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Customer Review

HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon September 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As befits a book published under a newspaper's banner, the Times' Extreme Survivors doesn't go into great detail about any of the 60 stories it tells, keeping each individual entry about the size of a two-page tabloid article with a few getting a bit more detail. It casts a fairly wide net, although the emphasis is on the 20th century and your chances of getting a mention are greatly improved if there's been a movie about it. Thus we get Dith Pran (The Killing Fields), Henri Charriere (Papillon), Captain Bligh (Mutiny on the Bounty), the Uruguayan rugby team (Alive) and climber Aron Ralson (127 Hours), while the definition is even extended to include the Great Escapers (even though most did not survive) and Alcatraz escapee Frank Morris, who was believed to have died in the attempt. Indeed, quite a few escape stories find their way in, from Mary Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie - both more daring than ordeals - to the more obscure (to British readers at least) philosopher Hugo Grotius. Perhaps more curious is the inclusion of hijacker D.B. Cooper, whose decades long ability to elude the police hardly qualifies as a great feat of survival no matter how impressive a bit of evasion.

One problem with the two-four pages each story generally gets is that details get lost (there's not mention of the extraordinary public crusade led by schoolboy Hunter Scott that led to the posthumous vindication of the captain of the USS Indianapolis) , generalisations get made and myths perpetuated. Thus Ernest Shackleton never lost a single man - true enough of those who sailed in the Endurance, though those who went in the supply ship Aurora were not nearly so lucky, losing three men). Some black humour creeps into some of the captions, such as a couple lost at sea who `relive their ordeal at the London Boat Show,' but mostly this feels like a slightly dry collection of loosely related silly season filler articles aimed firmly at the casual browser. As such it's a nicely laid out primer, but you may find yourself reaching for many of the individual books about these specific exploits to fill in the gaps.
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