I think that this is the best book I have read about modern Russia. Hugo-Bader manages to get under the skin of Siberia in this incredibly well researched, dramatic, funny and tragic travelogue. He takes us along with him through shamanic rituals in Siberian hospitals, into Evenki villages plagued by vodka (leading to the 'White Fever' of the title) and face to face with the dreadful administration of an orphanage in Ayaguz. We meet HIV sufferers, ageing hippies and Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the automatic rifle. The book takes in a huge amount of material and Hugo-Bader manages to examine all of it with profundity and sensitivity.
Ineresting comparisons might be made with Daniel Kalder's book 'Strange Telescopes', which covers some similar areas (both authors enter the world of Vissarion, a former traffic cop who now proclaims himself Christ to his many followers). Enjoyable as Kalder's book is, Hugo-Baden's account is simply more impressive.
Hugo-Baden writes with a sense of humour and, unusually for a non-fiction author, incorporates wonderful moments of metatextuality. He has a real ear for the idiolects of the different people he meets on his journey and their speech is rendered wonderfully in the book. He avoids grandiose, poetic descriptions of the icy taiga, preferring to focus on the people living there. This approach truly allows him to show us what is really going on in this country.
I would agree with all of the comments in the previous excellent review, with the exception of the comparison to Michael Palin. This writer seems able to explore niches and corners far darker, more obscure and more interesting than Palin.
Some parts of this book are incredibly difficult to read because they are so filled with sadness. I would, however, recommend any reader with even the vaguest of interests in this country to pick up a copy.