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Into the Abyss: How a Deadly Plane Crash Changed the Lives of a Pilot, a Politician, a Criminal and a Cop Hardcover – Oct 16 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Canada; 1st Edition edition (Oct. 16 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307360229
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307360229
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.9 x 23.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #105,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

NATIONAL BESTSELLER
FINALIST 2013 – Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize
WINNER 2013 – Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction

“With Into the Abyss Carol Shaben gives us an astonishing true story of catastrophe and redemption. Shaben writes from the inside out, as in the best non-fiction, creating a nuanced and tightly braided portrait of four men and their shared trauma that is by turns terrifying and deeply humane. Every line in this uniquely Canadian story rings true.”
—John Vaillant, author of The Tiger
 
Into the Abyss is a shot of storytelling adrenalin, taut and riveting and poised beautifully between pure action and thought. An extraordinary reading experience.” 
—Charles Foran, author of Mordecai: The Life & Times
 
“Carol Shaben is a meticulous reporter and, most importantly, a remarkably empathetic one. In Into the Abyss, she combines these skills masterfully to explore the full emotional impact of a horrific accident. The drifter she never met is as alive and complex in this story as her beloved father, and together with the other two survivors they weave a powerful tale about the limits of human resilience in the face of tragedy.”
—Chris Turner, author of The Leap and The Geography of Hope
 
“When a plane crashes in the mountains of northern Alberta, six people die, and four men of wildly different backgrounds survive—including a criminal on his way to court, who ends up rescuing his fellow passengers. But what makes this tale so remarkable is the meticulous way in which the author maps the human consequences of the tragedy: how it forged deep bonds among the survivors, and transformed their lives. This book leads us into classic, nail-biting Jon Krakauer territory—and then breaks new ground.”
—Marni Jackson, co-director of the Banff Centre Mountain and Wilderness Writing Program
 
“In her page-turning reconstruction of a small plane crash and its large aftermath, Carol Shaben vividly charts the emotional flight paths of four survivors, each an archetypal character entangled in a fateful web of incompetence and heroism, dumb luck and deliverance, guilt and salvation, trauma and transformation. Why, for some, does a deep shock act like a wake-up call; for others, nothing but an inexorable spiral into the abyss? In the end, the strangeness of true stories continues to rival fiction.”
—James FitzGerald, author of What Disturbs Our Blood: A Son’s Quest to Redeem the Past

About the Author

CAROL SHABEN was nominated for 3 National Magazine Awards, including Best New Magazine Writer, and won 2 of them, a Gold Medal for Investigative Reporting and a Silver Medal for Politics and Public Interest. A former international trade consultant and CBC writer/broadcaster, CAROL was 22, living and working as a journalist in the Middle East, when the crash occurred. She learned of the event, and her father's survival, reading a local newspaper.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book for book club and I was not expecting to like it. What a surprise! I really enjoyed it. Carol Shaben follows the lives of the 4 survivors including her father Larry Shaben from before the crash in 1984 to 20 years after the crash. Very well researched and written in a compelling manner that kept me interested and engaged throughout the book. It is not often that you can read about how such a traumatic event affects the lives of the survivors and the people around them. This is the crash that killed Grant Notley, father of Rachel Notley who was elected premier of Alberta in May 2015. Even though the story involves two politicians, it is not about politics. Most of our 18 book club members rated this book 8 or 9 out of 10!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Because the story is about the main characters spending just one night together, I was not expecting such an in-depth and interesting read. All the characters are interesting and you find yourself rooting for them. Because the author is related she had the behind the scenes stories. It was very well written and I found that I couldn't put it down. I also really like how she let the readers know how their lives played out and where they are today. Well done.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was involved in Alberta aviation when this happened & recalled it clearly. The book is well written & accurately depicts the risks and lifestyle of a relatively inexperienced commercial pilot. Many familiar names appear.

Sadly, so many things remain the same as at the time of the crash.
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By Louise Jolly TOP 500 REVIEWER on Dec 15 2012
Format: Hardcover
Story Description:

On an icy night in October 1984, a Piper Navajo commuter plane carrying 9 passengers crashed in the remote wilderness of northern Alberta, killing 6 people. Four survived: the rookie pilot, a prominent politician, a cop, and the criminal he was escorting to face charges. Despite the poor weather, Erik Vogel, the 24-year-old pilot, was under intense pressure to fly - a situation not uncommon to pilots working for small airlines. Overworked and exhausted, he feared losing his job if he refused to fly. Larry Shaben, the author's father and Canada's first Muslim Cabinet Minister, was commuting home after a busy week at the Alberta Legislature. After Paul Archambault, a drifter wanted on an outstanding warrant, boarded the plane, rookie Constable Scott Deschamps decided, against RCMP regulations, to remove his handcuffs - a decision that profoundly impacted the men's survival. As they fought through the night to stay alive, the dividing lines of power, wealth and status were erased and each man was forced to confront the precious and limited nature of his existence. The survivors forged unlikely friendships and through them found strength and courage to rebuild their lives. Into the Abyss is a powerful narrative that combines in-depth reporting with sympathy and grace to explore how a single, tragic event can upset our assumptions and become a catalyst for transformation.

My Review:

Into the Abyss is the true account of a plane crash that occurred on October 19th, 1984 piloted by then twenty-four-year-old, Erik Vogel. Erik worked for Wapiti Airlines, a small outfit that flew daily flights around the Alberta area, over Great Slave Lake in Yellowknife and often had the same passengers each week.
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Format: Hardcover
This book certainly deserves the high praise for literary merit and insight into the human condition noted by most reviewers. As added bonus, "Into the Abyss" provides valuable perspective on why it's so difficult to pin down the "cause" of an air crash (or other complex accident) involving "pilot error" (or "operator error"). These terms were excised from the lexicon of official investigations a long time ago in favour of euphemisms such as "findings as to causes" or "human factors". But, whatever words used to explain how and why an accident happened, effective measures to prevent recurrence start with substantive description of underlying circumstances.

In the case of the crash at the center of this story circumstances were complicated by clashing requirements of safe operation and pressure to cut corners--- on Eric Vogel, the pilot, to preserve his job or indeed his career; on Dale Wells, the airline operator, to keep his business profitable or indeed to keep his business at all. Moreover, the Canadian Aviation Safety Board, the investigative authority--established just a month earlier, failed to do its homework under pressure "to cement [its] role as a powerful and effective watchdog" over aviation safety. As it turned out, Vogel lost his career, Wells lost his airline and the Canadian Aviation Safety Board started a downward spiral leading to its dissolution five years later.

Shaben skilfully weaves this background into the central drama of four survivors coping in very different ways with a transformative event in their lives. Thus, readers primarily interested in an absorbing narrative of survival and redemption will be additionally rewarded with insight into the difficulties of sorting out "human factors" behind accidents involving the operation of complex machinery. Those primarily concerned with how and why complex systems fail will be additionally rewarded by an inspiring human story.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am a member of Civil Air Search and Rescue and I found this book to be excellently written. Carol has shown the point of view of everyone involved with this tragedy. I felt it showed all the frustrations involved not only from the Search and Rescue side but from the airline, the pilot, the survivors, the target airport and the families.
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