Top positive review
One person found this helpful
Hugely Enjoyable Read
on 7 February 2014
I've been a fan of Mr. Allen's writing for a good long time. From his first BBC series The Skeleton Coast, I was hooked by his minimalistic, bares bones ideal of exploration, his attitude that the landscape should leave it's impression on the traveller, not the other way around. While his writing style has varied by his own admission - Mad White Giant being the account of a naive traveller biting off more that he can chew and Through Jaguar Eyes, in my opinion, being his best (and most conventional) travel book - Into the Abyss changes tack again, the same author aiming for something a little bit different, asking the question that many have asked him - what drives people to survive?
His previous diaries, published as the Skeleton Coast and Edge of Blue Heaven recorded the trials of completing previously undocumented routes across some of the most unforgiving terrain on the planet. Into the Abyss takes the same kind of impossible-to-complete journey, but flavours it with vivd portraits of the characters that he meets along the way, and presents an almost sympathetic portrait of the environment that you feel is ready to snuff out his chances of return at every turn. The author is fully aware that in the deserts or the arctic, he is a mere interloper, not meant to be there. The dogs (or camels in the desert) and the indigenous people are far more suited to living in the arctic than he can ever be.
The key thing about Allen's travels is the number of times he fails, and how he finds strength through failure. Often he sets off with everyone telling him how impossible his trip, how the time of year is wrong, and how often he is told by those who allegedly know better to come back in six months when the timing is better. Perhaps the Englishness of the wry observations put readers off, but I honestly can't find fault with this book as other reviewers have.
Benedict lays bare the truth about going it alone and make no bones about how he feels, he gets it wrong many times and admits that his own inexperienced way of doing things is to blame, but he manages to live to tell the tale.