THIN AIR Grim Peaks

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Reviews -

re­leased OUT NOW! 232 pages | Hard­back/ebook/ au­dio­book Au­thor Michelle Paver Pub­lisher Orion Books

This is a slim book, and a sim­ple story, but it has all the el­e­gance of a clas­sic ghost story.

It’s 1935 and, flee­ing a bro­ken en­gage­ment, Dr Stephen Pearce joins his brother’s ex­pe­di­tion to the peak of Kangchen­junga (sec­ond high­est moun­tain of the Hi­malayas), fol­low­ing the route of a failed Ed­war­dian ex­pe­di­tion that had a tragic end.

Paver’s clearly done her re­search, and noth­ing seems anachro­nis­tic or jar­ring. From the equip­ment to the food to the at­ti­tude some of the party dis­play to­wards their sher­pas and bear­ers, it all feels au­then­tic.

Like­wise the strained re­la­tion­ship be­tween Stephen and his brother, Kits, rings true. You’re never sure whether Stephen is ill with al­ti­tude sick­ness, un­bal­anced by the change in his per­sonal life and re­minders of the ear­lier tragedy, or whether he’s gen­uinely per­ceiv­ing some­thing no one else can, while try­ing to climb one of the world’s dead­li­est peaks. Kangchen­junga is a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment, and a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter feels as im­mi­nent as a su­per­nat­u­ral threat.

It’s a com­pelling read, build­ing up slowly and ef­fec­tively, with just one rather sad flaw: when the time comes to de­liver a re­ally good scare, it’s not nearly fright­en­ing enough. Miriam McDon­ald

Aleis­ter Crow­ley led a failed at­tempt to climb Kangchen­junga in 1905. It was fi­nally done in 1955.

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