You won’t find me glued to Discovery Channel or National Geographic to glean knowledge which is potentially useless to me. (For eg Whale is a mammal or how the world’s largest bridge was constructed and so on.)
But the latest book by Jeffrey Archer made me search for Mount Everest on Wikipedia and devour all the information. Now I could tell you that climbing “Second Step” is most vital, while “First Step” is relatively simple; or that Mount Everest is called “Chomolungma” which means “Goddess Mother Earth” in Tibetian; bla bla bla…
As you would have guessed by now, the book is about Mount Everest. Well, partially true. It is about an extraordinary British mountaineer George Mellory, who tried to stand on top of the world in the year 1924. He never reached back safely. His body was found later and the mountaineering community stands divided whether he reached the top or not. Archer takes the view that he did reach the top and died on his way down.
The book contains all of the Archer pyrotechnics. A protagonist studied in a British Public School, later goes to either Oxford or Cambridge and obtains great heights in his later life. He has a rival and invariably wins over him, at cost of something the better not lose. The end is mollifying for the reader in the sense that the protagonist gets either what he has endeavored for or gets what he deserves.
Well, Archer keeps you glued. If you are an Archer Fan, go for it.
It’s surprising that Jules Verne never thought about writing about Mount Everest (or for that matter about any mountain). Verne wrote about travelling to moon (From the Earth to the Moon), traversing the then unexplored continent – Africa – using a balloon (Five Weeks in a Balloon) or going down the sea in a submarine (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea).
Some would argue that Jules Verne died in 1905 while first attempt on Mount Everest was made in 1921. But such petty difficulties never bothered Monsieur Verne. He imagined submarine and space travel nearly a century before it was a reality! Nonetheless, existence of Mount Everest was known from 1847.
If Verne would have written about accession to Mount Everest, the book would have been different than the Archer one. It would have involved a determined protagonist whose life’s dream is to climb atop the highest point in the world (like Hatteras the North Pole guy) and his friend (like Doctor in North Pole expedition) or servant (like Passeportu in Round the World in 80 Days) who will selflessly help him in this endeavor. Most probably he would have been a Sherpa. There would be detailed description of geology and flora and fauna of the Everest region. At some point of time the task would have appeared impossible, but due to tremendous courage of the protagonist and help by his friend/servant, he would make it possible. Last minute miracle of nature would make it possible!!
Alas! This was not to be…
Aditya J Panse