A splendid tie-in book to a new PBS series airing in the spring of 1990, filled with 120 ravishing full-color photographs. Marvelous as Tom Owen Edmunds' photos are, however, they give only the surface reality of human lives, and the reader is not far into each of these seven texts by seven different writers before experiencing a strange split--a split between the brilliant inks and romantic glory of the photos and the feel of life rendered in the texts. In these, various people face disease, horror, hardship, and death, almost none of which is registered by Edmunds. Meanwhile, the most swaggering of the authors is Miles Kington, who works up a sense of sheer joy on the Burma Road, or rather the Irrawaddy River--an uplift that spills with fun into his comments on the Burmese as he travels from Rangoon to Mandalay. Naomi James, the lone woman writer here, whose husband died at sea, overcomes sadness and visits the Polynesian islands. In Samoa, to her deep discomfort, she is made to do a courtship dance for a village chief. Colin Thubron, following the Silk Road from the Great Wall of China to Afghanistan, finds that the film they are making is only a theatrical ghost of his real journey with its endless disasters. Hugo Williams has a nerve-wracking ball on a dangerous trip down the Pan Am Highway through Mexico and Central America. Norman Stone, a historian, going from the Baltic to the Black Sea, weighs so-called Russian spiritualism (and the horror of 40 million deaths brought on by the Russian Revolution) against Western materialism. William Shawcross takes in Morocco, Algeria and Niger; and Philip Jones-Griffiths, on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, sees that Agent Orange has caused more birth defects to exist in Vietnam than in any other Asian country. Superb writing, fabulous photography.