The Abominable by

I met Jake Perry in the summer of 1991. I'd had a longtime interest - in Antarctic exploration and explorers - actually since the International Geophysical Year in 1957-58, when the US established permanent bases down there, which really grabbed my 10-year-old's imagination - and around 1990 I had a vague hunch that there might be an idea for a novel set in Antarctica.
–Dan Simmons - The Abominable - c.2013

My final read for this year’s RIP

In June of 1924 reports from Everest reveal that George Mallory and Andrew Irvine have vanished, missing, presumed dead in their attempt to reach the summit. The news reaches our narrator, Jake Perry, as he himself is climbing a mountain. He is accompanied by Richard Deacon, a man who knows Mallory, who once attempted Everest with Mallory. Togther with Jean-Paul they decide that they will try to climg the tallest mountain in the world.

Not with a huge team, as Mallory had attempted, but a smaller, more elite group. The three of them and their sherpas. More technology, more skill, and hopefully less fanfare.

Another man was also reported missing at the same time as Mallory and Irvine, Lord Percy Bromly’s mother will pay to find out what happened to her son. Part of her knows he died up on that mountain, but he still has some hope, however futile that hope may be. Her money will pay for Jake and his group to search Everest, and possibly to reach the top.

This book is too long. It could easily be told in half the 663 pages that it took. The first half is all about the team’s preparations for the expedition. And yes, the reader does need to know some of it, but not over 300 pages of it.

Show Spoiler ▼

I’m not saying that a book has to match exactly the reader’s expectations, surprising the reader is a great thing. But false advertising is something utterly different in my opinion.

But even allowing for that misdirection, the plot at the heart of the novel was really off-putting to me. And I’m afraid I’m going to have to reveal details to explain just why it set my teeth on edge Show Spoiler ▼

And I know, this is fiction, I should’t be worried about the realities, but you know what, tis whole aspect of the storyline just annoyed me. It was just plain wrong.

And even if that hadn’t been part of the story I just couldn’t recommend this book. Not unless you are really intested in mountaineering and climbing Mount Everest. It is just way too long, and repetitive. A savage editing might have saved it, but I’m not sure.

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13 Responses

  1. Kelly says:

    This is one of the books I've been really excited to read, so it's a shame you didn't like it. The Terror was amazing and I can't wait to see what Simmons does with an Everest story. Then, I find anything to do with climbing Everest absolutely fascinating and have seen a bunch of documentaries on the subject, so it's likely I'll probably like all the extra detail. I didn't read your spoilers, but after I've finished the book I'll come back and see what bothered you so much about it! I'm intrigued. :)

    • Fence says:

      Kelly I really liked a couple of his, Black Hills was great. I want to read The Terror at some point because I've heard it is excellent. This one just didn't work for me though. And I had huge issues with his previous one, Flachback (I think it was called) as well so he is very hit and miss with me.

  2. Kelly says:

    He's a very iffy writer for me, too… The Terror is the only book I've really liked of his (in fact, it would be one of my desert island books). Drood was okay and I couldn't get into Black Hills, though I tried; something about it really bugged me. I didn't try Flashback because the premise didn't interest me. So really, I'm basing all my hopes for The Abominable on my previous Terror love! I'd like to hear what you think about The Terror, if you ever get to it.
    Kelly´s last blog post ..Autumnal noisings

  3. Kelly says:

    Ha! Very possible. :)

  4. Kelly says:

    Well…. wow. You know that thing about giving a book until page 50 before deciding to toss it against the back of the couch? I got to page 36. It started off bad for me from the get-go, as I was put off by the device of Simmons inserting himself into the story in the first chapter "Introduction." It felt unnecessary and narcissistic and he came across as kind of a jerk. Yeah, that backfired… So I barely got into the main story, let alone the parts that (deservedly, as I read your spoilers) bugged you. I can see why. While there was a slender golden thread of intrigue that gave me hope for a few pages, it was too tenuous to grab onto, and the book didn't seem worth the effort of trying. Next.

    SO, it turns out that Simmons is a one-off writer for me so far! (Sprechen of which… AMC is making a series of The Terror, produced by Ridley Scott! Yes! I sincerely hope they don't fuck it up. They recently cancelled one of my favorites, The Killing, for a second and final time and I'm still smarting about that, but I've liked others they've done, like Mad Men and Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. Here's hoping.)
    Kelly´s last blog post ..Autumnal noisings

  5. Fence says:

    Well, at least I'm not alone :)

    And yeah, I didn't see the point in the intro at all, but I was giving out about so much that I don't think I mentioned that in my main review :) Again, yes a thread of intrigue that I kept waiting and hoping that it would take off, but it never did.

    I must read The Terror, but not for a while, I'm a bit sour on snow and Simmons, so I'll wait for a bit.

    Wasn't The Killing based on a foreign language show? I've heard good things but never watched it. I am LOVING Breaking Bad though. Just on season three now, Walter is very much in the anti-hero camp now.

    The Walking Dead is a funny one for me, so much of it is all a bit meh, yet I keep on watching. Haven't watched any of the most recend series, its recording but I'll get to it in a couple of weeks.

  6. Kelly says:

    Yes, The Killing was based on a Danish show and was written by the same woman, Veena Sud. Tons of Danish crew, and one of the leads was Swedish: Joel Kinnaman, WHOM I LOVE WITH A PASSION INCARNATE, sigh. (Side note: he's the new Robocop.) And then there's Mirielle Enos, whom I also love with the same kind of love only just not capitalized. I'm heartbroken that the series is gone prematurely. It was dark and wet (set in Seattle, WA, in the Pacific NW, which Oregon is also part of, so it's home) and everybody always wore heavy sweaters and coats and scowled and smoked like chimneys and I don't know… I simply loved everything about it. They made a mistake and dragged the first season's story into the second season, which infuriated and lost a lot of viewers, but they fixed that and the third season was the best. Peter Sarsgaard was amazing as the killer (or WAS he? hmm). Sorry, I could go on about this show for days. I might cry again.

    Breaking Bad is awesome! We're waiting impatiently for the second half of the final season. I love anti-heroes because the juxtaposition of light and shadow makes them so fascinating, and Walter White is a great character, very conflicted. I'm with you on The Walking Dead. I REALLY don't like the main guy, the cop (Rick? I think) but the story of survival is interesting. Not so much the zombie angle as the how-do-we-get-through-this-disaster? question.

    I don't blame you for waiting on The Terror, after this last one. :)

    • Fence says:

      Yeah, Rick is just boring. I don't really like any of the characters in Walking Dead, apart from Darryl. And the way it handles women isn't great either. It also has that American TV show thing where it fetishes The Hero who comes along and runs things. Now I get that in most situations there will be leaders and followers, but some tv shows take it to the extreme. This is one, Lost was another.

      And yet despite all those annoyances I still watch :)

      I must get into The Killing. I meant to when it showed over here (the Danish version) but I missed the first few episodes and never got around to playing catch up. It must be on repeat at some stage though.

      Walt is… well I don't know what. You start out on his side, understanding why he did what he did, but the longer it goes on, the more you see the decisions he continues to make… he's not a very good man is he? Compelling telly though.

  7. Kelly says:

    Darryl is fantastic. Just fantastic, but he's the only one I really like, too. Glenn, a little. And it does promote the stereotypical division of gender roles. The wimminses are always in the kitchen cooking, or maybe they're rolling bandages or tending babies, where they belong, obviously. :/ And don't even get me started on Lost… I couldn't stand sanctimonious Jack. I hadn't consciously noted the fetishism of the One Hero in American TV (probably because I'm steeped in it) but I can see what you mean. I've never liked it, without really paying attention to why. I do watch those shows too, but I'm more drawn to shows that feature anti-heroes, or simply regular people, of either gender because they're far more satisfying and authentic.

    Walter is both a terrible person, and a wonderful person… He's like all of us, if we're honest, and I think that's why we like him so much. He makes us wonder what we would do in his position, especially given his increasing power (money & status). Does absolute power corrupt absolutely? Does it have to? And what does it look like for a normal person, someone like us, when it does? VERY compelling telly!

  8. Kelly says:

    I'm so excited! I just read that Netflix is resurrecting The Killing for one final six-episode season, to give Holder and Linden (Kinnaman and Enos) a proper sendoff. Just had to tell you. I'll be walking on air today. :)

  9. Kelly says:

    TOTALLY worth it. Netflix is the only way I watch TV. I love it! It's inexpensive, offers a good variety of shows, and there are no commercials! For about $20/mo we get both streaming and two hard-copy discs out at a time, for shows and movies that aren't available to stream. The way we watch is with a Roku unit (just Google 'Roku') hooked up to our television. It IS important to have a fairly fast internet connection though, so I hope yours will work. I think you'll be smitten if you try it. You'll be in deep smit. :)