Adventure in Borneo – Book Review

Adventure in Borneo: The True Story of One Man’s Quest to Find the Bornean Peacock Pheasant

Jolan Durrah
ISBN 978-0-9817001-0-6
Reviewed by Jen Karsbaek for Reader Views (09/08)

Promising but Disappointing, 1 star

Dan loved birds. He was fascinated by them. He was particularly interested in pheasants, perhaps because he was never able to classify exactly what a pheasant was: “Pheasants are an odd group of birds that are loosely related and don’t quite fit anywhere else. For every one thing that they all have in common, there will always be at least one exception to the rule.” In his obsession with pheasants, Dan became aware of and particularly obsessed with one particular kind of pheasant: The Bornean Peacock Pheasant. With the death of the one living pair in the United States and no documented sightings in the wild since 1962, Dan felt that he needed to travel to Borneo to try and discover whether or not any Bornean Peacock Pheasants still existed.

“Adventure in Borneo” really had quite a bit of potential. It could have been both an exciting, adventure filled travelogue as Dan journeyed through the interior of the Bornean forest. At the same time, it could have been very informative and interesting dealing with pheasants in general and the different pheasants with which Dan comes in contact in particular.

Unfortunately, the book was simply not very well done.

There was no particularly bad grammar writing, but neither was there particularly good writing. The sentence structure and word choice were just not particularly complex or sophisticated. In the interest of attempting to be informative and cover everything, Durrah had a tendency to jump from topic to topic almost as if by stream of consciousness, which gave the book a very choppy feel. I felt as if there was no background as to why Dan is so interested in pheasants in general or the Bornean Peacock Pheasant in particular. Certainly it is not communicated to the reader why these might be subjects of interest. Interested he clearly is, though, because there is a good deal of discussion on the topic of pheasants that is not grounded in any background information and will go over the head of most readers. In addition, ‘adventure’ seems to be a bit of a misnomer for Dan’s journey, although I’m not sure if that is due to a lack of urgency in the writing or the actual nature of his trip.

If you are very interested in pheasants or Borneo you may enjoy this book; otherwise your reading time could probably be put to better use.

Buy this book on Amazon.

16 comments to Adventure in Borneo – Book Review

  • I like reading books about different kinds of animals, especially when someone is obsessed with them and gives lots of good details. Never read a book about pheasants, and this one did sound interesting, but also oh so lame. Too bad.

  • “Sound(s) interesting, but also oh so lame” is a great description of this book.

  • honestly, when i read the title, my brain went “SNORE,” so i’m not surprised you didn’t like it. But, I know you hate to have to give a bad review and hate even more to feel like time spent reading was wasted time…The “promising but lame” description reminds me of a conversation eric and i had the other night about stephen king. I love the really successful movies that have been adapted from king novels, like Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile (you know, the not gross and scary ones), but when I have tried to read his work, I always give up. I like his stories, but I just can’t stand his writing style…Eric on the other hand loves his novels, especially his writing style. I mean, they’re easy to read…perhaps that’s what bugs me. Perhaps I just like a bit more…intelligent (?) prose?

  • Ti

    Given the title one would expect an adventure! I’d be disappointed too if there was none to speak of.

    The title alone sounds like a documentary. Zzzzzz.

  • Thanks for the warning – I’ll be sure to steer clear of this one.

  • Shana,

    It was a review copy, and not one I could easily say “I just give up” on. Luckily it was very, very short. It would have been an extremely quick read if it was engaging enough to really concentrate on, but it wasn’t TOO bad (because of the length) as these things go.

  • Shana @ Literarily

    Jenn, I would have had difficulty even making it through this, I think. Was this a review copy? Sorry you didn’t like it. Reading a book you feel this way about is always frustrating and can feel like such a waste of your time.

  • Sorry you didn’t like it! I hate reading an entire book and realizing at the end that I really didn’t like it. :(

  • Jolan Durrah

    Hi Jen,

    Thank you for your Book Review. Up until now the response to my book Adventure In Borneo has been overwhelmingly positive. The most frequent comments are that it is well written and that Dan’s story is fascinating as well as interesting and quite humorous. Realistically it was inevitable that there would be a few people that would not understand or appreciate his story.

    Adventure is defined as “an exciting, often risky, experience; a bold undertaking.” Dan traveled alone with the indiginious Dayak Headhunters for weeks, even though he didn’t speak the language or know the customs, and his journey through the heart of the oldgrowth Bornean rainforest nearly cost him his life. I can understand that you had issues with my writing style, but to try to discredit Dan’s real life experience as anything less than an adventure, well, shame on you. Of coarse everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and yours will help me keep things in perspective. So again, thank you.

    Also, would you please correct the typo you made in your review when you quoted my original text from the first page of the book. “Pheasants are an odd group of birds that are loosely related and don’t quiet (should be quite) fit anywhere else. For every one thing that they all have in common, there will always be at least one exception to the rule.”

  • Jolan,

    I think ‘shame on you’ might be a bit strong for a negative review of your book, particularly as you state next that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. Actually, traveling somewhere where he didn’t know the language or the customs is something I thought was a bit ridiculous about Dan’s journey. It seemed it would have been much more effective had he done more research about the areas in which he was traveling. As I said in my review, I was not able to tell if the lack of adventure was Dan’s trip itself of the lack of urgency in the writing.

  • There we go! YOU, Brian, are who this book is for. The author is Jolan Durrah.

  • Brian McNamee

    In 2006, I found a Bornean peacock pheasant feather while trekking to Mount Tiban. So, Dan, they still do exist. I’ll buy your book. It sounds interesting to me.

  • Brian McNamee

    Ha! You’re great! I’m ordering it at Amazon now.

  • Carmela Webb

    This is a great book. Once I started reading I couln’t put it down until the end. I have read it three times and found something new and interesting each time.

  • Laura Martineau

    I really am not into birds but love reading non-fiction books about adventures that I would never be brave enough to do myself. I found this book very interesting and admired Dan’s tenacity to stick with his mission. I felt it was written for people who enjoy good reading and exploring without getting real involved with the crazy words that one needs a dictionary to understand. If you want something fun to read, get off the beaten path and try Adventures in Borneo — you may like it.

  • Ray Smith

    This is a fantastic book—interesting, informative and most of all entertaining! I am a person who enjoys spending time outdoors and I thought Ms. Durrah’s written images were vivid. I could feel the heat and humidity as if I was there with Dan as he traveled through Borneo. Although I enjoyed the descriptions of the Pheasants and other birds, what made the book unforgetable was Dan’s determination to accomplish his goal of finding the Bornean Peacock Pheasant in the wild, in spite of any harm that might befall him in the process. I was immediately immersed in the story to the point that it was pretty much impossible to lay the book down until I had finished it. The fact that Dan ‘just did it’ without overthinking the unknown was one of the most compelling aspects of the story. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who appreciates and enjoys a good adventure story—especially one with humor.