"Dark and wondrous as ever" are the words that conclude Meier's odyssey through the killing fields of Chechnya, up the Yenisey River to Norilsk in the far north -- once part of Stalin's gulag -- to the wild east of Sakhalin, where oil substitutes for gold. A journalist advantaged by fluent Russian and a youth's readiness for adventure, he probes deeply into the lives of everyone he meets, from the poor to the potentate, while traveling by road and river. Meier's passion is for the victims, for those who survived the camps and those caught in the Chechen "meatgrinder," and he works hard to get their stories, sometimes at great risk to himself. The result is a compassionate glimpse into the extremes where the new Russia meets the old, written with verve and humor.
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