Frustratingly superficial journeys to some of the world's most ecologically and politically complicated places. Entranced in his midwestern childhood by Tarzan and Jungle Jim, journalist Alexander grew up with rain forest dreams and a persistent sense that life in the jungle would be ``reduced to its essentials, written in sharp contrasts.'' The reality, when he began to visit the jungle himself, was far more tangled and confusing, but still the promise of exotic travel was an effective antidote to the even more confusing world of adult decisions and ambitions. Ranging far afield, Alexander has looked for rhinos in Malaysia's Taman Negara and tried to unscramble the swarm of acronymic organizations working in and for the PetÇn rain forest in Guatemala. He has hiked to Boiling Lake on the Caribbean island of Dominica and visited its feisty, tweed-skirted, octogenarian prime minister. Restlessly following his ``vague craving,'' he sometimes wonders if ``rain forests seemed like a string of odd disappointments,'' always too full of grinding poverty, government stupidity, corporate greed, and disease-bearing insects. But the romance prevailsthe ``impossible luck'' that the infinite complexity of the jungle exists at all. Parts of Alexander's disjointed travelogue may catch the imagination, but his breezy style is too chatty to take seriously. Briefly introduced people and places litter the pages, and any attempt at deep thought dissolves into platitudes. There's a good point somewhere in here about the gap between the reality of rain forest life and the gringo's romantic ideal, but Alexander reduces it to a simpleminded ``they wanted to be more like us while we were trying to be more like them.''