Author: Jon Krakauer
Genre: nonfiction/ adventure
3 Words: Intense, Tragic, nerve-racking
Quote: “I quickly came to understand that climbing Everest was primarily about enduring pain. And in subjecting ourselves to week after week of toil, tedium, and suffering, that most of us were seeking, above all else, something like a state of grace”(140)
Looking off from the highest point in the world Jon Krakauer’s primary thought is how difficult the journey down will be as he sees the storm clouds moving in. #1 National Bestselling author, Jon Krakauer, starts the book with a glimpse of the top of the mountain at which point he jumps back to the beginning of the journey that led him there. Working as a writer for a magazine, Krakauer convinces his employer to pay for him to climb Everest and write about it. Krakauer is an avid climber and has climbed on many treacherous mountains, but nothing can prepare him for what he will face on Everest. As he meets his team and they start their hike towards base camp, the characters backgrounds are elaborated on as well as stories of other people who have climbed the mountain.
Once they reach base camp and begin the acclimation process it seems that every moment is one of misery. As the elevation increases the amount of problems follows. Characters getting sick, hit with falling rocks, living in places with human feces all over the ground, and yet these are the more minor issues that occur. With each assent more and more health issues and tragedies occur increasing in both frequency and magnitude.
Dead bodies can be seen laying in the snow along the trail and it appears to have little effect on the climber’s goals to reach the top. When the climbers make their attempt at the summit nearly all of them are exhausted, sick, and suffering from lack of oxygen. At that altitude a multitude of disease can strike even the healthiest of individuals.
Through team competition, pressure to get to the top, cognitive impairment from the altitude, over-exertion previously in the climb, and bad luck, disaster is inevitable. The only question is how bad will it be?
· Slow start
· Constantly depressing mood
The beginning of the novel was not very plot oriented with many asides and back stories being enlightened upon in detail. I felt that some of the details to each character’s back story and some of the stories regarding previous climbs could have been left out or at least shortened. The detailed background stories do make the reader feel more connected to the characters, and the stories of previous climbs help to increase intensity and interest. I still feel they could have been left out.
I understand that this story ends in tragedy and that in writing down the details after the fact lead to it being remembered as more depressing than it may have been. That being said the author must have felt joy and excitement at some point during the expedition, which was seldom shown. I cannot fault the author too much since the mood matches the plot well and is consistent throughout.
· Very detailed
· Insight into his thinking
· Tone setting
The author’s account of the events and everyone involved was very detailed. He knew the facts of each individuals back story, the clothes being worn by seemingly insignificant characters, and each situation was described in a striking, sometimes overly, detailed way. Krakauer defiantly put a lot of time and effort into this book and it shows in the clarity, which is presented through the surplus of detail.
I felt that the author did a phenomenal job portraying his thinking during the actual events, which were being described. I am sure it was painful and difficult to try and put himself back into that mindset to recreate the event, but the end result is fantastic. The reader gets a clear glimpse into the mind of someone on the mountain, and that, combined with the detail, makes the reader feel as if they are on Everest with him.
At the beginning of every chapter a black and white picture is depicted as well as a short outcrop from other authors about Everest. These two added features do wonders for setting the tone of the novel. The pictures are in only two colors and drawn jagged and dark, giving the impression of tragedy, suffering, and pain. The outcrops are nearly almost equally as depressing. Those two elements together at the start of each chapter help to keep the tone consistent and fitting throughout the novel.
The main, and most effective, literary tool the author used was foreshadowing. It can be seen throughout the entire novel from the book starting at the top of the mountain to the pictures and outcrops at the beginning of each chapter. The author gives a reader a glimpse of what is going to occur next, causing the reader to plunge deeper into the book to find out the details of the problems to come.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes adventure books or books focused around tragedy. I probably would not read this book on the beach or on vacation as it will probably put you in a somber mood. All in all I enjoyed the read and appreciated the literary skills of the author 4/5 pens. Let me know what you think of the book? Do any of the readers like mountain climbing?
For some thought provoking questions that came up from the novel go here (possible spoilers)
- Krakauer, Jon, and Randy Rackliff. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster. , 1999. Print.
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