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The Ridiculous Race: 26,000 Miles, 2 Guys, 1 Globe. No Airplanes    by Steve Hely & Vali Chandrasekaran order for
Ridiculous Race
by Steve Hely
Order:  USA  Can
Owl, 2008 (2008)
*   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In The Ridiculous Race, two competitive friends - twenty-something LA TV comedy writers - make a bet to race around the globe in opposite directions (the rules requiring no airplanes), and persuade their publisher to fund their efforts, which are often quite amusing.

The authors' stories are told in alternate, rather choppy narrations. Hely sets out in a container ship from Long Beach to Shanghai, a long and often very boring sea voyage. Chandrasekaran starts by car. Accompanied by Juliana (a hired translator whom he sometimes calls Maria in the text) and wary of bandits and kidnappers, he drives to Mexico City, hoping to acquire a jetpack there from an obsessed weirdo! Vali sadly discovers that a jetpack 'can hold only thirty seconds worth of fuel', inadequate for an Atlantic crossing. He ends up cheating by taking several flights.

Though neither traveler is a Bill Bryson, they do include intriguing snippets of information along the way - such as the man behind the container revolution that 'blew open the world economy' by making shipping simpler and easier; how not to find a voodoo priestess in New Orleans; a succinct summary of China's history (contributed by Yale's Jonathan Spence) as 'Constant change'; the fact that about 8% of Central Asian men are descended from Genghis Khan; and so on. If you're looking for mildly entertaining travel vignettes to dip into, then you'll enjoy The Ridiculous Race.

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