Saturday, January 15, 2011

Breakfast in North Korea: Tony Wheeler's "Bad Lands".

by John Tackett

When places like Afghanistan or Iraq are mentioned in the news it is rarely pleasant. These countries are some of the most geographically intense and politically charged places on earth.

They are the bad lands.

It is in the spirit of intensity that the book "Bad Lands" was written. Bad Lands is a 344 page chronicle that takes the reader through Afghanistan, Albania, Burma (Myanmar), Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Saudi Arabia before bringing them home exhausted and jet lagged. The book also includes some excellent photos that give the reader further insight to the places that Wheeler visits in his adventures abroad.

Bad Lands is by far a masterful work on travel that both excites and intrigues, yet it has one major flaw which serves to potentially ruin the entire experience.

The "Evil Meter" chapter is where the book nosedives into a biased sermon on affairs that are of a complexity that extend beyond the confines of one author and one book alone. The chapter is an attempt at creating a scale of evil by assigning countries on the bad lands list with an arbitrary point value based upon on Wheeler's views of:

How a country treats its own citizens.
If that country is involved with terrorism.
and lastly, If the country is a threat to other countries.

Given that Russia, France, England, Pakistan, India, China, and the United States failed to make the evil meter list yet they all possess nuclear arsenals that make them well capable of threatening others countries leads me to suspect that this chapter is a veiled attempt at a bland political statement that is void of any real depth or substance.

The books ending gives an impression of Wheeler poking his thumb in the eye of the countries he visited after arriving safely at home. I have another sneaking suspicion that Wheeler deliberately ignores discussing the larger issues of evil causation that exist in these failed states in order to remain true to his goal of selling consumers books that focus on travel and not on foreign affairs.

My conclusion to this book is that skipping the Evil Meter chapter keeps the experience salvagable and rewarding.

For more information on books and travel guides written by author Tony Wheeler, please visit: