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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not All That Bad
Bad Lands by Tony Wheeler is an interesting book. Though it may look, to people who see me reading this out and about, as though it's a book explaining exactly why the countries listed in George Bush's `Axis of Evil' are in fact `evil', it's not that at all. Tony Wheeler is sympathetic to the countries he visits and he often leaves the reader wondering what all the fuss...
Published on 20 Mar 2011 by L. Hardt

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great 2 chapters, shame about the book
I particuarly enjoyed the chapters on North Korea and Iran but the rest of the book was drivel. The chapter on Iraq seemed utterly irrelevant as only half of it seemed to be about travelling Iraq itself with the rest of the chapter devoted to the authors barely reconstructured, luddite, 6th form common room views and opinions on the history, politics (his politics are...
Published on 22 Jun 2009 by Mr. N. P. Levitt


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not All That Bad, 20 Mar 2011
By 
L. Hardt (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Bad Lands by Tony Wheeler is an interesting book. Though it may look, to people who see me reading this out and about, as though it's a book explaining exactly why the countries listed in George Bush's `Axis of Evil' are in fact `evil', it's not that at all. Tony Wheeler is sympathetic to the countries he visits and he often leaves the reader wondering what all the fuss is about. Yes, he is realistic about some of the absurdities of each country and their strange laws. He observes the oddity of restrictions to visitors wanting to enter certain countries (Iran for example) when many of its inhabitants want to, in fact, leave. But he also recalls the influence of other countries - mostly from the West or Communist Russia and China - who have also played a part in making them supposed `enemies'.

This is a book that can be picked up and read at intervals. You can dip in and read a chapter of choice without worrying about remembering what the last three chapters have told you. This is a good travel book that lets you choose where you want to be for a few pages. It even made me wonder why I wasn't contemplating visiting some of these countries myself - although also made me reconsider my desire to visit Cuba.

In fact, I tried to read this in one go, but reverted to reading it in between reading other things, as Wheeler's writing on each country has a repetitive element to it. Don't get me wrong, his style is accessible, balanced and sympathetic, and so very easy to read, but I felt like a break between each country allowed me to enjoy reading it more.

This is definitely a book to pick up if you are interested in an alternative view of those countries that appear so hostile on the news programmes
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gallivanting through the Axis of Evil, 10 May 2008
By 
Joseph Haschka (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
"Libya is one of the most comprehensively trashed countries I've ever visited." - Author Tony Wheeler in BAD LANDS

Co-founder (with his wife, Maureen) of Lonely Planet Publications, Tony Wheeler here describes his travels through nine countries generally considered "bad lands" by Western societies because of their poor treatment of their own citizens, their involvement in terrorism, and the threat they pose to other countries. The nine are Afghanistan, Albania, Myanmar (Burma), Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia. Except for areas in Iraq which Wheeler was careful to skirt, none of the nine are particularly dangerous for the individual visitor.

In the genre of travel essays, BAD LANDS is commendably out of the ordinary in that it includes a 16-page center section of color photographs. I guess if your book is being published your own publishing company, you can afford this extravagance.

While reading the first chapter on Afghanistan, I thought Wheeler's writing rather stiff and I was somewhat dreading the experience of the whole. But in following chapters, he loosens up considerably and becomes a congenial and wryly humorous guide. For instance, this paragraph about Cuba:

"Every other woman walking by was wearing the standard Cuban fashion statements: short, tight, low, high, stretched. Preferably in Lycra ... In Cuba no women can be too big, too wide, too round for Lycra. 'Thrusting femininity' was the two-word definition of the Cuban approach to fashion, according to one visiting travel writer ..."

Published in 2007, BAD LANDS provides a roomy front window for the reader to peer out into the contemporary society of each nation visited, as well as useful rear window overlooking their recent pasts.

