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A diary of a trucking trip to Tashkent from 1993
on 28 May 2013
Andy Turnbull is a Canadian journalist with a penchant for writing about journeys undertaken with truckers in various parts of the world. This book covers a trip he made from the UK to Tashkent in Uzbekistan in 1993 with a British trucker. While the title and the description leads one to believe that a work comparing the caravan travels on the Silk Route to the modern equivalent, the book falls somewhat short of that goal.
While the author starts off by trying to link modern long distance trucking to the caravans of old, some of the comparisons feel a bit forced and the theme is then largely abandoned later on in the book, where only an occassional comment is made regarding the two.
Some of the descriptions and statements will have aged dramatically from when the book was first published in 1993, as so much has changed during the subsequent 20 years (therefore all the price and roads / stops information, which may well have been of use to truckers of the time is now at best to be looked upon as a historical footnote).
The author, in spite of his international experience, still tends to come across as somewhat rejecting of his newly found environment of the former Soviet Republics (he is more than positive on the job of trucking itself) and some other accounts will do better justice to the cultures and the people and help a reader form a more informed picture.
At times one also feels that some research, rather than using hearsay and urban legends, would have helped make this a better book. At the same time one needs to acknowledge that in 1993 some of this would have been more difficult and that it may well have gone beyond the remit of an extended magazine article that the author was initially trying to get out of the journey.
The writing style can best be described as folksy / salt of the earth - which may or may not grate on the reader. It is clearly written from an 'American' perspective and many things which would not merit a second glance from an European are described in excrutiating detail. This is a general issue with the book - the author tends to frequently go off at a tangent and then describe some other journey he has made over several pages (or the merits of US versus European trucks).
As a last comment, where I think the book certainly does a better job than at being a travel journal is the description of the challenges and satisfactions of being a truck driver - it gives a voice to an important profession of any industrialized society, which on its own deserves praise.
If you are looking for a now historical description of the newly opening routes into Central Asia at the end of the Cold War from an 'American' perspective, this book may be great, otherwise it may well leave you somewhat unsatisfied.