The Orient Express, The Khyber Pass Local, The Frontier Mail, The Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, The Maridalay Express, The Ozora Limited - -a Grand Tour by train, a journey from London to Tokyo and back with as many mishaps as detours. Paul Theroux, novelist and railway lover, set out one day from Victoria Station, bent on boarding every eastbound train that chugged into sight, eventually returning from Japan on the Trans-Siberian Express.
The trains he took in his parabola through Asia prove that, in spite of supersonic jets and package tours, travel can still be a serendipitous adventure. He sought trains; he found passengers -- any number of travelers eager to unburden themselves to the attentive writer. They ranged from the unfortunate Duff ill, destined always to miss his connection, to the admirable Bernard, preserving in the middle of Burma the outmoded ways of British imperialism; and from Mr. Radia, who intoned Hindi songs through his nose, to the mysterious, gun toting Mr. Pensacola with his stories of opium smuggling.
Paul Theroux’s sharp eye catches the telling details of landscape and character that have consistently distinguished his novels. It is also the fascinating record of one intrepid traveler’s mind as he traversed two continents -- through the deserts of Iran, the war zone of Vietnam, the snowfields of Japan and Siberia -- on the trains with the wonderful names.