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Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster

Straddling the world, one foot in China and the other in Nepal, I cleared the ice from my oxygen mask, hunched a shoulder against the wind, and stared absently down at the vastness of Tibet.

Into Thin Air is Jon Krakuer’s account of the Mt. Everest disaster that took place in May 1996. He begins when he reaches the top of the summit, and then goes back to the very beginnings of the journey. He takes great pains to provide a balanced picture of the people and events he witnessed and gives due credit to the tireless and dedicated Sherpas. He also avoids blasting easy targets such as Sandy Pittman, the wealthy socialite who brought an espresso maker along on the expedition. Krakauer’s highly personal inquiry into the catastrophe provides a great deal of insight into what went wrong. But for Krakauer himself, further interviews and investigations only lead him to the conclusion that his perceived failures were directly responsible for a fellow climber’s death. Clearly, Krakauer remains haunted by the disaster, and although he relates a number of incidents in which he acted selflessly and even heroically, he seems unable to view those instances objectively. In the end, despite his evenhanded and even generous assessment of others’ actions, he reserves a full measure of vitriol for himself.”

I’d read and enjoyed Above All Things, so I wanted to read another story about Mt. Everest and its perils, this time one that purported to be nonfiction (although I’m sure some facts were stretched). The writing wasn’t very good, and the story, while interesting, just was told poorly. It still wasn’t quite as gripping as I thought it would be. The story moves at a pretty slow pace. It kind of couldn’t keep me interested for very long. There was a lot of dry history, and Krakeuer just couldn’t make it compelling, even though he is a novelist. 

With so many review copies flooding in, I didn’t finish Into Thin Air. I’ll probably return to it some other time. I’ve kind of been not finishing a lot of books lately. 

374 pages. 

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