NONFICTION

RED EXPRESS: The Greatest Rail Journey, From the Berlin Wall to the Great Wall of China with text by Michael Cordell and photographs by Peter Solness (Prentice Hall Press: $29.95). A train ride from Berlin to Beijing is the conceit behind "Red Express," an opulent book that capsulizes a PBS documentary series. But this is much more than a travelogue; it's an intimate and unsentimental chronicle of the Soviet bloc in transition from communism to some brave new world. One roadside attraction: the statue (above) of communications minister Ivan Peresipkin (1904-1978), who, according to popular legend, died while waiting to get a call through. Train buffs may be disappointed by the paucity of railroad lore, but the real rewards are to be found in words and images that range from the quaint to the enchanting, from the surprising to the horrific.

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