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May 09, 2016

Unruly Places

Unruly PlacesUnruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies

By: Alastair Bonnett

[blockquote text=’“The most fascinating places are often also the most disturbing, entrapping, and appalling. They are also often temporary. In ten years’ time most of the places we will be exploring will look very different; many will not be there at all.”’ text_color=’#8dc63f’ width=” line_height=’undefined’ background_color=” border_color=” show_quote_icon=’no’ quote_icon_color=”]

In engaging, 4-5 page essays sprinkled with a bit of light geographic philosophy, Alastair Bonnett takes us to the odd places of the world – the extraordinary, the enigmatic, and the ephemeral – that challenge our ideas of place in the modern world.

Each place in the book is unique unto itself, but Bonnett uses each as a representative of a larger idea we have about the world. We often think of Earth’s geography as unchanging, but islands come and go in a matter of years, or some, like Sandy Island, never existed in the first place. People build homes between tombs in a Philippine graveyard, breakaway nations divide themselves even further, and empty cities serve as monuments to the power of a totalitarian government. Political necessities also foster unusual situations: Camp Zeist, an area in the Netherlands temporarily became part of Scotland solely to conduct a fair trial for the men suspected of bombing an airplane which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1987.

Most of the places are inhospitable or inaccessible today, such as the pirate town of Hobyo on the Horn of Africa, or the secretive Soviet-era city of Zheleznogorsk that remains a gated city today, but Bonnett’s essays not only describe these fascinating places, but also encourage us to think about how there is still much to discover about the world.

Review By:  Julia Welzen