Bad Lands by Tony Wheeler is an interesting book. Though it may look, to people who see me reading this out and about, as though it's a book explaining exactly why the countries listed in George Bush's `Axis of Evil' are in fact `evil', it's not that at all. Tony Wheeler is sympathetic to the countries he visits and he often leaves the reader wondering what all the fuss is about. Yes, he is realistic about some of the absurdities of each country and their strange laws. He observes the oddity of restrictions to visitors wanting to enter certain countries (Iran for example) when many of its inhabitants want to, in fact, leave. But he also recalls the influence of other countries - mostly from the West or Communist Russia and China - who have also played a part in making them supposed `enemies'.
This is a book that can be picked up and read at intervals. You can dip in and read a chapter of choice without worrying about remembering what the last three chapters have told you. This is a good travel book that lets you choose where you want to be for a few pages. It even made me wonder why I wasn't contemplating visiting some of these countries myself - although also made me reconsider my desire to visit Cuba.
In fact, I tried to read this in one go, but reverted to reading it in between reading other things, as Wheeler's writing on each country has a repetitive element to it. Don't get me wrong, his style is accessible, balanced and sympathetic, and so very easy to read, but I felt like a break between each country allowed me to enjoy reading it more.
This is definitely a book to pick up if you are interested in an alternative view of those countries that appear so hostile on the news programmes