Home » Book Review » Book Review: The Abominable by Dan Simmons

Book Review: The Abominable by Dan Simmons

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Summary from Goodreads.com:
“A thrilling tale of high-altitude death and survival set on the snowy summits of Mount Everest, from the bestselling author of The Terror.
It’s 1924 and the race to summit the world’s highest mountain has been brought to a terrified pause by the shocking disappearance of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine high on the shoulder of Mt. Everest. By the following year, three climbers — a British poet and veteran of the Great War, a young French Chamonix guide, and an idealistic young American — find a way to take their shot at the top. They arrange funding from the grieving Lady Bromley, whose son also disappeared on Mt. Everest in 1924. Young Bromley must be dead, but his mother refuses to believe it and pays the trio to bring him home. 
Deep in Tibet and high on Everest, the three climbers — joined by the missing boy’s cousin — find themselves being pursued through the night by someone . . . or something. This nightmare becomes a matter of life and death at 28,000 feet – but what is pursuing them? And what is the truth behind the 1924 disappearances on Everest? As they fight their way to the top of the world, the friends uncover a secret far more abominable than any mythical creature could ever be. A pulse-pounding story of adventure and suspense, The Abominable is Dan Simmons at his spine-chilling best.”

My thoughts:

I listened to the audio edition of this book, and the first thing to note is that it is looooong – 24 disks long. That said, it was also excellently read. The reader did a wonderful job with the various accents and with differentiating the characters. The book itself is meticulously detailed, deliberately paced, and epic in its depth and breadth.  Portions of it got a bit slow and draggy, but these parts were nicely balanced by the exciting parts, which were truly “edge of your seat.” I listen while commuting to work, and had to remind myself to loosen my grip on the steering wheel a few times. The thing about such a detailed, carefully built-up story is that you get to know the characters so well and become very invested in what happens to them – or at least I did.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but there was one part near the end of the story where I felt a little let down by the “reveal,” and thought that the author had opted for something very tired and cliched rather than sticking to something more imaginative and daring – as the lead up had indicated. However, I held off judgement and was overall pleased with the way things turned out in the end.

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy stories of adventure, disaster, and survival, as well as detailed historical fiction involving a mystery or intrigue. This book is sometimes categorized as “horror,” but it’s really more of a historical fiction / thriller with a touch or two of gore. It’s worth pushing through the somewhat sedate and slow first third (1/3) of the book, as the story definitely picks up after the characters leave Europe and England for India and the Himalayas.

The descriptions of mountain climbing were a highlight for me. Some readers might be bored by the detailed descriptions of rope sizes and various equipment, but I found that it added to the immersive reading (or listening) experience. It inspired me to learn more about mountaineering, and made me want to seek out challenges and adventures in a way that I haven’t in a long time.

“Good” books inspire something in the reader – to take action, to learn, improve, change, try something new. Different books do this for different people. This was one of the books that did this for me.

Ratings:

  • Overall – 4.5/5
  • Reader (for audio edition) – 5/5
  • Characters – 5/5
  • Setting – 5/5
  • Tone – 4/5
  • Plot – 4/5

 

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