Engrossing, entertaining and utterly easy to read, I had no problem at all getting lost in these exciting, fun tales. Chronicling the adventures of a young American soldier, discharged following the end of the Vietnam war, who decides to return to South East Asia, to live and travel, these short stories are based loosely on the real life exploits of the author, as well as stories he has heard and people he met. This collection of anecdotes forms the whole, overall story of his months in, predominantly, Thailand. And, they are triumphant.
Simultaneously fun and laid-back, yet intense and exciting, this cultural exposé is a general attack on the senses. South East Asia is a huge culture shock for us Westerners, which can only be experienced, yet Sherman does a tremendous job of placing the reader right there, in the heart of it – you can almost see the lights, hear the bustle and chatter, smell the food cooking, and feel the glow of pride, as its friendly people make you feel on top of the world; Sherman gifts us with all of this, and more. He revels in a culture he clearly loves, and shares with us all that is synonymous with the region: street-food; gambling; drugs; prostitutes; lady-boys and Singha beer. Yet, in amongst all of that, there is still the beauty of Asia - the landscape; the flora; the golden Buddhas; the warm, big-hearted people - as Sherman takes us cross country and across borders.
He has done an outstanding job of acquainting himself with all of his subject matter (one hopes, not just from personal experience), as his character Pierce becomes involved in all sorts of ludicrous and terrifying schemes, covering such provocative subjects as drug smuggling; corrupt immigration officials; the C.I.A.’s clandestine involvement in the region and Air America. Of course, all of this takes place against the backdrop of the war’s effect on Cambodia and Laos, whilst Pol Pot runs amok in the vacuum. Pierce is an idiot, I think it’s fair to say – an inane thrill-seeker, who bundles from one reckless and foolhardy situation to the next, with no apparent concept of the word “no”. Sherman, on the other hand, is no clown – he is a serious, hard-working, professional author, who respects his readers, with a fully researched, in-depth knowledge of all about which he writes. His account of the wars, politics and black ops of the time is insightful and educational, and Pierce absorbs it all with a shocked yet unsurprised scratch of the head – I’ve no doubt there is truth to Sherman’s revelations.
Sometimes baffling, sometimes terrifying, and at
times laugh-out-loud funny, this book is a real delight for more grown-up,
discerning readers of travel memoirs (if embellished with fiction), who want to
learn something, rather than simply lining the pockets of travel posers. The construction of this book is spot on, the
pace and flow of the tales just right to get the overall adventure across. It does end somewhat abruptly, leaving me
wanting more – but in a good way. Freedom,
Sex and a Meat Cleaver is as fun and entertaining a travel journal as you
are likely to read – but just how much of it is actually true is anyone’s
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In : Book Reviews
Tags: sherman-miles asia travel memoir fiction comedy drama thailand vietnam