5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
fun but superficial,
This review is from: Lost Cosmonaut (Paperback)
It is difficult to evaluate this book, because I can't avoid the feeling that it could have been a lot more. It is certainly a good, quick read, takes the reader to "zany" places, and there are so many jokes that the law of averages dictates that some of them are going to be genuinely funny, even if a number of them do loom on the horizon like Titanic-sinking icebergs.
What I miss, however, is any real depth to the book, and I only rarely had the feeling that the author really got under the surface of the places he visited. Instead, he tends to use them as the butt for a barrage of the aforementioned jokes, which at some point cheapens the narrative, adding an air that sometimes borders on a kind of colonialist arrogance. There comes a point when the reader - or at least I - really wants to know more about what the people in these places are dealing with, what motivates or moves them. This is lacking.
At the same time, the author has a habit of making wholesale generalisations (e.g. "Iran is a hellhole" - in fact it is anything but), which are based either on exuberance in his own writing, a degree of immaturity or complete ignorance. These sorts of comments, as well as a baffling eagerness to repeatedly use the term "cumstain", become genuinely irritating. Moreover, anyone who has travelled extensively around FSU countries (as I have had the mixed fortune of doing) will realise that the author is rather less intrepid than he makes himself out to be, but ultimately that is not so important.
That said, I suppose that at no point did the author set out to achieve a work of depth, and his chief aim is presumably to take the reader to unexpected, quirky locations and recount amusing anecdotes about them. So if you take the book for what it is - a superficial, often amusing account brief trips to Russian backwaters (not that Kazan is really a backwater) - then it does succeed in this and makes for entertaining reading.