Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Review - "The Ascent" by Ronald Malfi

Whoa. That was my initial reaction after staying up late one night to finish The Ascent. It might sound cliche, but it really is a roller coaster ride of a book.

Whatever review I read must have made this book sound just fabulous, because when I got it and was reading the inside flap, I almost put it back. It's about extreme mountain climbing, specifically a place in the Himalayas called the Canyon of Souls that no one has ever seen. Or rather, no one has seen it and returned to tell about it. I have no interest in mountain climbing, but since something in the review made it sound interesting in some fashion, I decided to give it a try. And, wow, am I glad I did.

The Ascent isn't just about mountain climbing. It's also about art and inspiration, marriage, friendship, and really wacko minds. It's very much a suspense thriller but an intelligent one. The characters are three-dimensional, the scenery unfolds like a video as you trek through the mountains with these guys, and the plot is well-paced and intricate.

Tim's past has bearing on his present and is the reason why he goes on this crazy trip, and the reader finds out what happened at the same time as Tim processes the events. It's a wonderful blend of how we can never escape our choices because they are always in our minds influencing every other choice. We meet his wife Hannah and eventually find out why she left him and how she ended up going over a cliff in a car with another guy. We see how Tim and Andrew meet and wonder why Andrew would invite Tim on a wild journey in the Himalayas. We meet the other members of the climbing team and root for them as their strength and will are tested beyond what they ever imagined.

There is a touch of the supernatural in this book, but the region the guys are walking through is a sacred place, so it's not unexpected to have some contact with souls that have gone before. Don't let that aspect of the story stop you from picking up this book. It's much more than just a suspense novel or a story about mountain climbing. It will haunt you after you read the last page, giving you that delicious chill as you wonder whether what seems to have happened really did.

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