Tuesday, August 5, 2014

BLECH review: Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.

Book Description:

Into Thin Air is a riveting first-hand account of a catastrophic expedition up Mount Everest. In March 1996, Outside magazine sent veteran journalist and seasoned climber Jon Krakauer on an expedition led by celebrated Everest guide Rob Hall. Despite the expertise of Hall and the other leaders, by the end of summit day eight people were dead. Krakauer's book is at once the story of the ill-fated adventure and an analysis of the factors leading up to its tragic end. Written within months of the events it chronicles, Into Thin Air clearly evokes the majestic Everest landscape. As the journey up the mountain progresses, Krakauer puts it in context by recalling the triumphs and perils of other Everest trips throughout history. The author's own anguish over what happened on the mountain is palpable as he leads readers to ponder timeless questions.

My Thoughts:

It's hard for me to give this one a bad review, because I don't want to come off as cold or callous towards the people who lost their lives during the 1996 climbing season on Mount Everest. So... that's my disclaimer. 

Reading this book was like climbing Mount Everest in that it was a slow, plodding, often boring read. I find myself wondering why the book was so long. I can't remember much of it, and since I read it less than 48 hours ago, that's not really a good sign. 

The information was presented well. I definitely have no desire to ever climb Mount Everest now. I wonder why anyone climbs that mountain, actually, because Krakauer's account is so miserable sounding. The whole time, he just sounds like he's in pain and cold and exhausted from just breathing the oxygen-deprived air. Why put yourself through that? Just so you can say "yay I went up this really tall mountain and I pretty much wanted to kill myself the whole time but yay I made it woo hoo yay"? Shudder.  It just sounds SO AWFUL.  Why would you DO that to yourself?!  Look, friends, people were not made to go that high.  We just weren't.  We were also not made to walk on our hands everywhere.  It's okay to admit defeat sometimes, Human Race. 

Ahem.  Back to the book.  The most interesting part, for me, was almost like an afterthought for the author.  I thought the backstory on the South African team was fascinating. Ian Woodall sounds like a class-A jerkface. Honestly, I personally thought he should have gone to jail for some of his actions (or his inaction, as it were.) 

Other than that, I had a very hard time keeping the names straight. Mostly because half the time Krakauer would refer to the people by their first name, then other times by their surnames. And then sometimes by their nicknames. This made it hard to connect with any of the "characters," which meant that by the time it got to the chapters on their deaths, I just didn't know any of who he was talking about. Which is sad. 

I was riveted by Krakauer's Into the Wild, and thought that this book would have the same pull over me. That was absolutely not the case. The read was tedious, boring, and frankly, I should have just read the Wikipedia article on the Mount Everest disaster, as it would have been more interesting and taken less time. 
One very big, very bored acorn. 

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