Into Thin Air Audio Cassette – Audiobook, Unabridged
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"Intrinsically irrational" is how Jon Krakauer characterizes the compulsion to climb Mount Everest in his audiobook Into Thin Air. The highly publicized fates of the May 1996 Everest expeditions, including the tragic loss of 12 lives, seem to bear out Krakauer's statement. Listening to Krakauer read his own account of the events in this unabridged version adds a uniquely intimate and thought-provoking dimension to the tragedy. Although Krakauer reads his account with journalistic professionalism, it's impossible to forget that you are listening to someone unburdening himself of a great weight, an unburdening that sometimes nearly approaches a confession.
Since the 1980s, more and more "marginally qualified dreamers" have attempted the ascent of Everest, as guided commercial expeditions have dangled the possibility of reaching the roof of the world in front of anyone wealthy enough to pay for the privilege. In 1996, Outside magazine asked Krakauer, a frequent contributor, to write a piece on the commercialization of Everest, and Krakauer signed on as a member of New Zealander Rob Hall's expedition. The disastrous outcome of the 1996 expedition forced Krakauer to write a very different article.
Those who read Krakauer's book may wonder whether the audiobook can possibly shed more light on the unfortunate events. It does. Krakauer's chronicle is chilling and horrifying. He recounts with excruciating detail the physical and mental cost of such a climb. Even under the best of circumstances, each step up the ice-clad mountain is monumentally exhausting, and the oxygen-deprived brain loses the ability to make reliable judgements. And on May 10, 1996, when Hall's expedition and several others made their summit assault, the conditions were far from ideal. The mountain was so "crowded" that climbers had to wait their turn near the summit while their bottled oxygen dwindled by the minute. By afternoon a blinding hurricane-force storm had stranded a number of climbers on the highest, most exposed reaches of the mountain.
By writing and reading Into Thin Air, Krakauer may have hoped to exorcise some of his own demons and lay to rest some of the painful questions that still surround the event. 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. (Running time: 467 minutes; six tapes)
From School Library Journal
Heroism and sacrifice triumph over foolishness, fatal error, and human frailty in this bone-chilling narrative in which the author recounts his experiences on last year's ill-fated, deadly climb. Thrilling armchair reading.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Krakauer writes in a very good way, it is simple and quite concise. It gets to the point. But it also gives you a lot of 'parallel-info'; information you really apreciate while reading. I found myself many times going back trough the pages looking for a particular description, either of a place or somebody.
What happened that year on Everest is a big tragedy. Of course there are worst things almost everyday in Africa, India, Indonesia or Bangladesh, but the surroundings, the whole story is the sort of thing that makes you wonder about what we are, what we do, and in particular, why we do it.
By the way, you must read 'The Climb' by Anatoly Boukreev after or before this (preferably after). Krakauer's words make you think the other climber was irresponsible, but in reading the russian's book you start thinking in a different way. Maybe it was just a matter of different cultures, maybe it was just that the clients did not understand the way Boukreev lived and feeled the mountain.
In any case, the best way to get into it, is reading both books.
Krakauer wrote this book shortly after the events happened. And it's easy to tell from the way the book is written that the events were still very much raw for him and he was still processing and coming to terms with what happened. The trauma of it all comes through very clearly. He does a reasonable job of acknowledging that some of the things he wrote/said prior to writing this book might have had damaging effects on the characters of his fellow climbers or caused grief to loved ones left behind by those deceased. However, Krakauer does make judgements on his fellow climbers and guides, and paints some individuals in a negative light. It's easy to understand why some of the accusations he makes would draw ire from the people involved. But it is helpful for an outsider to hear some speculation on why the events unfolded as they did, and possible mistakes that were made that might have prevented or reduced some of the harm.
Regardless, this book is a fascinating story and a great read.
Oh yes, the controversy. I suppose that it is inevitable that when you're dealing with this magnitude a disaster, with equally-high magnitude of some mountaineers' egos, you're going to get arguments. Unfortunately, Krakauer has been sucked into this and actually has devoted a portion of the book to responding to someone's complaint about his account. Frankly, it reads like an internet message board flamewar, and it detracts from an amazing book. Hopefully, a year from now when I think back about this book, I'll remember not the controversy but rather people like Rob Hall, one of the people who died on the mountain.
Most recent customer reviews
Love this author and the book... It's like you are there too!Published 1 month ago by Sophie Houdet
I never read books of this genre but, am I ever glad I read this one. I can't say enough about the sheer readability of this book. Not your genre either? Read morePublished 2 months ago by Catherine Robertson
Brilliant book. Make sure you have time to read it, because once things kick off, you won't put it down.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
This book scared me. These climbers are a special breed. Great journalist style read.Published 5 months ago by Regan Martin
Don't watch a movie, read this book, it'll make you cry and rejoice and you'll imagine the peril .Published 6 months ago by Serge B
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