This is a delightful book. Not that the writer's more well-known TOUCHING THE VOID is badly written; it isn't, and it remians on my short list of the best mountaineering/adventure books I've read. But in THIS GAME OF GHOSTS Simpson stretches out more fully, more autobiographically (is that a wrod?) in an attempt to explain (to himself, to the reader) what it is about climbing that is so attractive, so essential to his existence. While he is honest almost to a fault, Simpson is smart enough to not fall (no pun intended) into the cliches and pseudo-mystical parrot talk that waters down an awful lot of mountaineering lit. For Simpson, there is no short, definitive answer as to why he is drawn to steep, icy mountain walls. On the other hand, the whole book is an answer to this question, which he poses, dismisses, returns to, and obliquely answers over and over.
This is not just a good mountaineering book; it is a bood book, period. At first I thought Simpson was being a bit self-indulgent by detailing his early life. ("Who does this guy think he is?" I asked myself. "This isn't Winston Churchill or even Frank McCourt, but an unknown Brit who thinks we care about his schoolboy years.") But he won me over through his strong sense of humor and good storytelling. And the whole thing is full of good stories. Part of the book's appeal is in the stupidity of Simpson's climbing mistakes, many of which lead to life-threatening accidents. But through all his many incidents, Simpson proves to be as resilient as a rubber ball.