Yes, this what happens nowadays. And by the way, not in “Putin’s Russia”. You pay for a book on Amazon, read it, write a positive 5 stars review and want to share your opinion with other people – and with the author. And you get this:
email@example.com “Thank you for submitting a customer review on Amazon. After carefully reviewing your submission, your review could not be posted to the website. While we appreciate your time and comments, reviews must adhere to the following guidelines: http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines
I am sure Amazon reviewed the text “very carefully” (that is, of course,assuming their reviewers do not belong to “the 50 percent of U.S. adults [who] can’t read a book written at an eighth-grade level and thus forced to rely entirely on Artificial Intelligence as a substitute for non-existent own).
Keep this in mind when next time you read the Amazon reviews – at least try not to let the officially censored reviews influence your decision to buy
The book is here and the review is below – with slight corrections, exactly as it was submitted, plus the part which I deleted before posting (at the end)
Surfing is a surface water sport (wiki)
.. and when you move on the surface you don’t feel how deep the water is.
Let me tell you a (true) story. Few years ago, a woman at a car service station in Auckland told me she just came back from a tourist trip to Russia. “And how was it in Russia?” I asked. “Oh, it was absolutely wonderful. But the KGB agents – they were everywhere we went!” I was a bit puzzled: “And how did you know they were KGB agents?” “Oh, the tour guides pointed each one of them to us”. I told the lady that she was lucky to book a tour with such a responsible people – they provided everything their clients had paid for.
The following review of Stephen Orth’s book came out quite long, so if you are not inclined to read the review, I suggest that you skip it and just buy the book. Of course, any book “is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”, but this one is well worth the money. It is, generally, very well written and most likely you will enjoy it and laugh at the jokes as much as I did. But if, after you read it, you too conclude that Stephen Orth is not only a responsible, but also a very professional tour guide – don’t say you have not been warned.
It feels like there are two almost separate books under one cover.
The first one opens with a description of an “arsehole of the world” located in what must be Tolkien’s Mordor, but turns out to be a famous diamond mine “Mir” in Russia. One immediately assumes that this is a summary of the author’s Russian travel experiences (“yes, there are some diamonds in Russia, but as everything else there, they come from an arsehole”). However, after reading the book and placing the part where it chronologically belongs, I suspect this was a misguided editor’s marketing choice. Or guided. Perhaps, they wanted to bribe the readers with something the people were absolutely sure about Russia. Create a confirmation bias bondage. In fact, a far better summary for the book would be the chapter “Flirting for Pros” which describes the author’s interaction with the “most beautiful woman in all my travels” in Simferopol airport. There all the action happens entirely in the author’s head, without any attempt to check how his mental picture of the girl corresponds to the reality. The same is true about most of the characters and conversations in this part – the people appear to be 2D and not real. What they say is obviously only what the author wanted to hear. They probably, said more, but .. Indeed, when a Russian greets you with “I don’t drink alcohol, do not have bear meat in the freezer and do not possess balalaika” you should know it is a gantlet thrown at you. A test. An invitation to a fight. Probably because you managed to look like a worthy opponent. And you chicken out. So, of course, nothing of interest would be said or will be happening after that. Only polite conversation and promptly disappearing disappointed hosts. You showed them that you are not what you claimed to be, you did not pass the test. By the way, it seems the same happened to the author again towards the end of the book . The “excessively talkative” Igor clearly invited Stephan to challenge his views, but Stephan chickened out ( if you are unprepared (or, perhaps, forbidden by your editorial office 🙂 to seriously discuss certain topics – state exactly that – and you will gain far more respect from everyone, including your readers, than answering “You can Google anything “).
