Bruce Connew's limited edition of On the Way to an Ambush is a clever bit of packaging. Originally published by Victoria University Press in 1999, Connew is offering what his website calls the "last 100-copy limited edition, multi-media" version of the book. The add-ons certainly add interest to the book, which is a kind of memoir-plus-photos of Connew's time with the indigenous Karen people of Burma who have been fighting government soldiers for years.
On the Way to an Ambush weaves Connew's conflict tale with a personal story, the loss of his wife in a car crash. As such it brings to mind other war memoirs of the '90s, such as Anthony Lloyd's work about Bosnia, My War Gone By, I Miss it So (though Lloyd's tale focuses on addiction to drugs and combat). Connew's book is well written, with crisp observations about his own life and the time he spends literally on the way to an ambush with a fellow New Zealander named Travis, a mercenary, as his guide.
But the story ultimately is a slight one with a narrow focus that is almost adventure travelogue in narrative, lacking in the kind of background information that would engender sympathy in the reader about the plight of the Karen people. Even Connew's personal insights about his own state of mind - confronting his disappointment when the ambush he is waiting to shoot fails to happen and deciding it's time to go home - don't carry much weight. Add to that the poor, muddy quality of the photo reproductions in the book, and it was definitely a good idea to package the book in a more attractive way.
The 5x7 inch, signed print included with the limited edition - the cover photo from the book - is beautiful, printed on Hahnemuhle cotton rag paper, and makes one long to have seen better reproductions of the photos in the book. Also included is a 46-minute DVD narration (by Connew) and slideshow of material in the book, which may well be a more satisfying way to view the images. The book itself is also signed and numbered.