Towards the last few pages of reading this book, I have purposely slowed down my pace of reading, savouring every bit of his travel recollection as I did not want to come to the end of it. After you read this book, you will either lose all envy to go to China or even become more curious about it. This is because he is very blatant in his travel description, he would highlight all the miserable, dirty parts of China with no euphemism.
Not only he would describe all the unique & little photographic/sensegraphic things during his passage (all China hotels seem to have plastic flowers in a vase; China toilets stink from miles away), but we also learn about the cultural & historic part of China (Mao Cultural Revolution; Tibetan acquisition) thru his recollections of meeting various local people.
If you are thinking to do a China back-pack travel, i think this is an essential book to read. Even though it's written like more than a decade ago (I hope now the train is better), you will get a feel of the vast China, from a point of view that is definitely different from touris websites.
Even though you are not planning to go to China, it is still a good book to read because towards the end of it you will discover so much about the monolithic country, without the need to go there!