Friday, February 12, 2016

Into Thin Air: 100% Complete

I finished Into Thin Air. Although it certainly is a fascinating and harrowing story, I still felt the writing left something to be desired. When the survivors finally emerged from Everest, when the deaths were counted and the living had survived, I felt as though this were a story of bad luck, of a storm which hit at the worst possible time and claimed the lives of several climbers despite the best efforts of many.

It seems, however, that Jon Krakauer thought his readership would have a different reaction. He ends the book first with a chapter detailing how hard he has taken the events, complete with difficulty sleeping, inability to go more than "two or three hours" without thinking about Everest and heavy survivor's guilt. I kept thinking throughout this section that he should probably seek treatment for
PTSD. Then he finishes with a chapter explaining over and over that Everest is inherently dangerous, that even under the best of circumstances things go wrong, that, while the number of deaths in 1996 was the largest to date, the death rate (both deaths compared to number of people who climbed higher than Base Camp and deaths compared to people who summited the mountain) was actually slightly lower than over the course of Everest history.

Since I didn't get the impression that this tragedy was due (at least primarily) to human error, these long defensive sections struck me as unnecessary.

All in all my impression of the book is that it is a tragic and harrowing adventure story which was written too soon after the event by someone who hadn't yet sorted out how he felt about what had happened. Mr. Krakauer admittedly wrote this hoping for a cathartic experience and, whether he achieved that or not, it clouded up what could have been a more objective and better written story. I didn't feel like this deserved a spot beside many of the other books I've read on this project.

Up next: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque.

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