Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Book review: "Hunted" by David Fletcher

"Hunted" leaves me with mixed emotions.

I was drawn in gradually to this story. While it drags a bit midway through, the pace picks up in the latter portion. The last 60 pages, especially, are a gripping page-turner as author David Fletcher battles for his life against a grizzly bear.

Still, two issues put shadows over this book. First, going by Fletcher's own descriptions, he was at least partly to blame for his troubles. He ventured off on his climb of Alaska's Mt. Hess alone, by itself a risky move.

Further, he had purposely avoided learning much about the climbing route beforehand so he could have a "pure" climbing experience. And he seemed to have little awareness going in about the possibility of a bear encounter. When you combine these elements with the natural perils of the Alaska wilderness you have a recipe for things going wrong.

A bigger question is whether the story has any truth at all.

The story seems just TOO amazing to be true. The escalating battles with the bear grow in intensity and build to a big climax just like in a movie. I can't help but wonder if parts of this story are made up, or at least exaggerated. Many reviewers have pointed to flaws in the story.

Even if the story's true, the fact that Fletcher waited 22 years to put this story to paper makes you wonder how much can be accurately remembered. And where are the pictures? There are no photos in the book and Fletcher makes no mention of taking a camera. Wouldn't you think that someone who had long planned this kind of trip would have brought a camera, if only to record the view from the summit?

I wish Fletcher had put in more personal background. The book gives no clue how old he was when he did this climb. He gives no information about his family or loved ones. Those sort of details would have helped round out a fuller picture of him and why he was undertaking this adventure.

Readers should also be aware that while the bear encounters dominate the title and cover descriptions of this book, at least half of the book is about mountain climbing. Climbers may enjoy these parts; others may wish to skim through.


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