10 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Well worth the wait, 20 Nov. 2006
I loved this book. With his graphic descriptive style, I felt I was looking over Benedict Allen's shoulder as he undertook this journey with a team of recalcitrant dogs in the hope of crossing the Bering Strait in 2001.
I got a sense that all was not going to plan when Allen arrived after being delayed because of appalling weather to discover that although the dogs on whom he was to rely were waiting for him, their owner wasn't. He didn't know their names, their strengths and weaknesses, or the necessary commands. For their part, the dogs not only completely ignored Allen, but showed little interest in his replacement guides, Yasha and Tolia, both experienced dog handlers.
His admiration for his guides, especially the indomitable Yasha, who try to prepare him for the journey ahead; his exasperation with, yet obvious affection for his team of dogs, especially the seemingly useless `Bernard', as they gradually begin to trust him; his despair as his companions consumed copious amounts of any available form of alcohol on arrival at settlements, crumbling and being reclaimed by the landscape following the break up of the Soviet Union; the resilience of people such as the reindeer herders who have made a home in this beautiful but, to me, terrible place where a simple mistake can lead to death within seconds; his vulnerability and determination; and his increasing doubts in his ability to realise his ambition where failure could lead to the death of the dogs as well as himself, are all vividly conveyed.
The book also cleverly features extracts from the notes made by others who have looked Into the Abyss such as Joe Simpson and Captain Scott, as Allen also wonders what it is that compels some people to fight to survive against all odds when, frankly, it would be easier to give up and die. Is it sheer bloody mindedness, or a desire not to die alone?
My only criticism is that I found the boxed inserts containing background information, in the early part of the book, though relevant, distracting, placed as they were in the middle of chapters describing the author's own activities.