AnHeC (I'm too fucking busy and vice versa)

Hi! My name is Anna, "You'd really like me if you got to know me. I've known me for years and I love me."

The horror of the subject makes it worth looking into it. But is it only that? AKA why did I diss (a bit) a universaly worshiped book.

The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail - Óscar Martínez

"We're walking among the dead. Life's value seems reduced, continuously dangled like bait on a fishing line. Killing, dying, reaping, or getting raped - the dimensions of these horrors are diminished to points of geography. Here on this rock, they rape. There by that bush, they kill"

"He's going to talk because it's not like he's accused of a serious crime. We don't have anyone accused of serious crimes here. They're accused of murder, rape, or robbery. Never of drug trafficking"

"She said it was the people she traveled with who raped her. They'd told her they were migrants and convinced her to walk with them. Then all three of them raped her. When her son aborted between her legs, the bandits killed him with blows. Then they beat the woman until she lost consciousness."

word count: about 90 000
rating: no, sheer effort put into writing a book and a horror of it will not make me rate it high

It's worth reading. Please, just hear me out.

content in general: ****
facts/materials/effort: *****
structure/writing: ***

***ARC recieved from NetGalley***

What is this book about? The miserable fate of immigrants during their long and insanely dangerous journey. The story of their plight as witnessed by one (IMO insane) journalist (*I think he had a photographer with him). The book consists of description of fate/lives of people he meets on his way. Both migrants and indigenous.

Why do I think he's insane? Because he fucking risked his life. A lot. For years. To gather enough material to write this book. It takes a special kind of person to poke at those things. He didn't just talk to authorities, oh no, that would be boring. He travelled with migrants! That's right! Did all the crazy stuff they do. And bam! Now he's willing to share this sad, sad picture...

No. No matter how tempted I am to give it 4 stars just for the sheer insane effort that went into writing this book, I can't. Don't get me wrong. It's a good book. It's a chilling book. It's a fascinating book. But by no means 100% perfect.

And remember kids, 3*** means 'I liked it'.

So what went wrong? What stopped this book, which had a potential to be stunningly amazing, from reaching the stars?

At first I loved it. Then I got confused. First thing it lacked (that stopped it from being 5***** book) was a little map. Either at the end or beginning of the book or (preferably) at the start of every chapter. Since the book follows a rout the author took, it would be nice to have a map. You know, to make it more tangible. And yes, I could look at my own map, but seriously, who could be bothered?

Than there's a repetitive nature of this book. Try as you may, it's the same sad story told over and over again (similar stories, but well...). And lack of map made me forget what place I am reading about. More distinguishable features would be lovely, just to keep it more varied.

Also, I'm an evil, evil bitch. Which means that the author annoyed me. Quite a lot. And that's why 4**** are out of the question for me. But hey, it may be me. It may be a matter of my fucked up perception, but he seemed to write (quite often) along the lines of: there were golden times when migrants roamed free, but now it's gone. No. Those were NOT golden times. Immigration MUST be regulated for a heap of reasons. DON'T romanticize those 'open' borders of old. I try to keep my reviews short (aka readable), so I will not get into all the details. But unregistered migrants are a bad thing. Not just because they commit crimes (sometimes) but probably even more so because they are defenceless victims of them (exploitation at work, blackmail, extortions, rapes, trafficking, kidnappings... you name it). And they can't go to the police.

Was the book interesting? Yes. And morally outraging. Corruption of authorities paired with well organized, powerful gangs and their violence create hell. This is why moral codes of our society are so important. If not, average people give in to corruption, also authorities are in on the crime. What hope is there then? What life is that?

"Los Zetas are like a metastasizing cancer. Migrants are recruited. Soldiers are recruited. Policeman, mayors, businessmen - they're all liable to become part of the web. "

"It's a conservative estimate that 40% of all state police units have been bought by Los Zetas"

This book is NOT for the faint hearted. It's in your face. Unapologetic. It presents you with a truly horrible problem that has no easy solution. Could the migrants just stay at home? No, they quite often run from things. Terrible, terrible things. In fact, this book makes you wonder if creatures living in those areas (south from USA) can even be called people (before you lynch me, the answer is YES). If they all should just get nuked from the orbit, for their lack of moral principles is sickening. Not just gang violence, but absolute lack of compassion among 'normal' people, their willingness to hurt others, to abuse any power they have, to get some gains from human suffering or add to it or cause it.

"What was her life like? Like a slave's, she says. At five years old, her job was to walk the streets, selling fish and firewood. If she came back with something still in her hands because she hadn't sold everything, Maria Dolores would whip her with an electrical cable until she had open sores on he back. Then Maria Dolores would cover those cuts with salt and oblige her "little twin" to lick it off. It was on one of those days, one of those sore-licking days , that her brother died on the floor where they both slept. They said it was parasites, Erika says. She's convinced that those parasites came from the sores on her back. [...] "...After that, I lived like a drunk on the streets, sleeping between dumpsters." She lived like that for two years. [...]...Maria Dolores talked her into coming back. "The physical abuse wasn't as bad, but, in general, life was worse. Omar, one of the woman's sons, was fifteen years old and repeatedly raped her. "That's why I wonder if I'll ever understand what it is to have normal sex. I got so used to him tying up my legs and arms and having sex with me like that" [...] Erika, the girl who was repeatedly raped from age eight to thirteen, gave birth to twins and then, as if her suffering were inevitable, her story goes on. "I didn't understand what pregnancy was. I only felt I was getting fat. That woman accused me of being a whore. I told her it was her son that did it, but she told me I was like my mother, a prostitute, and that just like her I'd ditch my future kids like dogs. She dragged me out of the house naked and walked me five blocks to a nearby park and left me there. And so I had to start completely from scratch."

See what I mean? And that's just one story!

That doesn't work against the book. The true horror of the situation is actually what makes it good.

Sounds like I should have loved it, right? I should. I'm into social issues. But! Nope.
- some statements are pounded into our heads to death
- those inexplicable bits (plentiful bits) romanticizing immigrants are infantile
- total lack of understanding on the side of the author that immigrants are a problem, not just victims. And that making their journey comfortable and safe is NOT a solution! THAT killed 4**** rating for me. But it doesn't make the book any less worth reading. Just more biased and, at least for me, objectively a product deserving a lower rating. And personally, because that annoyed me.
- demonization of US attempts to close the border
- repetitive nature of the book (the fault is in writing, seriously, I almost gave up on it a few times)

all those things mean I can't give it a sparkling review. The bias of the author really got on my nerves. And because of the subject matter and the enormous effort put into gathering the material for it I feel like I should apologize. Like I should love it just for what it is about... THIS is why I was putting off writing this review for, well, forever. I hate feeling this way.

My final verdict? It's good. Depending on how much you know, it can be shocking. It doesn't focus on one story, one place. It skims, and jumps, and introduces you to abundance of facts. It's also infuriating (in a sense that it makes me want to keep all those fucking gangs far away from me. Or, preferably, kill them. All of them) Should you read it? Depends on what type of person you are, really, but I think that getting confronted with an uncomfortable reality is a healthy thing.