The most amazing thing about Dan Simmons’s latest effort is the page-turning introduction he provides. There, he recounts an experience he had back in the summer of 1991, when he met former Arctic explorer Jake Perry. The most interesting thing about Perry was his claim to have successfully scaled Mt. Everest back in 1925. Simmons was fully expecting Perry to recount tales of climbing expeditions with the famous Admiral Richard E. Byrd. Though Perry was a part of several Byrd treks, it was not those events he wished to talk about with Simmons. From his room in a senior home, Perry shared with Simmons a remarkable tale about his Everest adventure of 1925.
Years after Perry’s death, the notebooks he kept that captured the full details of the expedition were mailed to Simmons. It has taken him this long to put the finishing touches on a novel that focused on these events. Based on this introduction, you would believe this tale to be nonfiction rather than a fictional thriller. That is for the reader to decide.
Simmons plays it straight and regales an adventure story that is both historical and thrilling in its depiction of the events captured within. A 22-year-old Jake Perry is part of a three-person climbing team that is about to embark on their greatest and most memorable adventure of their lives. In addition to Perry, the team consists of Frenchman Jean-Claude Clairoux and expedition leader Richard Davis Deacon, who simply goes by the moniker “the Deacon.” They are mountain climbers of the highest regard and participating in a field at a time in history when all fellow climbers are in a race to be the first to climb atop the legendary Mt. Everest. In 1924, a famed expedition of Everest climbers perished in historic fashion. Lost in that tragedy were George Mallory and Sandy Irvine, and also missing was a young British aristocrat by the name of Percival “Percy” Bromley. No one had expectations that any of the individuals who disappeared during this mission could possibly have survived.
"THE ABOMINABLE delivers on every level and, even at 600+ pages, is a page turner that will leave readers breathless --- and chilled to the bone!"
Surprisingly, Deacon and his team are called to the British estate of Lady Bromley, Percy’s mother. She is in complete denial that her son perished on Mt. Everest and wants to fund a new expedition whereby Deacon’s trio climb the infamous Mountain and bring back either the remains of Percy or locate his whereabouts if he is still alive. Deacon is open to the opportunity as he was a childhood friend of the Bromley boys, especially of Percy’s older brother.
The group accepts and is then informed that they will be joined by Percy’s cousin, Reggie. Reggie turns out to be a woman --- and one who has experience in climbing and leading expeditions in Tibet. Immediately, there are issues between Deacon and Reggie over how to run things, but Deacon eventually concedes as Reggie is part of the deal and controlling the funds for the expedition.
So it happens that in the spring of 1925, the expedition ensues and consists of dozens of Sherpas and local Himalayan residents, all of whom are there to assist in the search for Percy. It is not long before Deacon, Jean-Claude and Perry realize that all of these locals are along for the journey for reasons beyond their ability just to carry things. Everest has many dangers and pitfalls, not all of them natural. It seems there is local legend about supernatural or mythical creatures that roam the mountain and may be responsible for many of the tragedies that have taken place there. Their expedition is actually warned by the son of Genghis Khan that they are climbing during a time of demons and the yeti.
Deacon and company do not want to give in to local superstition, but they cannot deny the fact that they feel they are being pursued by something as they make their climb. The question becomes: What is the entity that may be in pursuit of them, and how does this tie in to the mystery of Percy’s disappearance in 1924? Not wanting to give anything away, let it be said that what begins as a deeply detailed description of high-intensity mountain climbing quickly evolves into a top-caliber thriller that may or may not answer all of the questions I have posed. The writing here is fast and furious, and Simmons’s ability to place the reader on the icy slopes of Mt. Everest to experience some of the greatest dangers man has ever faced is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Dan Simmons continues to amaze me with his command of the language, storytelling skills and the ability to jump from genre to genre without missing a beat. The story behind the story of THE ABOMINABLE is worth the price of admission, and I have much respect for the amount of time he spent in getting this event put into words. For years, Simmons has inexplicably run under the radar, even though I have enjoyed his books for decades. I am so pleased that he will soon become a well-deserved household name as AMC is currently producing a series based on THE TERROR, Guillermo Del Toro is directing a film version of DROOD, and a European version of his classic horror novel, CARRION COMFORT, is forthcoming.
THE ABOMINABLE delivers on every level and, even at 600+ pages, is a page turner that will leave readers breathless --- and chilled to the bone!
Reviewed by Ray Palen on October 25, 2013