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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascincating stuff
It is perhaps a shame that the publishers gave such a melodramatic title to the latest book by James Fergusson, author of the well-regarded "A Million Bullets" about Afghanistan. It makes him sound like one of those solipsistic celebrity war correspondents who like being photographed wearing body armour, and who boast about their courage and all the suffering they've...
Published 8 months ago by Gotham Indophile

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3.0 out of 5 stars A footnote - kindle weakness!!
The text is fine and interesting. The use of footnotes means that these cannot be viewed as you read but the reader either has wait until the end of each chapter or scroll forward and back each time one features to see what the author is wanting to say to elaborate his main text. Very annoying. As much a limiting feature of the kindle as anything. But maybe other authors...
Published 12 months ago by Walmeria


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascincating stuff, 20 Jan 2014
This review is from: The World's Most Dangerous Place: Inside the Outlaw State of Somalia (Paperback)
It is perhaps a shame that the publishers gave such a melodramatic title to the latest book by James Fergusson, author of the well-regarded "A Million Bullets" about Afghanistan. It makes him sound like one of those solipsistic celebrity war correspondents who like being photographed wearing body armour, and who boast about their courage and all the suffering they've seen. Fergusson is different and better than that - a self-deprecating, curious, honest and perceptive reporter, whose dispatches from Somalia feel like travel writing that happens to be through a war zone - and are often surprisingly funny.
The title is also problematic because the competition is fierce for the world's most dangerous place. Moreover, things have recently been improving in Somalia, and even during the last two decades of civil war and state collapse there were always parts of the country that were not nightmarishly anarchic and violent.
That said, there is little question that Somalia has been a byword for all the bad things that happen when a state disintegrates - especially when that state was an awkward fusion of former colonies that arguably should never have been made into one country. Since the overthrow of the dictator Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia has been, as one of Fergusson's interviewees says, the stable for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, caught in an endless cycle of war, famine and pestilence.
Mogadishu, its shattered capital city, has been the location for two decades of "'Lord of the Flies' with automatic weapons" thanks to an endless supply of heavily armed young men, rendered especially brutal and paranoid by the drug qat, the traditions of clan warfare, and the spread from Arabia of Wahabi Islamic fundamentalism.
If that were not bad enough, the flight of some two million Somalis abroad has exported Somalia's pathologies to places like London and, more surprisingly, Minneapolis in the USA. As one British ambassador told Fergusson, referring to the threat posed by al-Shabaab, the Somali version of the Taliban and the growing importance of Somali-born terrorists, Somalia "is no longer a traditional, geographical country, but a diffuse, global entity...that is not physically containable."
Accordingly, only half of Ferguson's book takes him to Somalia. The rest is about his experiences of the Somali diaspora. If Somalia at home is not quite as uniformly chaotic and terrifying as people imagine, Somalia abroad presents some disturbing challenges to Western societies as well bringing the benefits represented by people like the Anglo-Somali athlete Mo Farah, the courageous freedom activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and the author Nuruddin Farah.
It is perhaps not polite to mention it but it is no secret that Somali children who have grown up in their war-torn homeland present unique difficulties in British schools, with a reputation for astonishing ferocity in playground fights and a disproportionate tendency to join criminal gangs and to get in trouble with the law. But that is a relatively minor problem compared to what seems to be an increasing number of diaspora Somali men recruited into Islamist terrorism.
The best-known examples of this are the would-be tube bombers Ramzi Mohamed and Yassin Omar from the July 2005 plot. But a surprising number of well-educated and apparently assimilated Somali-Americans have ended up as bombers and fighters for al Qaeda-linked organizations in places like Yemen and Afghanistan.
Fergusson's visits to various Somali regions - including the pirate statelet of Puntland, and the stable, independent but unrecognized Somaliland Republic (formerly British Somaliland) -- are fascinating and full of surprises. He wears his research lightly but comes up with plenty of strange and sometimes sad facts about the region.
[For instance, it was Somalis who invented the "technical" the pick-up truck mounted with a machine gun that has become ubiquitous in war zones around the world. Somalia is also the home of the most extreme and horrific form of female genital mutilation - a monstrous practice called "infibulation" that testifies to a misogyny remarkable even by the standards of other nomadic desert cultures with an endemic fear of female sexuality.]
Much to Fergusson's credit he gives a face and a voice to the impressive and often drily amusing Ugandan army officers who lead the Amisom African Union "peacekeeping" force that has driven al Shabaab out of much of Mogadishu. That he does so shows why he is such a good guide to this complicated conflict: Many foreign reporters are too fascinated by terrorists and militants in places like the Horn of Africa to notice the personalities of the foreign forces fighting them, or the people who are their victims. Fergusson is too sensible, too curious and too humane to fall into such a trap. It is one of many things that make "The Worlds Most Dangerous Place" such a surprisingly enjoyable read.
If there is a flaw to the book, it is some naivete about NGOs abroad and the claims of multiculturalism at home. But for the most part Fergusson is refreshingly thoughtful and commonsensical about the things he encounters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very harrowing but interesting, 20 Nov 2013
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Some of the opinions/facts in the book I questioned and thought were slightly under-researched, but overall this was an excellent and informative first-hand account of life in Somalia. Very well written and easy to read with an engaging human focus. I particularly liked the chapters on the diaspora such as the Somali community in London, and their experiences.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The New Scene of our World's Dangerous Times, 24 Feb 2013
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I loved the author's past books on the Afghan War ("A Million Bullets" and "Taliban"), so I expected much from this one, and I wasn't disappointed... Not at all, really. Fergusson was amongst the first to reckon the tragic relevance of the Somali quagmire; while the world is still clinging to the Afghan War, things are worsening very fast in the Horn of Africa - and soon the insecurity will spread West and South of it... The book is exceptionally well researched (on the field) and well written, as I guessed it would be, with the additional value of leading the reader in an obscure and almost unheard of reality, like a shadow looming on our common future.
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4.0 out of 5 stars interesting, 8 Oct 2013
have not read much about somalia once over the hyped title this turns out to be a solid read concerning the history or somalia and its decline since its civil war,shows the affect of tribalism and the various warlords and militia.more interestingly its explores the diaspora in the usa and the uk.also looks at the influence of islam..in places you can see the journalistic joins which combine to make a book but worth reading
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not Great, 6 Oct 2013
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jack greene (Paso Robles, Ca United States) - See all my reviews
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This is a good book on a tough subject, but suffers from the author not knowing the local language. His discussion on Suicide bombers misses one important point. Suicide bombers have a secondary fuze that can be triggered by a handler if the bomber decides to back-out at the last moment and not detonate his or her vest. Currently(2013)probably a majority of suicide bombers are having their vests triggered by their handler. Also, a discussion of the charcoal trade could have been greater and go into more detail as a source of money for al-Shabaab.

Still, it is a fast read, the maps are excellent as are the photographs. Certainly quite good - not definitive though.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A footnote - kindle weakness!!, 11 Sep 2013
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The text is fine and interesting. The use of footnotes means that these cannot be viewed as you read but the reader either has wait until the end of each chapter or scroll forward and back each time one features to see what the author is wanting to say to elaborate his main text. Very annoying. As much a limiting feature of the kindle as anything. But maybe other authors should avoid using footnotes in kindle editions!!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on Somalia, 31 Mar 2013
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This book provides an excellent and up to date insight into the history and politics of Somalia. Absolutely vital reading for anyone who wants an insight into East Africa.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hell of a read, 11 Jun 2013
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An incredible book from one of the worlds top war correspondents.Very shocking but you just cannot stop reading.How he was not killed is something of a miracle.Cannot wait for next book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Somalia explained, 15 Dec 2013
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Somalia has long been a fascination to me since I watched black hawk down. But this book has explained the economical, social and historical reasons behind the current state of Somalia
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor geography and quotes which are not quotes, 9 July 2013
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He has some good points to make but his personnel bias towards certain people shows through. It reads like a poorly done travelogue written by someone aspiring to be an academic. His heritage tends to show through, possibly making the bias easier to understand and this tends to colour how the book is perceived by a person like myself.

His geography is remarkably weak - Google maps seems to have destroyed this person's ability to read a map and pick compass directions.

He is also guilty of putting words, or allowing misinterpretations of phrases, into people's mouths.

Lastly, he has exhibited 'artistic licence' with regard to traits exhibited in one setting not linked to this book and transposed them to settings.

Overall, a mish mash of some good points lost in poor writing and even worse recollection. Either write a novel or write a factual book - this is neither and the truth suffers because of a poor agenda
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