13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 9 February 2005
This is one of the very best books ever written about West Papua!
The author was the leader of a British-Indonesian zoologist expedition into the remote highlands of the Lorentz Nature Reseve. The entire team was kidnapped by OPM guerillas fighting for West Papuan independence, and held hostage for several months until being freed by the Indonesian army - minus the two Indonesian male members of the expedition who were executed by the OPM.
This could easily have been turned into a shallow account of hardship and horror, but instead the author has used the experience to give us probably the most interesting and insightful account of West Papua ever. Rather than just concentrating on how the hostages themselves felt during their ordeal, he is painting a thorough picture of the background to the kidnapping, and excellent descriptions of the Papuans' psyche and motivations. His observations are sharp and balanced, and instead of pointing fingers at any party, he leaves us with an understanding of the tragic circumtances that lead to the kidnap, and the hopeless situation that continues in Papua to this day.
We also get to "experience" the down-to-earth lifestyle that was a horrible ordeal to the hostages, but is in fact the everyday reality of life in the extremely isolated Papuan highlands.
Having spent months in West Papua myself, I also found the book entirely free of factual errors, hype and exaggrations that abound in other travelogues of this "exotic" place.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone planning a longer trek through the mountains of Papua.
Don't let it put you off visiting - there has been no similar incident ever since. Read it for its description of life in this singular, remote part of the World.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 January 2012
I bought this book because I enjoyed Daniel Start's book on wild swimming and was curious to see that he had written something so different.
I'm really glad I read it, because this is an extraordinary book. The tension cranks up and relaxes in unpredictable cycles, so that we really share the ordeal of utter helplessness and frustration at not knowing what might happen next. The daily banality of captivity is punctuated by moments of horror, as well as by occasional experiences of serenity. Relations among the captives and their captors develop unremarkably, so that the final meltdown is truly gut-wrenching.
It's a credit to the author not only that he can write about this so clearly, with total honesty and directness about all aspects of his own feelings and reactions as things unfold, but also that he can record the struggle that he was swept up in with such compassion and attention to detail.
on 22 September 2014
I found this book to be really well written and enjoyed the way the author told his at times, gruelling story.
It gave me an understanding of the politics affecting the Papuan's at that time, whilst allowing me insight into the way the author interpreted his predicament as a hostage. After a while, Daniel's experiences seemed to make him more in tune to his environment, bringing him at times to an acceptance of his situation which seemed almost spiritual and peaceful, despite the ever lurking dangers.
I gave the book 4 rather than 5 stars only because I felt that certain events described were deserving of a tenser narrative when the terror of harm or even death was imminent.
Definitely worth reading though.
on 18 September 2014
Dan writes a brilliant and understated account of his experience. He's lucky to be alive, but never does he slip into melodrama or histrionics. Read this book and send him a cheque; this price is a joke for such a good book. I actually read his Wild Swimming Guides first, which will show you the way to the best wild swimming spots in the UK and abroad. Buy them too. If you like wild swimming.