Few Can Survive in the Kingdom of Ice
Ah, the disgruntled reader has returned in full force with this book. Excuse the profanity, but what the hell???
In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette, by Hampton Sides, was one of the most horrible book experiences I’ve had all year. (Note: I’m going to reveal the ending, so I guess watch out for spoilers, although, really, since this is nonfiction, this spoiler will be akin to warning people that the Titanic sinks at the end of the movie…)
I read this book with my book club, and I thought it sounded interesting, but that’s because I didn’t do my research and I stupidly assumed that it was an adventure story about the first expedition to reach the North Pole. Nope. It’s a book about a failed expedition in which most of the crew died. Now, maybe if the author had focused the story on the travelers who survived, rather than writing about the captain, who does not survive, the story might have been better. But no.
First, the book spends way, way too much time giving background information about the asshole publisher who will fund the voyage, and then he falls off the face of the earth once the expedition takes off, so why we have to waste time learning about him is beyond me. Next, we go through the rest of the book, getting into the characters, caring about their outcomes, becoming upset about all the horrible awful things that are happening to them, and then, one by one, they start dying off. And we get to read about it all. All that horror and nothing good to come of it. Finally, we get to hear about the lives of the survivors. The survivors had terrible lives. It was like everyone involved with this expedition was cursed. If they didn’t die on the boat, something horrible happened to them later.
Now this isn’t to say that these people don’t deserve credit for their bravery in attempting to reach a land no one else had seen, but this book does not do their story justice. It was horrible and gruesome and just left me feeling terrible about the world. If you want to be depressed, read the book, otherwise, I recommend avoiding it.