Come Back Alive isn't exactly a book that inspires you to dive into the delights of traveling. Robert Young Pelton is best known for his previous book, The World's Most Dangerous Places, and has survived numerous calamities--from car wrecks and a plane crash to killer bees. That he has indeed come back alive does initially lend credence to his advice--which includes what to eat in the bush, which animals are most deadly, and how to avoid being kidnapped.
Pelton's survival tips and facts range from the obvious (if thirsty in the desert, look for greenery) and the interesting (deer send some 16,000 humans to the hospital annually by causing auto accidents), to the patently absurd. While he may be most helpful when writing about nature, Pelton--a worldwide traveler--comes off as colorfully clueless when he heads out to urban destinations. While advising travelers to travel lightly, he recommends loading oneself onto a plane thusly: "Use a soft, legal-sized carryon bag. Wear a larger than normal waist pack with heavy items, use a correspondent's vest to stuff in other heavy items, clothes, and fragiles. Carry a second laptop bag ... filled with reading material, CD player, whatever...."
Not only does this sound like an Olympic feat, it also contradicts his advice not to look like a tourist. As for how to surreptitiously conceal cash, Pelton recommends rolling it up in straws. That's right, straws. Certainly original, but the presence of numerous straws in a suitcase seems a likely way to ensure your luggage is ripped apart for cocaine. If carrying it on your person, what does one do to dislodge a bill from the straw, toot it at the cashier?
Nevertheless, with its charts (of average miles walked by a lost person), quizzes (are you a leader?), and occasionally insightful information, Come Back Alive is a remarkable journey through Danger Land (a.k.a. the modern world), and one that is sure to help enliven any cocktail party with its informational icebreakers. "I'm reading the oddest book," you might begin, "which recommends carrying money in straws...." --Melissa Rossi