This is one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever inhaled.
I truly did inhale this story; in the span of three days I spent hours upon hours reading… on the couch, in bed, while walking Lacey, at the dog park… Krakauer’s writing style is incomparable. He is a natural reporter and his story reads like a feature article — an incredibly good one. The details are all given to the reader, but only the necessary ones. I could feel the ice chill of 20,000 feet high on Everest; my stomach groaned from the gnawing starvation mixed with nausea Krakauer described at 23,000 feet; ghost wind whipped my hair into my eyes as I absorbed Krakauer’s words. He is a master of description and storytelling.
Yet Krakauer’s style is horrific as well. He states in the genesis of his book that he was warned to wait longer before writing it, so that perhaps the emotions would dull to a bearable level. He ignored this, though and wrote the book only five months after the deadly climb. I felt myself becoming numb from depression as his words carried his voice and his very core into my mind. I think I became a small shadow of Krakauer by reading his novel, which denotes a true writer.
The story is devastating yet one I would recommend to any adventurer, because it acts as a warning: there is much more than mankind in this world, and much that mankind is not meant to survive. Survival isn’t granted, as most of us assume. It is not a human right, because human rights do not exist at 29,000 feet.
Krakauer makes a point to remind the reader that intelligence is greatly lacking in high altitude, and that the “facts” he reports are only called thus because they have been checked through interviews with fellow climbers. I cannot imagine the pain of those conversations. Krakauer describes the friendships and companionships these people developed; he does so, though, in the same gray-tinted wording as the rest of his novel. The climbers were paying clients, and their guides were responsible for their lives; friendships had boundaries. Survival was utmost. Krakauer also notes (although tentatively) selfishness and machismo in his fellow climbers which may have led to deaths. His statements have been greatly critiqued and he answers these critiques in the back of the book, yet again stating that facts are relative when those experiencing them have the intelligence of an average 5-year-old.
I simply cannot imagine what he, and the other Everest climbers, went through on the mountain. I am hugely grateful for Krakauer’s story, though, as a solemn bow to many lives and to the dangerously addicting culture of climbing mountains.