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The Lunatic Express: Discovering the World . . . Via Its Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains, and Planesby Carl Hoffman
Synopses & Reviews
Indonesian Ferry Sinks. Peruvian Bus Plunges Off Cliff. African Train Attacked by Mobs. Whenever he picked up the newspaper, Carl Hoffman noticed those short news bulletins, which seemed about as far from the idea of tourism, travel as the pursuit of pleasure, as it was possible to get. So off he went, spending six months circumnavigating the globe on the world's worst conveyances: the statistically most dangerous airlines, the most crowded and dangerous ferries, the slowest buses, and the most rickety trains. The Lunatic Express takes us into the heart of the world, to some its most teeming cities and remotest places: from Havana to Bogotá on the perilous Cuban Airways. Lima to the Amazon on crowded night buses where the road is a washed-out track. Across Indonesia and Bangladesh by overcrowded ferries that kill 1,000 passengers a year. On commuter trains in Mumbai so crowded that dozens perish daily, across Afghanistan as the Taliban closes in, and, scariest of all, Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., by Greyhound.
The Lunatic Express is the story of traveling with seatmates and deckmates who have left home without American Express cards on conveyances that don't take Visa, and seldom take you anywhere you'd want to go. But it's also the story of traveling as it used to be — a sometimes harrowing trial, of finding adventure in a modern, rapidly urbanizing world and the generosity of poor strangers, from ear cleaners to urban bus drivers to itinerant roughnecks, who make up most of the world's population. More than just an adventure story, The Lunatic Express is a funny, harrowing and insightful look at the world as it is, a planet full of hundreds of millions of people, mostly poor, on the move and seeking their fortunes.
"Travel and technology journalist Hoffman (Hunting Warbirds) had two motives for penning this tour of the world's most life-threatening modes of transportation, including trains in India, buses in South America, and trucks in Afghanistan: to expose the 'parallel reality,' obscured by the tourism industry, of millions for whom 'travel was still a punishing, unpredictable, and sometimes deadly work of travail'; and for thrills. By the first measure-showing how much of the world gets from place to place-Hoffman is commendably fascinating: his depiction of the horrors people endure just to see family members or get to work is unforgettable. Unfortunately, Hoffman's secondary motive dominates much of the ruminating prose, and it's hard to sympathize with his middle-aged family-man angst when he's subjecting his teenage daughter to a 24-hour ride across South American mountains in a bus with no bathroom. Elsewhere, a powerful description of the Indian train system segues into a tepid quasi-love affair. Readers with the patience to avoid some self-indulgent side-tracks will find much to reconsider during their next tough commute." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
More than just an adventure story, "The Lunatic Express" is a funny, harrowing, and insightful chronicle of Hoffman's travels on some of the world's worst conveyances: the statistically most dangerous airlines, the most crowded ferries, and the most rickety trains.
About the Author
Carl Hoffman has driven the Baja 1000, ridden reindeer in Siberia, sailed an open dinghy 250 miles, and traveled to 65 countries. When he's able to stay put for more than a few months at a time, he lives in Washington, D.C., where his three children make fun of him on a pretty constant basis. He is a contributing editor at National Geographic Traveler and Wired magazines, and his stories about travel and technology also appear in Outside, National Geographic Adventure, Men's Journal and Popular Mechanics.
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