David Eimer journeys to the heart of Burma and out to its unexplored vistas, bringing to vivid life all its riches and complexities ... The story of modern Burma is told through the voices of the people Eimer encounters: former political exiles, squatters in Yangon's shanty towns, radical monks, Rohingya refugees, princesses and warlords, and ethnic minorities clustered along Burma's frontiers.
...[a] thought-provoking book ... A Savage Dreamland follows [Eimar's] journeys and is threaded with a cast of wonderful characters who guide him ... Throughout, Eimer deftly observes those he meets, recounting conversations and making sure that the people and the country are the stars. It is not his story, but theirs ... The result of Eimer’s intrepid endeavours is a revelatory and moving book, enriched by vivid descriptive colour and an incredible cast of characters. But it is the deep, frustrating sadness at Burma’s terrible tragedy that lingers.
[Eimar] listens to as many factions as he can in a disunited nation. These voices coalesce in a book that explains wonderfully well why Burma today is both compelling and combustible ... His book is a good primer on history, culture and modern-day politics, and on the power wielded by the Buddhist hierarchy. But it's the realities of daily life that really interest him ... George Orwell, who served as a police officer in Burma during the Twenties, was withering in Burmese Days (1934) about the British Empire’s role there; Eimer is equally forthright about its legacy ... If Orwell could read A Savage Dreamland, he would be impressed, surely, by this choral-voiced account of a country where so many, for so long, have been silenced.
A Savage Dreamland is travel-writing...yet in a sort of politically-targeted way: the book is more about the destination—an attempt to understand contemporary Myanmar—than the journey itself ... The result is a patchwork of dialogue, vignettes of observation, held together with relatively straightforward research material about peoples, places, politics, religion and history. Eimer writes very well and the pieces are almost seamlessly integrated ... A Savage Dreamland’s main strength is Eimer’s prose. Eimer is a meticulous, fair-minded and empathetic observer, he takes interest in people of all kinds and from all walks of life, and is adventurous and curious enough to go off the beaten track. The places are easy to visualize, the voices of his interlocutors clear. One probably cannot understand Myanmar without going there, but Eimer’s book may be one of the best alternatives.