Sunday, July 4, 2010

Book Review: Blind Descent by James M. Tabor

I was reluctant to read this book. The topic, caving, was enticing to me, but the bad title and ugly jacket made me hesitant, not to mention the comparisons to Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. But I saw the author on "The Daily Show" last week and was won over.
This book tells, in two parts, the race to find the deepest supercave by American Bill Stone in Mexico, and Ukranian Alexander Klimchouk in The Republic of Georgia. Bill Stone is much more of a character, and so the bulk of the book does focus unevenly on him. A driven, obsessed explorer who is willing to sacrifice nearly everything for his quest, he is riveting and hard to take one's eyes off of, in the nature of a car wreck. Klimchouk on the other hand is organized, simpatico with his wife, and just not as interesting although he's just as driven. The descriptions of the explorations are occasionally confusing, but they're certainly exciting and frightening. Being in absolute pitch black darkness for weeks on end is nearly unimaginable but Tabor does a good job of conveying the oppression and danger of the caves. The geography and descriptions of the caves themselves was a little confusing, as was keeping up with all the names.
The book was a fun, fast read, but the writing was more effortful than inspired. Mr. Krakauer doesn't have anything to be worried about. But if you're looking for an exciting adventure story, you won't go wrong with Blind Descent.

No comments: