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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing Vision of America's Future
Empire Wilderness, though awkwardly named, is a very readable, very interesting look at how cities and communities are developing in the US. I read Kaplan's previous book, Ends of the Earth and my one criticism of Empire Wilderness holds true for both books. Kaplan's impressions are occasionally surface deep since he breezes in and out of towns in a matter of days...
Published on 21 Sep 1998

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2.0 out of 5 stars Call me Chicken Little but...
I have never been to Turkmenistan. After reading The Ends of the Earth I thought I had an idea of what the dawn of the new century would mean for the rest of the world. Now I doubt it.
I have been on the ground in the good old USA. I've walked around the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Place of Meditation. I believe Mr. Kaplan is correct in his...
Published on 6 Dec 1998


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing Vision of America's Future, 21 Sep 1998
By A Customer
Empire Wilderness, though awkwardly named, is a very readable, very interesting look at how cities and communities are developing in the US. I read Kaplan's previous book, Ends of the Earth and my one criticism of Empire Wilderness holds true for both books. Kaplan's impressions are occasionally surface deep since he breezes in and out of towns in a matter of days or a couple of weeks. I have heard Kaplan argue that he feels that first impressions can be quite telling and that is true. However, the complexities of a community are sometimes deeper than the surface lets on. That having been said, Kaplan's prose is extremely interesting and readable. I think the scenarios he paints are quite plausible and the implications for individuals and policy makers are profound. I hghly recommend this book for anyone who is interested/concerned about what their communities will look like in the next decade.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars America at the Turn of the Century, 10 Dec 1998
By A Customer
Robert D. Kaplan presents an engaging view of the Americanwest and the closely related areas of British Columbia and Mexico. His journeys take him to such disparate places as St. Louis, Vicksburg, Kansas City, Vancouver, Mexico City, Los Angeles and the Oklahoma panhandle. In some ways the book provides further insights into trends previously chronicled in "Edge Cities," "The Nine Nations of North America" and "Ecotopia."
• Kaplan provides one of the most succinct descriptions of the demise of St. Louis --- a city that has lost 60 percent of its population, which he concludes "no longer exists."
• He provides a sympathetic description of the Oklahoma panhandle, constituting what may be the most comprehensive coverage of this geographical corner virtually unknown to most of the nation.
• The book spends considerable time in discussing Arizona, its major cities and its native American preserves.
Kaplan finds that people in the emerging American communities, especially in the technology oriented edge cities, are likely to have much more in common with people they have only met through telecommunications than with their geographical neighbors, or people who live just a few miles away. In this regard, he correctly recognizes that the very meaning of community is undergoing a radical change.
The only significant problem is an uncritical acceptance of the Portland's purported land use planning success. Kaplan indicates that Portland has avoided the "unlimited growth" that has plagued other US cities. He further indicates that the cities of the Northwest (Vancouver and presumably Portland and Seattle) are devoid of sprawl. In fact, Portland sprawls at lower densities than Los Angeles and the central city of Portland is barely one-half to one-third as dense as the Orange County suburbs of Anaheim, Buena Park and Santa Ana. This mistake is often made by people who visit Portland's tiny but engaging core, while missing the other 99 percent of the urbanized area, which resembles Phoenix, though with more vegetation and more sprawl (less density).
With the noted exception the Kaplan book is important, useful and recommended as a thoughtful and apparently accurate assessment of US social trends as the 21st century approaches.
Wendell Cox
The Public Purpose
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bleak future of the nation state of America, 16 Jun 1999
By A Customer
Mr. Kaplan's travels and views of the evolving future of the American West is acurate and sombering. It also applies to the rest of America. The book is pessimistic in that Kaplan beleives that the future as it is evolving is evitatable with rich enclaves amid a sea of poor cities resembling third world communities with uncontrollable emigration from Asia and South of the border. Is this what the presnt Americans want or should a stringent approach be taken to absorb the huge legal emigration of the last few years, vigorously inhibit illegal emigration, and seriously resrict additional emigraiton? This actually would mimic earlier waves of emigration. If we cannot control our borders and corporations better then we are doing, then we cannot control our future in becoming just another overpopulated disfunctional third world society.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Call me Chicken Little but..., 6 Dec 1998
By A Customer
I have never been to Turkmenistan. After reading The Ends of the Earth I thought I had an idea of what the dawn of the new century would mean for the rest of the world. Now I doubt it.
I have been on the ground in the good old USA. I've walked around the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Place of Meditation. I believe Mr. Kaplan is correct in his identification of the symptoms but wrong is his diagnosis of the disease.
The federal government will continue to become more and more irrelevant to Americans only as long as we continue to have the privilege of taking it for granted. To paraphrase George Will, historians always refer to periods of peace as interludes between two wars. I haven't sensed an earth-shattering paradigm shift. The next war probably won't be anything we are prepared for. That's why it will happen. It may be terroristic, environmental, economic. Who knows. When it does come to pass, rest assured every American will at least want to feel united even if by then it is too late to do anything about it. In the meanwhile we sate our federal government's appetite for a purpose with Head Start programs, Flag Burning Ammendments, and plenty of government mandated income redistribution.
Maybe the book attempts too much. In any event, despite Mr. Kaplan's substantial journalistic ability An Empire Wilderness fails.
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3.0 out of 5 stars I wish America were more like France, 1 Oct 1998
By A Customer
I love Kaplan's writing. He's an intelligent and insightful journalist, yet his most recent effort is full of high-minded intellectual cliches. We've heard much of this before: How suburban sprawl undermines feeling of community; how the global economy is increasing tension between the "haves" and the "have nots"; how unchecked competition is creating social dysfunction; how technology has a way of eroding quality of life; etc... All this may be interesting when considered as a "wish list" for highly educated urban professionals, but its not at all new. I find most of these theses to be highly reactionary. Suburban life doesn't have to be as banal as we are lead to believe. Cars and computers represent progress. I'm not likely to subscribe to the notion that just because St. Louis is not as "dense" as it used to be that it somehow becomes less of a city. So, if you're looking for someone to confirm the idea that the United States would be better off if it were more like France--with soft social services, natural skepticism about the benefits of technology, and dense old cities with lots of winding streets and sidewalk cafes--Kaplan provides that here. But, I've seen it all before.
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4.0 out of 5 stars One of my best reads this year!, 22 Sep 1998
By A Customer
While at times Kaplan's commentary is less than congruent, his overall sense of the decline of nationalism and the rise of isolated suburban "pods" is right on. As a citizen of the West as well as a "Cosmopolitan Expatriate", I reveled in the authors simple insights into the mindset of the differet regions he visited and the effects of our consumptive capitalist lifestyle. This book is not a travelog, but a sampling of the rise of the affluent suburban municipality at the cost of the inner cities. The author uses the west as a metaphor for the the justification of self preservation and isolationism. The gap between the wealthy uuper middle class and upper class versus those poor who have more or less been abondoned by most of society too busy accumulating "stuff" and protecting their newly incorporated neighborhoods (and property/sales tax base) to maintain any sense of humanity towards the "have nots", the new "manifest destiny". The similarity to the ethnic strife in other regions of the world is striking. Kaplan's overview of the rise of regionlism and one's sense of loyalty to a landscape as opposed to a state or nation is intriging.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Professional journalism with stark unbalanced reality ., 8 Sep 1998
By A Customer
Just read this over the Labor Day weekend. It is informative, detailed, accurate, and a good reference book to quote from. However, being an executive that travels all over the US and North America, I have to agree with the Wall Street Journal's comments. Had the author taken the time to look at the positive forces working for change to enhance American's future, the reader wouldn't be left with a feeling that everything around him is turning sour, as is the case with this book. It is definately worth reading and passing on to friends. Read two quite exciting and inspirational books last week and will share them with you. Orson Card's The Songmaster, and Brad Steiger's new book, Alien Rapture. Judging from Steiger's past work, Alien Rapture will definately be a block buster movie. I recommend buying this (Empire Wilderness) book for no other reason than to find out what's really going on in America that you don't find out from CNN and News Journalism shows.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Wait for the softcover., 6 Sep 1998
By A Customer
I picked up Kaplan's latest book in the store last night. I enjoyed both "Balkan Ghosts" and "The Ends of the Earth" tremendously and have been looking eagerly for his next book. Then I read the jacket cover. I would trust that an author would take the time to ensure that the marketing for his book would be correct. Instead I find that I will be traveling 'west' to go from Ft Leavenworth, KS to St Louis, MO. Having driven east along I-70 many times to do the same thing makes me wonder just how he accomplished this amazing feat - or is this another around the world book? Either way, I was immediately put off. This is probably foolish, but rather than put the hardcover in my personal library along with the others, I will wait for the softcover.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas, a good book, 31 Mar 1999
By A Customer
Mr. Kaplan has written a good piece. What does patriotism mean in 1999? If we had a war today would anybody come? Or would people just sit smuggly at home, behind the wall, and fondle their financial portfolio? If the conflict does threaten the "American Way Of Life" (my money) a cry will raise "draft up a bunch of the underclass and Afican-Americans and send them to fight" The scarry thought is what happens when the underclass realize who their real enemy is?
Who edited this book? It had far too many word processor spell check errors (misspelled word forms another acceptable word) BTW Grama not gama is the short grass on the High Plains (Bouteloua sp.)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Plenty of resonance, 7 Jun 1999
By A Customer
It's been several months now since I finished An Empire Wilderness and I find myself reminded of it often as I read the newspaper, watch television news or just look around me. Taken as a composite, Kaplan's writing in this volume rings very true. While not a major part of the book, the first and last chapters regarding the US military and its evolving role seem especially pertinent. Here's hoping that when the paperback version is published that many more people read and ponder An Empire Wilderness. There are important lessons in Kaplan's observations.
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