Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Book Review Wednesday: Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

I was lucky enough to receive this book for Christmas from my Mom and I couldn't have been more excited. I have read a couple other Jon Krakauer books and I was looking forward to diving into another. I can describe this book in one word: haunting. A few years ago, I took a trip with my friend Lisa and we were in Kathmandu, Nepal for a few days. I was fascinated by the place for a number of reasons. I had never seen mountains so tall and I had never seen people who wanted to climb said mountains. In Nepal, I saw both. I looked out the window of the airplane and I saw mountains that were even with our height in the sky. Giant crags of rock and ice with the jet stream slamming into them, blowing ice and snow in a plume hundreds of feet in the air. I can't imagine what it's like to stand at the top of a mountain like that and I still can't wrap my head around the idea that there are people who climb these mountains. In this book, Krakauer is a reporter on a guided trip to climb Mt. Everest when all disaster strikes. In the end, his team is decimated, having left several people on the mountain to die. This book is an account, as accurate as he can muster, of the time leading up to and after a disaster that will hopefully not be repeated ever again. Krakauer has an interesting way of writing. He tries to be matter of fact (as he is in the other books I have read, discussing situations which he was not directly a part of) but he somewhat tows the line between emotional recollections and hard facts. I'm not sure that he does this well, per se, but he does it honestly, as far as I can tell. Climbing Everest had always been a dream of his, and he seemed quite experienced in mountain climbing, having climbed several technically challenging mountains in his life. However, he has no experience climbing at high altitude, which could be problematic. This book was phenomenal - I couldn't put it down. It's adventure and intrigue, with characters that are likable and others that make your blood boil. It's hard to reconcile this book from the true events. For one thing, the book is telling a story of something I am so unfamiliar with, so it seems like a work of fiction. I had a hard time contrasting this with the fact that all this happened. That people were left on a mountain, never to come home again. That people made a decision to leave home, climb Everest and never returned. It was humbling to do an internet search to see the faces of these people, and to see what climbing Everest looks like. It was interesting to hear the author's take on the events, as they're not an entirely satisfactory explanation of the events (as most real life events are). I would imagine some of the things that occurred could only be understood by the people who have been there to experience the harsh reality of climbing this mountain, of living at altitude, of battling frostbite and of literally having your life hanging by a string. This book was, all together, haunting. Literally haunting. The images, the scenery in my mind created from the words on the page are still with me, days after I finished the book. It's a story of heroism, perseverance, determination and sheer luck. It's something I won't soon forget.

1 comment:

Randi said...

I'm always stunned at expeditions that leave adventurers to die on the mountain. Crazy.