From Publishers Weekly
Travel and technology journalist Hoffman (Hunting Warbirds) had two motives for penning this tour of the world's most life-threatening modes of transportation, including trains in India, buses in South America, and trucks in Afghanistan: to expose the "parallel reality," obscured by the tourism industry, of millions for whom "travel was still a punishing, unpredictable, and sometimes deadly work of travail"; and for thrills. By the first measure-showing how much of the world gets from place to place-Hoffman is commendably fascinating: his depiction of the horrors people endure just to see family members or get to work is unforgettable. Unfortunately, Hoffman's secondary motive dominates much of the ruminating prose, and it's hard to sympathize with his middle-aged family-man angst when he's subjecting his teenage daughter to a 24-hour ride across South American mountains in a bus with no bathroom. Elsewhere, a powerful description of the Indian train system segues into a tepid quasi-love affair. Readers with the patience to avoid some self-indulgent side-tracks will find much to reconsider during their next tough commute.
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You have to wonder who in their right mind would voluntarily fly on an airline with one of the world’s worst safety records, or ride on a commuter train on which passengers die on an alarmingly regular basis. The answer is obvious: for most of the world’s travelers, Hoffman tells us, travel is no luxury. The majority of today’s travelers are not tourists; they travel because they must—usually for work—and they are routinely forced to endure incredibly unpleasant circumstances. Hoffman, being an adventurous travel writer, thought it might be instructive to take a few months and travel the world the way most of its nontourist population does: on the least safe airlines, the most crowded buses, through some of the most inhospitable and dangerous places on the planet. The result is a thoroughly fascinating book, full of shocking stories and plenty of things to make your skin crawl (cockroaches, anyone?). This is one travel book whose audience is restricted to armchair travelers; let’s face it, would we really want to follow in the author’s footsteps? --David Pitt