Benjamin Skinner traveled around the world to witness firsthand the drudgery, abuse and depravity of modern-day slavery; he probably saw a good deal more than could fit into his book, which is an unsparing account of just how horrible and widespread slavery is. Skinner's writing is evocative. He brings to life various places around the globe including Haiti's cities and countryside, Romanian slums, the desert of Sudan, night clubs in Dubai, rural mines in India, and a well-to-do American suburb; his descriptions of human degradation, cruelty and greed are sickening. He talks to slaves (both current and former), slave traders, slave owners, anti-slavery activists, and government officials; throughout the book he also tells the story of U.S. official John Miller and his uphill and exhausting battle against slavery worldwide. To get some of his stories Skinner actually had to pose at various times as a potential slave buyer, and he briefly touches on the ethics of that choice (as well as his decision not to buy people's freedom from slave traders).
He succeeds in conveying the complexity of slavery, how and why it continues to exist and the various forms that it takes. In addition to the harrowing accounts of slaves themselves, he writes about the role that individuals, institutions, cultural norms and socioeconomic factors play in the perpetration of slavery and the creation of circumstances and conditions that allow slavery to flourish. It's frustrating to read about the way governments around the world turn a blind eye to slavery, even while paying lip-service to the idea of fighting it and upholding human dignity. The UN's record on this issue is unsurprisingly disgraceful as well. Skinner relates how UN officials, for political reasons, often refuse to refer to slavery as slavery (preferring terms such as 'abduction', for instance), and half-heartedly spend money on anti-slavery initiatives that are proven failures (he also discusses the complete farce that is the UN Human Rights Commission).
The book is detailed, complex and approaches slavery from different angles. In addition to discussing commercial sex slavery, his book brings to light agricultural, industrial and domestic enslavement (where, in addition to backbreaking work for no pay whatsoever, rape and brutality are also commonplace), and slavery in the context of war - as with the cultural and racial genocide waged on black Africans in the Sudan. Into this bleak picture Skinner also brings stories of hope - people who survived slavery, whether as children or adults, and who in spite of their scars have rebuilt their lives; he also profiles individuals who fight against slavery and actively work to rebuild the lives of former slaves and integrate them into society as productive members. Skinner doesn't write these stories with melodrama or sentimentality, but as a means of giving these people a voice and in hopefully motivating the reader to learn more and contribute to the fight against slavery; the conclusion of his book names what he thinks are effective anti-slavery organizations and non-governmental groups.
Overall, he's written an excellent book about an ages-old human condition that persists to this day, no matter how much we'd wish to pretend otherwise.