ivy Leaguer, brimming with smug condescension and contempt for those he encounters on various tours through Central Asia over the past decade.

Rall waltzes through some of the most violent and tragic regions on earth apparently in search of laffs, thrills, and chills. He gets them. A form of 21st century slumming, adventure tourism is the theme, including a brief kidnapping by the Taliban. Yet lives of ordinary Central Asians apparently matter little--he boasts of paying thousands of dollars in bribes to bump Central Asians from reserved seats on an airplane in order to escape with his tour group from a potentially violent attack. Despite claiming that the Central Asians were in no danger (if so, why were they leaving, and why had they bought tickets?), his message is clear: "I'm number one."

Although Rall clearly has talent as a writer and cartoonist, as well as determination and guts, he apparently lacks human compassion for the people in the region he exploits in his business ventures.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Encourage thinking on September 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I make sure I read all of Ted Rall's columns, and I'm always amazed. A lot of writers write about subjects you already know about, they just word it differently from the others and throw in a few extra tidbits. Not Ted! When you read him you always learn massive amounts of facts and information that you didn't even realize you should know about. After reading him you wonder why you've never heard about these important topics. You will not regret buying this book if you're already familiar with Mr. Rall's work. If you're not, you're in for an eye-opening experience.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Richard Cumming on October 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ted Rall is one of our leading political thinkers. He has made a number of investigative trips to the countries in Central Asia. Why should we care?

Well, these countries are sitting on a sea of oil and natural gas. These former Soviet republics are getting the royal treatment from Russia and China. Superpowers are jockeying for position to lock up access to all these energy resources.

Since 9/11 the US Government has been sucking up to the various monstrous dictators of the area. Remember Saddam Hussein? We used to like him because he was taking on Iran. Rall thinks we are making some big mistakes in our approach to Central Asia.

For example; we are allowing these dictators to hand over their "terrorists" so that we can lock them up in our CIA prisons. These "terrorists" are often human right advocates and gutsy individuals who are trying to speak out against their murderous rulers.

Rall suggests that we should be making friends with the people of Central Asia by helping them out rather than pouring money into the pockets of their corrupt dictators.

What's at stake? Our future access to all that energy.
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