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BUMBLING THROUGH BORNEO - Thomas A Schmidt
PRODUCT DESCRIPTION FROM AMAZON
"A GREAT ADVENTURE AWAITS YOU! Follow the humorous day-by-day account of Bumbling Bob, a wayward American architect, as he finds himself on an uncertain journey deep into the heart of Borneo with a small troupe of intrepid backpackers. Share an arduous journey up the fabled Rejang River to experience life in a traditional longhouse -- ending in a deadly race through virgin rainforest aboard runaway logging trucks to a world of subterranean splendor. Discover the Malaysian state of Sarawak -- a land abundant in nature's treasures -- ruled by a melting pot of cultures on a collision course with environmental catastrophe!"
THE SERIES OF BUMBLING BOOKS
Apparently there is a series of these books and they are written with the intention of "promoting environmental and cultural awareness through entertaining mysteries and adventures.
WHY THIS BOOK CHOICE?
As we are about to head off on a trip to Laos and Borneo I looked on Amazon to see if I could find any books set in or written about either country. I came up with nil from Laos and about four from Borneo . I think I have now bought all those that looked remotely interesting of the Borneo ones and so far I have been a bit disappointed. The first one I read and reviewed on here was 2Into the Heart of Borneo" by Redmond O' Hanlon and while it was interesting it was a bit dated and also mostly in Sarawak and we are going to Sabah.
This one was even more of a disappointment and I still don't really know what the author was trying to achieve in writing it.
This is a work of fiction which in itself is odd as it is sort of hinted in the product description that this was a book about someone's trip to Borneo and that is what I was expecting.
Anyway it is fiction but a sort of fictional travelogue with comic book style pictures drawn by the author.
Basically Bob is an architect who receives a letter suggesting that he visit Borneo and there will be some sort of reward there. In the parcel is a one way plane ticket to Singapore with his name on it and some money He is feeling fed up with his job and so he takes up the invite.
Whilst in a hostel in Singapore he bumps into a Swedish backpacker named Jon who seems to spend a lot of time sneezing, and they team up to continue the adventure. Later they are joined by Ken an Aussie on his way home from a year's backpacking and also Franz a German backpacker travelling and collecting spices for cooking as he travels.
Now although we have four characters I never really got a handle on who they were and just read the book knowing there were four of them as the characterization is not great and also rather irrelevant for the kind of 'story' this is.
That is the story the four of them go up the river and hitch rides with trucks that are driven by loony drivers and do the sort of things backpackers do. They eat local dishes which are mentioned and they visit interesting sights which are described and drawn but really it is very childish and amateurish writing. It is the sort of thing our children did when they were younger and we took them on holiday.
I really struggled to work out who the book was aimed at. It is presented and sometimes written as though for children but some of the words used such as 'ramifications' would not usually be in a children's book.
The font used in comic sans which doesn't help as that is the font I used to use for Y3 work in schools as it has a written style of a but is certainly not a font I have seen used in adult books previously.
At the start of the book we have a map of the world showing where Borneo is in relation to other countries, then the whole of Borneo including the part of the island that is Indonesia in a map and finally a third map just of the Malaysian part with Brunei.
As you read the book there are parts where the history of Sarawak or a museum with cultural relics are described but again I found it just failed to inspire my curiosity.
For example ;
"There was a temporary exhibit on loan featuring a scrap of parchment written in an extinct indecipherable Easter Island language, Rongorongo; noteworthy in that it was discovered in Sarawak an astounding 15,000 km away from its source."
The book is meant to highlight the eco and environmental issues and once again I felt these were sort of stuck in when the author felt he could give a mini lecture. The two men were looking through a newspaper to find out about Sarawak as guide books are often out of date and what kept coming up was deforestation. I am sorry but I cannot believe a local newspaper would have that as a recurring theme especially as those printing the paper were probably related to those who were doing the logging. Malaysia is not a 'free from corruption and bribes' sort of country.
I just had the feeling that throughout the book the author was determined to get certain environmental issues into the story and they were going to go in whether they fitted or not.
The tourist attractions were once again described in detail but in a very childish sort of way. The humour came through the pictures and the written accounts just didn't even make me smile, neither did the pictures if I am honest but I really don't like comics and cartoons so he was losing my interest before I started reading.
My husband took one look and said 'looks rubbish to me' and refused to even give it a try but as I had paid quite a lot of money for it I was going to read it whether I enjoyed it or not!
I think it must be me and my lack of 'bumbling' humour as everyone else on Amazon seem to think it is delightfully humorous. I just don't 'get it' I'm afraid. I would have preferred a nonfiction account of his travels as he has obviously been there and the comic book illustrations would have been fine but I just cannot see the point of making it into a story as it fails in my humble opinion.
I found that the author would be describing places and sights, experiences etc then he would suddenly remember that there was supposed to be a story and he would write something about the mysterious letter and instructions. Incidentally you don't get to find out about the mystery and how it ends in this book so those who are desperate to know what the mystery is will have to read the next 'Bumbling Adventure'. Frankly I can live without knowing but I found that was annoying. Despite the fact that we start the story with the letter and the mystery therein we do NOT finish the mystery in this book. Even though it is a pretty lame story I would expect to have a conclusion at the end of the book and not be forced to buy the next in the series to find out the end of the story. It sort of finished as it began with a splutter rather than a bang!
At the end of the 'story' there are several quite useful guide book sort of pages. It states on the first 'Bumbling traveler Travel Tips page that it is NOT intended as a travel guidebook. This page gives advice on travel and what is available these days as options.
The next page advises that you should learn about the country you are visiting and behave respectfully. Then there are more suggestions such as travelling in small groups and use public transport when available. Support the locals by staying in locally owned places, eating local food and buying local products.
The following page talks about minimizing your impact by not leaving rubbish and basically leave the place you visit as you find it.
The next page gives a list of internet references which might help you find out more about Borneo and the environmental issues raised in the book, travel guides, responsible and eco tourism.
These pages were very useful and had quite a few handy pieces of advice for potential travelers. I found these the most useful and interesting parts of the book.
PERHAPS I AM JUST STRANGE
On the back of the book a recommendation comes from Dato Dr Dionysius Sharma, executive Director of WWF- Malaysia
"Interesting! Recommended reading for backpackers to Borneo."
Ahmad Fuadi, Director of Communications, 'The Nature Conservancy - Indonesia' also seems to be impressed;
"This book is a unique approach to share stories of disappearing plants, animals, lands and waters local people need to survive. A good blend of tourist rough guide, conservation notes and a comic book. A good treat for eyes and mind."
An again Judith Mayer, coordinator of 'The Borneo Project' appears to love the concept;
"Bumbling through Borneo is a classic backpackers yarn. Enlightening regional info digressions from the traveler's tale highlight environmental devastation of a global treasure. Splendid comic book-style ink drawings illustrate the journey. Old travelers will chuckle at the wanderer's jams and the young ones will be inspired to hit the road."
Sorry Mr Schmidt but I will not be buying any more of your 'bumbling' efforts, they obviously appeal to others but they are not to my taste. I applaud your efforts at raising awareness of the issues within the book but I can't say the story or style appealed to me.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.