The Abominable: A Novel by Dan Simmons

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ALA Reading List Award for History, Short List

I admit, when I first read the title, “The Abominable,” it was hard for me not to go to abominables I have known, like the famous “Bumble” from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  (1964 TV Movie)

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Or the Yeti, from Disney’s Monsters, Inc.

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But while these familiar fluffies are cute and cuddly, something far more terrifying is stalking the climbers hoping to be the first to summit Mount Everest. The plot twists and turns, at one time making the reader believe in mythical monsters, at others offering more prosaic explanations for climbing accidents, equipment failures and mysterious deaths.

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The Abominable: A Novel is heavy on alternate history, climbing terminology and 100 words for snow. Well, maybe not 100, but far more than I had encountered before.

From Booklist:

“It’s 1924, and a trio of rogue climbers—mysterious WWI vet Deacon; emotional Frenchman Jean-Claude; and our narrator, brash young American Jacob—are hired to find the corpse of a dignitary lost on Everest… it’s the subsequent complications that make this required reading for anyone inspired or terrified by high-altitude acrobatics: sudden avalanches, hidden crevasses, murderous temperatures, mountainside betrayals, and maybe—just maybe—a pack of bloodthirsty yeti. Though the first 200 pages of climbing background might have readers pining for the big climb, it is nearly always interesting, and, later, Simmons excels at those small but full-throated moments of terror when, for example, a single bent screw might mean death for everyone.”

Good read, but a bit slow at times. The final push to solve a series of mysteries while trying for the summit make it worthwhile.

Three out of four stars.

A book to read when non-fiction books about Everest lack appeal.

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