Review Blog

Feb 14 2012

Alive in the death zone by Lincoln Hall

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Louis Braille Audio, read by David Tredinnick. Random House Australia, 2008. ISBN 9781741663372.
Recommended. Lincoln Hall has a fascinating story to tell. He survived a night above 8000 metres on Mt Everest, having been pronounced dead by his accompanying sherpas, who had to leave him and descend to high base camp before they, too, perished. Apparently Lincoln had suffered from severe altitude sickness, and had no detectable pulse or breath or reaction when poked in the eye (evidently a sure sign of loss of life).
That Lincoln survived can be safely deduced from the fact that he wrote the book after the event. The book is not just about that particular climb on Everest, but goes back to Lincoln's schooldays and introduction to rock climbing by a P.E teacher who became a friend and fellow-climber in Lincoln's adult life. It traces his progression through rock-climbing and mountaineering in terms of interest and skills, and so provides context in which to appreciate the immense difficulties (and satisfactions) of the Everest expeditions.
Unfortunately I found the text rather prosaic and repetitive, with some unnecessary detail (e.g. a list of the highest 14 mountains in the world, together with their heights), and lacking some details which I would have liked expanded (e.g. the reaction of his children when they found out he was alive and safe on the mountain after having been told 24 hours earlier that he had perished). I also couldn't quite get behind the voice and style of the reader of the audiobook, who, whilst competent, did seem to overegg the omelette at times.
Having said that, the story has such intrinsic interest, and is so far out of the realms of most listeners' experience, that I think it can be cut a certain amount of slack in the literary department. Also, we listened to the DVD on a long family car trip, and our 11-year old daughter, somewhat to my surprise, loved the story and couldn't wait to turn it on each time we got back into the car. On the strength of this alone, I would have to give it a recommended rating!
Peter J Helman

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