This week’s offering: Blind Descent: the Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth, by James Tabor.
Blind Descent follows the explorations of two supercave pioneers, American Bill Stone and Ukranian Alexander Klimchouk, as they seek to discover the deepest cave systems on earth. The first half of the book chronicles Stone’s discoveries in Mexico’s Huautla and Cheve caves. The narrative then shifts to Klimchouk’s efforts in Abkhazia’s Krubera, ending with the 2004 race that resulted in the discovery of the world’s deepest cave.
Short review: Recommended. Author James Tabor maintains a relatively fast-paced narrative style throughout the first half of the book, but it does slow down appreciably once the focus shifts to Eastern Europe.
Available through Amazon in hardcover and Kindle formats.
The full review follows below the fold:
I originally picked up Blind Descent after reading about it on BoingBoing. As a long-time fan of mountaineering narratives, I decided to take a chance and read down instead of up. Although Tabor’s narrative slows somewhat in the second half of the book, Blind Descent is a compelling, well-written look at extreme caving. Fans of narrative adventure nonfiction will not be disappointed, and anyone seeking to learn more about the nature of supercaves and/or the human body’s response to prolonged periods of subterranean exploration will also find the book worth reading.
Tabor’s style will be familiar to readers of mountaineering non-fiction. His pacing and detailed narrative reminded me of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air (which I enjoyed, despite some of the media flack that surrounded it at the time of its publication). Better still, he explains the process and vocabulary of deep cave exploration in a manner which neither patronizes nor confuses. He integrates explanation with exposition, blending them into a seamless narrative that draws the reader in with a novelist’s skill.
Overall Review: Recommended, particularly for fans of narrative nonfiction about extreme sports (mountaineering in particular) or readers looking to branch out into new areas of nonfiction. Very approachable, with a compelling story to tell.