I'd award five stars except for the last two chapters, "The Evil Meter" and "Other Bad Lands: The Extended List." In the former, Tony rates, on a scale of 1 to 10, each of the nine subject nations: 1-3 points for domestic oppression, 1-3 for support or participation in terrorism, 1-3 for international belligerency, and a bonus point for Personality Cult centered around the national leader. I didn't mind so much that Wheeler calibrated his meter with such countries as the United States, Australia, the UK, and France and found them registering on the scale, albeit at a low level. But, when he carried the concept over into the latter chapter and mentions such garden spots as Somalia, Congo/Zaire, Angola, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Syria and (in his mind) the evil conjoined twins, Israel and Palestine, without making even the most rudimentary mention of an obvious twosome, resurgent Russia and China, then I began to doubt his objectivity. Perhaps he should just stay with travel writing and skip the editorializing.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great 2 chapters, shame about the book, 22 Jun 2009
By 
Mr. N. P. Levitt "Neil" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I particuarly enjoyed the chapters on North Korea and Iran but the rest of the book was drivel. The chapter on Iraq seemed utterly irrelevant as only half of it seemed to be about travelling Iraq itself with the rest of the chapter devoted to the authors barely reconstructured, luddite, 6th form common room views and opinions on the history, politics (his politics are the Liberal equivalent of Fox News) and culture of the places he has visited. If you want a travel book then I'd buy a proper one by Paul Theroux. If you want a history book or something on Middle Eastern culture then Albert Hourani or Edward Said. If you are the sort of person who hangs out in Hostels, smoking pot and quoting parts of Geroge Orwell completely out of context, or, are simply a vacuous cretin then this book is for you.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I expected a much better book, 28 Jun 2007
By 
Darren Henman (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Saw this in a shop and purchased it straight away as it sounded interesting and promised a different persepctive on these countries.

I was disapointed by the style of writeing which offered a few insights but not much more than just a mundane storey of one mans travel, which did at time appear to give the reader the impression that it was only written to satisfy the authors ego.

I expected more from such a seasoned traveller. Not worth the money
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 8 May 2013
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This review is from: Badlands: A Tourist on the Axis of Evil (Lonely Planet Travel Literature) (Kindle Edition)
As an inveterate reader of travel books, I was truly disappointed with this one but as I had never read any Lonely Travel Guides, it could be that I had not realised that Lonely Travel Guides were just tourist guides for backpackers. To me, it read just like any other travel guides, places to be visited, churches not to be missed, state of the roads and so on.

As an example as to what I was expecting and did not get, in Cuba the author gave lots of lifts in his hired car, but almost never recounted any of the conversations he must have had with his passengers. Why on earth not? Surely that might have told us what opinions Cubans held about their Government and whether they missed the sort of freedoms we in the west enjoyed and so on. But no. Very disappointing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great opportunity, irritatingly written, 27 Jan 2011
By 
Darren Simons (Middlesex, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was rather intrigued when I first saw this book.. I figured visiting the Axis of Evil (and shortlisted countries) must be the ultimate thrill seek for the independent traveller. Being written by Tony Wheeler I was also curious to get some insight into the writing of the original Lonely Planet author.

Each chapter is dedicated to Wheeler's travels in a particular country, the people he meets, an insight into what it may be like to live there and there's some really good history to give you some context of the country. At the end of the book he gives a score to each country as a badland based on personality cult, external threat, terrorism and behaviour to their own citizens. On the face of it, the ingredients are there for a really good, quite unusual travel book. In fact, for much of the book I found I really enjoyed it.

Sadly, however, the author gets pretty close to ruining it by trying to be funny and appearing to be desperate to make sure the reader understands and appreciates the his willingness to share this knowledge and opinion. It seems to increase through the book and it takes various forms: mocking tour guides for blinkered views of history; criticising guidebooks for not detailing all the hotels (I'm sure most of us have had a similar experience with Lonely Planet at some time or another); comparing various situations to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict; referring to Saudi women as having black bags on their heads.

At the end, Wheeler spends some time considering which other countries would be badlands. Curiously although shortlisting Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Congo, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea he opts for Israel and the Palestinians. It has no context, no relevance and if you look at what Wheeler has defined as being a Badland no chance. Firstly Israel and the Palestinians refer to something between a civil war and the splitting of a country into two; secondly neither side would really be considered as having tyrannical leaders of their own people, nor deliberately restricting their own lives. It's instead a very sad story of conflict which will hopefully one day be resolved - very different to the situations in many of the countries in the book.

It really struck me as a shame that a book that started so well, presenting context, history, lifestyle and comment on countries which realistically most of us will never visit ended up as a disappointment. I gave 3 out of 5 as a score, because the start was 5* and the end 1*.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Drop the political posturing, 27 Sep 2007
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This is the first Lonely Planet I've read by the original author Tony Wheeler.

After having recently read a similar series linked to the DP author David Lloyd Pelton, Wheeler starts comparatively jittery.

Mixed mumblings and party line politics give way to a more flowing, humourous and generally interesting narrative as you continue through.

One of the main drawbacks with this guide is the political bobbing and weaving.
To be honest, I don't care for reading Tony's views on how the world works.

Otherwise; it's an interesting overview on visiting dangerous places from a one of the world's leading travel proffesionals.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't realise it's potential, 6 Nov 2010
By 
A. Betts "Alister Betts" (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As an advocate of Lonely Planet publications and a bit of a Tony Wheeler fan, I grabbed this book eagerly after all the topic was challenging. What a disappointment, this almost appears as an paen to Wheeler's obscure travel - yes he visited Afgahnistan, Iran, Iraq, North Korea but what about Somalia, Congo or even Zimbabwe? And Cuba? Well, it's annoying for the USA but the rest of the world have been taking package trips there for years, hardly evil. Wheeler ambles around each country, falling far short od the writings of for example Paul Theroux, and with no discernible direction; a page on Lebanon within the Burmese section got me wondering whether it was a printing error. There is a book to be written here but Wheeler has missed his chance.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating travelogue, 14 May 2007
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This is a really readable book about Tony Wheeler's visits as a tourist to countries that are (or were until fairly recently) deemed as 'bad lands' by most of the rest of the world. It's a very personal view of each country's activities and exploits, and Mr Wheeler does make the point that few, if any, countries in the world can claim to have a clear conscience. It's really interesting to read about the people and places in the countries that were visited - as a woman, the most scary place to me would be Saudi Arabia where it seems that women have no rights or freedoms at all. I'd loved to have read about some of the countries listed as "also-rans" such as Somalia, DR Congo, Haiti etc, but I'd guess that visiting a lot of those places as a tourist would be difficult if not impossible. And after what Mr Wheeler has to say about the North Korean government, I doubt as if they'll be letting him back in...! ;)
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "To Boldly Go .... ", 15 Mar 2011
By 
The Wolf (uk) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Tony Wheeler is a seasoned traveller. Of this there can
be no doubt. Seasoned and burnished to the density of old
mahogony! A man of The World. A man of many worlds in fact!
His long association with Lonely Planet publications spans
almost four decades. As a travel writer he is peerless.

'Bad Lands : A Tourist On The Axis Of Evil' is a bit of a
curiosity in his extensive output. A dip into and out of
some of the world's hottest trouble-spots. With his
'Evil Meter' (tm!) switched on he sets off around the globe
in search of experience and understanding of a collection of
countries with a chronicle of repression and abuse of their
own citizens and the export of secular and sacred apocalyptic
idologies to the wider world beyond their borders.

Afganistan; Albania; Burma; Cuba; Iran; Iraq; Libya, North Korea
and Saudi Arabia all come under hawk-eyed scrutiny. Mr Wheeler's
historical knowledge, astute observational skills, humanist
predisposition and sense of humour make him a guide of rare
sensibility and insight. We watch with him from a safe distance!

He does not turn away from the horrors but is also able to find
beauty in the small details of the landscapes and the lives of
ordinary people. He is a witness to both wickedness and to hope.

I suspect that North Korea's 'Great Leader' Kim Jong-Il may well
have a nuke especially set aside with Mr Wheeler's name on it!!

Recommended.
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