Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer is an adventure and tragedy novel. The thing that makes it different from most books of that kind, however, is that Into Thin Air is a completely true story. It is about the 1996 mount everest disaster, in which many people died during one storm, at or around the summit of Mount Everest. Even more interesting is that the author of the book, Jon Krakauer, was a part of the event. Into Thin Air was a bestselling nonfiction book when it came out in 1997.
About the Book:
In Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer is assigned as a reporter for Outside magazine, an outdoors themed magazine. Krakauer is a climbing enthusiast, and had wanted to attempt to summit Everest since he was a child. He got assigned to summit everest with a New Zealand based guiding organization called Adventure Consultants, led by an extremely skilled long time climber named Rob Hall. Along the way, Hall’s team worked with the Mountain Madness organization led by American climber Scott Fischer, and several other groups, including a group shooting an IMAX film, led by world renowned climber David Breashears.
While starting as a seemingly average climb, a surprise blizzard storm kicks in. This blizzard will go on to kill over seven people during the course of a single night, from the many dangers that can arise at high altitude, away from immediate assistance. There are a huge amount of things that can kill you during mountain climbing, from frostbite, blood clots induced by altitude, and brain effecting illnesses that remove almost all common sense or judgement and puts a clock on one’s life.
The primary conflict of the story is that of person, or in this case, people vs nature. These people go up against one of the largest natural dangers on the planet, Mt Everest. In that sense, you could say that their conflict is with themselves, since they are putting their own lives in danger. However, the main expeditions of this event were prepared and practiced to the utmost degree, and, in all honesty, should have survived easily. It was the natural forces of a storm and altitude illnesses that caused the disaster, not a significant human error.
My favorite character in the book was Rob Hall, the leader of the primary guide group, Adventure Consultants. He was extremely reliable, a good person to be friends with, and he just seemed like a good guy to be around. His power over most of the people during the event inspired me, and showed me what it meant to be a true leader, something I joined Science Leadership Academy to do.
I think that it is important for readers to realise that this is a true story. These terrible and shocking events actually happened, and they killed real people, with real families. I think that it is extremely important for people to realise that the events that take place in fictitious tragedies can also take place in real life, and that people should honor the life they have. If you plan on risking it, make sure it is worthwhile. I’m not even sure if I would risk my life even if it was worthwhile, though.
In an odd sort of way, I can relate Jon Krakauer’s Everest expedition to when I joined high school. I entered high school and judged those who were around me, just like Jon judged the people who climbed with him. I thought of some people as below me, wondering how they made it into the school, whether they were up to the challenge. Some people I thought of as above me, with skills I couldn’t even compare to. However, as I went through my freshman year, I got to know a lot more about the people around me, and started to realise that, they were all capable people to various degrees, though they all had their own personal pitfalls. Not everyone was as skilled at everything, but everyone had their own special skills.
However, unlike the people in this book, I have never been in a life threatening situation. Sure, I was nervous and scared during my first few weeks of school, but then I got used to it. I was in an overall safe environment, and I knew this. The people on that fated mountain were not so fortunate. They were dropping like stones as nature and faulty judgement threw them under the bus. They had no way to ensure their own safety, and they lost those that they could believe in, such as their guides.
I believe that Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild is an exciting and interesting book, for a niche audience. I found it intriguing, but it is not the type of story that caters to most readers. Due to the fact that it is a work of nonfiction, written by a journalist, it is full of detail. Those who like detail will love this book, but those who just want action, or romance, or comedy will find this book lacking (It does have a lot of suspense though). It is a book that aims to give as exact an account of a terrifying and traumatizing experience. It was written as a form of personal healing for Jon, adn it is not a book for the weak hearted.
The problems I have with the book would be hypocritical, and go against what I said previously. I personally do not like the slow speed of the book, which, at 305 pages, does not seem like it could possibly fit so much detail into the pages it provides. I would have liked for a bit more visualization and action, but I take what the book can give. It was completely gripping, and I found it highly interesting. It was absolutely worth the read.
I recommend this book to those who enjoy facts, suspense, and those who want to come to grips with the true terrors of nature. This book is not for the weak, but it provides a story that will interest all who can stand this type of tale.
My creative project was a custom Minecraft map that highlighted key features of the mountain highlighted in the book. Also, if YOU want to get a small experience of what it is like in high altitude conditions, breathe through a straw to simulate high altitude oxygen levels.