Monday, October 8, 2007

Book Review: Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston

This is the incredible story of a young "outdoorsman" forced to cut off his own arm at the elbow to free himself from entrapment by a fallen boulder, and a fantastic example of how to make an interesting story seem boring, something which should be evident from the hackneyed title of the book. Whilst the ordeal that Aron Ralston underwent is an amazing and excrutiating tale, it is one that could have been told more effectively in a magazine article instead of dragging it out into 342 pages that become as painful to the reader as the ordeal must have been for the author.

Whilst the tale of the 5 days trapped in a remote canyon is certainly intriguing, it is unfortunately interspersed by countless flashbacks into previous outdoor adventures where the author's continuous foolhardiness puts himself and his companions into life threatening situations, which, in one case, results in a group of skiers vowing never to accompany him on an outdoor trip again.

Further to this annoying padding out of the story the constant use of climbing jargon and a writing style that attempts to create an air of "coolness" both become extremely irritating and I found myself consistently wishing the author would get on with the story I thought I was going to read about. Indeed, the author's verbose attempt to stretch out a story makes the mistake of thinking the reader is more interested in himself rather than the facts.

So irritating is this combination of poor style and an arrogant disregard of safety that by the end of the book it made me want to cut off his other arm. Mr Ralston seems to be one of those foolish people that put the lives of rescue teams at risk through their cavalier attitude towards their own safety: consequently I have very little sympathy for him.

Whilst the story of Aron Ralston's survival through an incredibly distressing situation is amazing, it is fairly difficult to find in this dreadfully padded out book. Try to find his story in a magazine article somewhere on the internet instead. The fact that I found this book in a "bargain bookstore" says much about its quality.

Score: 2/10

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