thefourthvine's Reviews > The Ridiculous Race

The Ridiculous Race by Steve Hely
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Jan 25, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: humor, travel-essays
Read in January, 2009

Here's what I learned from this book: those who can, do. Those who can't, write for television. Seriously, this is a book about the most incompetent travelers ever to make it back home without losing a limb. And I realize that was part of their shtick, but even when they're not being incompetent for humorous effect (which is a tough trick to manage, and they mostly don't, because, hey - incompetent!), they're still hopeless. I spent a lot of this book wondering why it wasn't called Two Mostly Useless Guys Wander Vaguely Around the Globe Running into Things.

And, sadly, one of the (many) things they can't do is write a book. They know how to write - although Vali has some annoying tense switches - and they know how to be funny, but they can do these things only in short bursts. So this isn't so much a book as it is a collection of very brief set pieces. And when I say "very short," I mean "several paragraphs." On the up side, this means it's easy to pick this book up and put it down. On the down side, this means it has absolutely no flow whatsoever, and the humor's a lot less, well, humorous, because there's no build at all.

So why did I give this book four stars? Because it is - or it contains - a rare, rare bird, one I've longed to see for the last ten years or so. See, travel and adventure writing is almost exclusively a white man's game. Occasionally I can find travel or (more rarely) adventure books written by women. But I basically never find any written by people of color. And Vali is Indian. It was fabulously refreshing to find anything, anything at all, written about traveling that wasn't from the perspective of a white man. I'd give a lot worse book than this one four stars for that.

Of course, that means I wish this entire book had been written by Vali; Steve's narrative, while it covers more off-the-beaten path areas, could have been written, and written better, by any of a thousand writers in this field. Vali's, on the other hand, is basically unique. Depressing? Yes. But it makes this book worth reading for anyone who enjoys travel and adventure writing, just so we can see how it could be.
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