Asian Skies is the final book of Ken Norris’s travel trilogy. With Dante as his guide, he has previously left behind the predominantly European terrain of the first book, Limbo Road, only to find himself in the terra incognita of the new world of the second, Dominican Moon.
Now guideless, Norris continues his search for the metaphorical shortcut, the “inside passage” of the age of discovery; the easy transcendence of “a passage to India” from the post-industrial world, and sets out for that most foreign of shores to the Western mind: Asia—a world of glittering wealth, precious spice, exotic religiosity, tyrannical rule, mysterious ritual and deadly storm.
Composed like a dark novel-in-verse, this is the unsettling story of the deficiencies of love that have produced our commodified and globalized world—a perhaps not-so-divine comedy of those who don’t love enough—steeped in a clash of cultures wherein the third world seems willingly, even perversely, to offer itself up as a simulacrum of the first, while its otherness remains hidden, inaccessible.
As he transits the beaches of Phuket to the island of Bali, the flood plains of Bangladesh to the sublime heights of the Himalaya, Norris ultimately understands it is the absence of a beloved that turns the world upside down: where what was loved is hated, what was benign is threatening, what was dangerous is embraced, what was worshipped is murdered, what was past is future.
Part travel journal, part meditation on the rudderless denizens of the global village of which he is merely one, Asian Skies chronicles a search for the beloved, one that will lead to “the City of God.” That she appears only in glimpses is a credit to Ken Norris’s adept reading of the 21st century and his disciplined mapping of its increasingly unknown territories.