Wednesday, February 20, 2008

In the Hot Zone - One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars

By Kevin Sites

I finished this book about a month ago but have put off writing a review because, quite honestly, I wasn’t too sure how to communicate my somewhat conflicted thoughts on the book.

First, let me get the basics out of the way.

Kevin Sites is an award-winning photojournalist hired by Yahoo! News as their first Internet correspondent. His job: To spend a year traveling to, and reporting from, twenty hot spots around the world. The objective was not to provide more of the same-old crisis reporting that we see every day on the television news, but rather to try to get behind the scenes and shine some light on the human side of these tragedies so that the rest of us can, perhaps, gain a little better understanding of how the people themselves survive such horrific conditions.

This he does very well. In fact he does it so well, that I found the horror and misery sometimes a bit much to take in one sitting and so had to put the book down just to get a mental break.

Whether he’s talking about how rape is used as a weapon in the Congo, or interviewing a surprisingly forgiving young Israeli woman maimed by a suicide bomber, Sites manages to treat his subjects with humanity and compassion, and tells their stories in a simple, straightforward way that I found, on occasion, disarming. He clearly feels very deeply for these people and it shows in his writing.

It is very powerful.

As a snapshot of the very real human impacts of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’, it’s one of the best books I have read in a long time. And it should be necessary reading for every student of current history or political science if for no other reason than to clearly illustrate the results of failed wars and failed foreign policies.

But here’s my problem with the book – it’s simply too intense. The stories are, each and every one, compelling, but the fact that he has but a few pages to allocate to each means that he was unable to give us much more than the broadest brush of their experience, focussed, naturally enough, on the worst that mankind inflicts on others of different races/tribes/religions. Long before I was ready, Sites had already started reporting from yet another war zone, and I was left wanting to know much, much more about the people to whom I had just been introduced, their lives, their hopes and dreams.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is this was a great book, but it would be an even better 3 or 4 books!

Absolutely worth a read.

No comments: