I finished reading Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air last week. It was an amazingly fast read--truly one of those books that I couldn't put down, staying up way too late because I just had to read to the end of the chapter. I'm not sure what got me to pick up this book in the first place--I'm not really all that much of a fan of stories with guys climbing mountains acting all macho, not really being a macho mountain-climbing type of guy myself. Perhaps it was the $1.00 price tag at 1/2 Price Books in Minneapolis--that combined with the fact that I had really enjoyed Krakauer's book on Mormon fundamentalism, Under The Banner of Heaven. Whatever the reason, I read it and sure am glad that I did.
The story takes place in 1996, with Krakauer joining a guided expedition to the top of Mt. Everest. However, during that season, a freak storm came upon their expedition on their way down the mountain, resulting in the deadliest season on the mountain since it was first summitted in 1953. Krakuer, being a seasoned climber, goes into great detail about the specifics of the climb and you meet a colorful cast of characters (mostly the macho, mountain-climbing type guys.) Although there are a lot of characters, I never really found myself wondering "OK, now who is that again?" as is common in a lot of books such as this. And although there is a lot of techincal mountain climbing jargon, I never found it difficult to understand what Krakauer was talking about.
Krakauer (obviously) survived his encounter with Everest, but many people that he considered friends didn't make it. Krakauer's "survivor's remorse" was heartbreaking. But then again, I'm always impressed with men that aren't afraid of their emotions. And even though Krakauer strikes me as the macho, mountain-climbing type, there were also some very touching parts of the book as well.
It will never pass for high art, but Into Thin Air is an amazingly great read and I highly recommend it. After finishing it, I Netflixed the TV movie version of it. I wasn't expecting much (heck, it was 90 minutes and the book is 300 pages!) and on it's own merits, it wasn't bad, but as most movie adaptations of books go, it just can't compare.