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Blood River: The Terrifying Journey Through The World's Most Dangerous Country Paperback – September 1, 2009
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Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
So when he decided to follow Henry Morton Stanley's land route in the 1870s from Lake Tanganyika to the River Congo and then follow the river to Boma, on the coast, this was not the trivial task it would have been in the 1950s, and many experts on the country said it would be impossible and dangerous and that he would almost certainly be killed if he attempted it. In some ways he had an even more difficult task than Stanley, with no Zanzibari bearers to carry all his stuff, and no guns to shoot anyone who tried to thwart him. Nonetheless, he largely succeeded (with considerable help, it must be said, from a series of aid workers and United Nations representatives), apart from flying about a quarter of the total distance, from Mbandaka to Kinshasa ("no capital city in the world more unrepresentative of its country"), when he felt to ill to continue. He describes Mbandaka as "a sad collection of ruins", but unfortunately this description applies equally well to almost everywhere he went.Read more ›
There undoubtedly is much of interest and value in BLOOD RIVER, but there are three overriding problems with the book. First, I have the sense that Butcher tends to be sloppy with his facts. For example, he implies that ebola was one of the tropical diseases that confronted 19th-Century European explorers and he states that Joseph Conrad, when he came to the Congo for his one mission there (the basis for Conrad's "The Heart of Darkness"), was "a professional skipper of steamboats." Minor errors, to be sure, but they force me to take all of Butcher's factual pronouncements with a grain of salt.
Second, Butcher's writing is ordinary. He is prone to needless repetition, and far too often his writing is cliched and overly melodramatic. For example: "That moment when I left the east bank of the river was special for me.Read more ›
Mr. Butcher is a journalist, so he knows how to use words to convey a mood, or a place or a person. And in this book, he is at his best. You are tugged along almost reluctantly on his trip,knowing that he obviously survived, but wondering how he could have possibly made it all the way. Everyone told him not to try it, but somehow there were also very helpful people along the way.
The one man who begged him to take his four year old with him, the guys on the motorbikes, the pirogue pole guys and the captain of the boat are all unforgettable. I especially liked that Mr. Butcher would bring in historical asides, liked the making of the African Queen and Katherine Hepburn in the hotel that is no longer there, or the travel guide that his mother had. He brings in all the hard historical stuff also, like the Belgians and the hand cutting, as well as the slavery trade.
If you want a book that has it all, plus pictures, get this book and hop on behind Mr. Butcher as he pursues a dream/nightmare journey through Africa.
On that note, Daily Telegraph reporter Tim Butcher set off on what can only be described as one of the most quixotic expeditions imaginable. In the early years of the 21st century, he had somehow fixated on the idea that he should follow in the footsteps of a former Telegraph reporter -- 19th century explorer and colonialist Henry Stanley (he of "Dr Livingstone, I presume" fame) -- and travel overland and on water the length of the Congo river, thousands of miles to the point where this massive river finally reaches the Atlantic.
Easier said than done. To start with, there is the fact that for the last half century or so, Congo is a country that people try to get out of rather than into. (At one point, a resident of Kisangani tries to persuade Butcher to take his four-year-old son back with him to South Africa, because there is no future for him there.) Aid workers and diplomats thankfully leave the day their postings expire, while members of the UN mission (the longest-running of its kind) exist in tiny airconditioned enclaves in the equatorial jungle and similarly count down the days. Almost the only non-Congolese who seem to enjoy life in the country are those who have come to exploit its mineral assets -- cobalt, diamonds and gold, among other products. They, as Butcher shows, live in protected compounds in Kinshasa.
Indeed, it's that legacy of "asset stripping" -- which Stanley helped ignite -- that Butcher chronicles as he somehow manages to battle his way from one community to the next along his pathway.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The author sets out to essentially re-create HM Stanley's journey along the Congo river through what is now DRC (formerly Zaire). Read morePublished 1 month ago by Mungo__Park
Recommended by Jenny Crwys Williams on Talk Radio 702. Gave me more understanding of African politics and the Congo's sad history.Published 1 month ago by Goodies
While traveling the Congo is dangerous, the trip is really an account of the author bumming rides the whole way. And when stranded staying in hotels. Not much adventure.Published 2 months ago by 🐘
Interesting, if repetitive, description of dreadful conditions in Congo.Published 5 months ago by williamj. brustein
Truly a remarkable journey. I felt I was on the trip. Sad state of DRC such this is one of the few times I don't feel eager to repeat the route after finishing a travel book.Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
A well told tale of a resource rich but law and order poor region. It's sad to learn of the all pervasive corruption and lawlessness and yet the author crafts a story so well told... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Amazon Customer