As Theroux admits early on in this fascinating account of his journeys through China in '86, the reader learns more about the author in a travel book than they do about the journey. I also was left feeling that there was much being "told" between the lines, until at last as his journey's end in Tibet is emminent, Theroux lets out all his pent up "political" emotion. His adventure occurs during one of China's most interesting recent cultural periods, and Theroux correctly captures the changing political climate, post Mao/pre student revolt, with an emphisis on his conversations with many Chinese citizens and polititians alike. I was left with a clearer understanding of how a culture so politicly structured, repressed, and conservative could be poised today to become one of the world's next great economies.
If you like to armchair travel to places you will probably never get a chance to see, you will like Paul Theroux books. Since I really like trains and traveling by train, I felt right at home with this book and traveling through China on one of their best known trains.