Some of Stephan Orth’s sightseeing in this first part is … well, selective & superficial would be the words. Eg. you won’t find a description of Crimean Bridge, Ai Petry or (open to the tourists) buried in the mountain submarine base while the author “surfs” Crimea. So you might be left bewildered eg. why Hitler wanted to connect apparently bleak and boring Crimea and Germany by an autobahn and why he thought it was a suitable place to “make it our Riviera”. Or why the USA and the “west” became so agitated when such boring peace of sea shore returned under Russian control. Even the discussions “Whose is Crimea?” with the locals look like a reprint from a German “free press”. That is – only the officially approved and thus “politically correct” stuff, which in this case means “don’t you dare to ever say anything good about Russia, even if it is the truth”. By the way, does Stephan Orth know the definition of “lying by omission”? I am sure that as a Der Spigel reporter he does. Neither among his numerous – and usually quite interesting – historical forays does Stephan Orth ever mentions that the Russian Empress (not “czarina”!) Catherine the Great, whose rule is usually referred to as The Golden Age of Russia, was a German. Nor is he interested in the very noticeable even today German cultural influence and contribution of the German engineers and scientists to the Russian technical & scientific development for several centuries in the past history. Perhaps, presently it would not be politically correct to mention this in the free German press. Just like the periodic problems with refugees. Perhaps, there are other reasons eg. [deleted].
The second part of the book starts approximately in St Petersburg (about midway through the book) – seems Stephen Orth suddenly starts to suspects that he is not quite in Mordor or that he would not feel like he is, if he permitted himself to notice not only the bad things around. And then the author travels to Siberia and the story becomes an absolute joy to read. Yes, there is still nothing good there in Russia (of course), except raspberries, but the former unwarranted superiority complex and sarcasm transform into incisive & sparkling humor & wit, his journey now reads like Transporter 3 movie scenario (you know, the one with a car and a red haired totally unhinged girl), he visits a remote settlement with a weird cult leader and his followers etc etc. Even dialogues and people in the book change. As well as the surrounding landscapes. They become life-like and now feel real. The mosquitoes which would have been a no-go for me at that time of the year, are, apparently, allergic to the German blood, since the author never complained about them. I really enjoyed the second half. And it is this half which got 5 stars rating to the entire book. Personally, I wish Stephen Orth would write fiction – I would have bought his books (assuming that what I read was not)
I found the author’s periodic forays into what clearly are attempts of targeted propaganda or sometimes, repeated mistaken conclusions to be less enjoyable. An example of the latter would be the apparent author’s belief in the influence of the state TV and media on the minds of the Russians. In fact the Russians are very sensitive to the slightest hints of propaganda attempts– much, much more than their counterparts anywhere in the “west”. Once they detect that the source has an agenda – it is politely, but immediately ignored. And an example of the former would the author’s repeated statements that Sputnik and RT lie all the time and have a single goal – to brainwash the “western” public and turn it away from the “democratic ideals”. Sure. Putin hacked my speedometer, officer. The truth is that the above agencies occasionally may print some not 100% verified news, but this happens not because of the Putin’s orders, but because of an occasional lack of professionalism. They did improve remarkably over the years, though ,and such events currently are no more frequent than in the German press where you could quite easily read about vicious KGB agents trying to poison innocent people with … mercury. It is not necessary to mention here what German press is **not writing about.
Other than that – it is a good book, very good style even in translation. If my German was good enough to read the original, I would read it again. But alas.
===================== PLEASE, DO NOT READ =================
THE DELETED PART. THIS WAS NOT SENT TO AMAZON, BUT, APPARENTLY THEY SENSED IT WAS THERE 🙂
The book’s blurb promises “humor”. I found mostly sarcasms (def. “the use of irony to mock or convey contempt”). Although, no matter how unjustifiable or mistaken are such attitudes in Orth’s case, they can be excused since these came from someone whose nation for three generations was bent (by the USA) into a unbiblical pose and periodically forced to let the above mentioned curators to perform on them the officially disapproved by the Catholic church acts on international arena for everyone to see. So when they see the nation which does not conform to what they were taught (by the above mentioned masters) is a norm, they resort to denial and then contempt and sarcasm as a form of psychological protection.
So I have read about half of the book borrowed from the library when I deiced to buy one for myself – only because I wanted to feel a moral right to give the author the feedback he deserved. You see, not only did I live in Russia for the first 30 years of my life, but also I visited it in exactly the same 2016 twice. Like the author, I did move a lot and asked the people about their life there. But unlike the author, I listened and reacted as I knew what was under the surface on which his couch was surfing. Perhaps, my native Russian and actual past experience living (not just surfing) in the country helped. And unlike the author I can read the “western” media for what it is – I can compare it to my own experience and Russian-language media & internet.. So I did have something to say about the author’s poorly-justified superiority complex and about his “humor”.
But …by the time I finished the entire book my opinion about the author changed almost 180 gr.