I have conflicted feelings about how to rate this book because of the inherent racism in the depiction of the natives. I read this for a college lit class circa 1995, and was drawn in by the story and the narrative. And I think I can accept the work as a picture of a bygone era. Conrad wrote about the natives the way most white colonials likely would have seen them in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Honestly, I'm not sure attitudes toward Africa have changed all that much even in the modern day. I recall debating in my college class whether Conrad should get a free pass for having lived in an era in which racism was not only acceptable, but the norm. My argument was that we should evaluate the work as a product of its times, and use it as a launching point for discussion of the stereotypes presented rather than rejecting it out of hand because it didn't fit with late 20th century ideals. I think I still believe that, and thus I'm awarding the book four stars.