Sunday, November 30, 2008

Book Review: Long Way Down

Ahhh, what a great tale the back cover of this book promises--Two great friends hop on their BMW's and head off from the Northern tip of Scotland and many weeks and 15,000 miles later they end up at the end of the road in South Africa. What sites they must see!! What great anecdotes they must have!! What trials and tribulations they must undergo!! Ummm...not so much.....

Having heard of Ewan McGregor (of Star Wars and Trainspotting fame) and Charley Boorman's (a previous Dakar entrant and son of Deliverance director John Boorman) previous trip which was entitled "Long Way Around" and the good press its book and TV series received, I was excited to read this book. My expectations coming in were that it would contain stories of the exotic locals they were sure to travel through in Africa and mix in the difficulties and unexpected events that are sure to take place on any such long distance trip that involves large offroad/dirt road sections. I will not disparage the thinking that went into the trip's development as the trip itself raised funds for a number of worthy causes and awareness of even more.

What I will critique is the writing of the book itself. Whether it is a lack of writing experience or a lack of actual interesting events taking place during the trip, the book is quite uneventful and slow...For all the distance traveled, very little happens to the pair that wouldn't happen to nearly anyone on a trip to their local offroad park. A few spills, a few punctures and thats about it. Good for them...bad for the reader. Its hard to get excited over "We road 150 miles today from X to X and there were a few potholes and rocks. Then we stopped for coffee and set up our tents and went to bed..." Great......

Of the two writers, Boorman comes off as the far more likeable and the guy you would rather share a few beers with...Though McGregor is the better known and more wealthy, it is Boorman who has a more pragmatic outlook on the world and is less prone to silly statements like "Though I've lived in England all my life, I never imagined that people ACTUALLY lived in such poverty and poor conditions!!" (a bit of a paraphrase, but you get the point...).

I might have a different opinion if this was the video version of their trip as I'd at least get the visuals of all the places they visited (Pyramids, Greek ruins, Nile river, African wildlife, etc.) but as a book it relies solely upon its authors, who in this case cannot get their words to match the splendors they observed and thus we are left with a book whose reach far exceeds its grasp.

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