Kirkus Star


The 21st Century and Where It All Went Wrong
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A helter-skelter travelogue in which London-based journalist Mueller endures blasts of rhetoric from the likes of Bono, various nationalists and pundits, as well as blasts of bombs and bad vibes in all corners of the world.

The title is ironic, referring to a pat Irish reply to lost tourists seeking their way from point A to point B. Mueller, a specialist in point Zs, honors no beaten paths, and though he’s not exactly lost most of the time, he’s not found either. This rollicking innocent-abroad tour of the world opens with a grim meditation on comparative cabbing that will make a cultural relativist wince, but that will please fans of P.J. O’Rourke: “Georgians are the worst drivers in the world, combining the mindless aggression of Lebanese, the terrifying fatalism of Pakistanis, the adolescent machismo of Italians, and the technical competence of baboons.” Ouch. Things are just as bad off the road in various other third-world countries, which is, Mueller observes, why so many people are clamoring to migrate to places such as Sweden and Canada, while so few Swedes and Canadians are clamoring to migrate to Myanmar or Lesotho. Mueller turns up bright spots in such unexpected milieus as Albania and Abkhazia, and he finds high points of many kinds along his travels, with sympathies plainly expressed—if China wants Taiwan, he ventures, then give it the island, after all the Taiwanese migrate to the West. Yet his travels are mostly designed, it seems, to show how the wrong roads taken have led to the regimes in Iraq and Tripoli—and, for that matter, Washington, D.C.—the bloodshed that plagues the globe and the various lunacies that keep people on a Hobbesian rather than Lockean schedule.

Politically savvy and unafraid to be controversial (but not unnecessarily). An eye-opener for students of geopolitics and a useful primer for would-be globetrotters.

Pub Date: March 25th, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-59376-218-6
Page count: 472pp
Publisher: Soft Skull Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2009