countdown boutiques-francophones Learn more vpcflyout Pets All-New Kindle Music Deals Store sports Tools

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

Showing 1-3 of 3 reviews(3 star). Show all reviews
on April 26, 2000
Don't buy this book thinking it's merely a travelogue of some of the world's poorer and lesser-known nations. (In fact, if that's all you're looking for, then I highly recommend Pico Iyer's Falling off the Map instead.) No, it's a cleverly disguised sociopolitical analysis, but unlike most such works, it's refreshing in that Kaplan freely admits his observations are subjective and possibly wrong. But that's exactly the problem. Despite physically travelling to all these destinations, Kaplan seems to spend precious little time actually TALKING with real citizenry in most places. Instead he whisks from Western hotels in the capital to meetings with various pols and officials before scuttling off to the next country, sometimes just days later. And therein lies the failure of an otherwise worthy effort from an outstanding writer: the superficiality of most of his experiences in these places. Give him a few days in a country, coupled with a bit of background reading and perhaps a few conversations with experts at home, and Kaplan feels justified in making sweeping generalizations about where these nations have been, and where they are going. Had Kaplan just stopped country-hopping and stayed in one region for a longer time, I think his conclusions would have been much improved. A side note: having travelled to a number of these countries (as one of the "backpackers" that Kaplan scornfully derides throughout the book), his constant dramatizing of the mundane grows tedious after a while...I think the only person surprised that the third world can be dirty, smelly, and unpredictable is Kaplan himself.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on November 21, 1998
Robert Kaplan leads you through an intelligent survey of some of the globe's nastier places. This is good book. It is smart, interesting, and should make people think about some problems most of us would rather ignore. It is not a great book. I would say Kaplan got too ambitious, and it shows. He tried to pack too many things - too many countries, too many ideas, too many stories - into one book. As a result it's a very reportorial work - it tells you the basics, it surprises you with interesting bits, and it even digs a little bit beyond the surface. But when it comes time to say "but what does it mean, Dorothy?" - zoom! We're off to the next hellhole on our tour. There's nothing wrong with reportorial, but Kaplan seems to promise something more. He doesn't deliver. He would have been better served by devoting more time to fewer countries. For instance, by his own admission he spent very little time in Laos and did not get a good picture of the country as a whole. Then why write about it? Would this be a worse book without the sketchy Laotian chapter? Hey, I've been in Malaysia for week, but I'm not writing a book about it. The holes in the book are filled with Kaplan's self-important wishy-washy musings. He's full of ideas, only they conflict with each other, and he can't decide which one is the best or how they should all fit together. After a couple of hundred pages, I was yelling "Look, do you have a conclusion or not? Because if you don't, why not have a lie down, figure out an answer, and THEN write it down!" It's fine to write "I didn't know what to think," it chapter 1, but by the end of the book, well, you should have a better idea what to think. You shouldn't endlessly pose the same answerless questions. Far too many chapters end with something like "There was no more time. I was off to (Togo/Turkmenistan/Laos)." Hmmm. Maybe he should have spent some more time thinking of some answers. I have to say I would have liked this book more if I had not read "Balkan Ghosts". With that book I felt Kaplan actually knew the area and understood the passions and fault lines that tear the Balkans apart. It raised my expectations for this book. In "The Ends of the Earth" we have to be content with what we see on the surface. We're not going anywhere, but we're making good time.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on July 20, 2001
Perhaps this is an interesting book if you have never heard of, thought about or been to the developing world. If you have spent significant time in Africa, Central Asia or Southeast Asia, however, you'll find Kaplan to be exactly the kind of expat that made you cringe when they visited you abroad: twenty seconds off the plane, and he's already making sweeping generalizations based on the bathroom in the airport or the time it took him to get through customs...
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse