Friday, October 27, 2017

Book review: "Stories from the Dirt" by John Long

There are some really good tales in "Stories from the Dirt" by John Long. There are also some really weak ones/

The stories are collected from throughout Long's life, many recounting adventures he's had as a rock climber, explorer and world traveler. He's had exotic, and sometime bizarre, experiences in Papua New Guinea, Norway, Indonesia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Baffin Island in the Arctic.

The best of Long's stories are riveting, engaging and surprising.
But others are just a puzzling waste of time. I finished them with a shrug of the shoulders, and the thought:  "What was the point of that?"

To save you time, I'm listing the stories in this book that are worth reading, with the best at the top. Don't bother with any that aren't listed.

1. "The Howliing"
2.  "Adios, Cueva Humboldt"
3. "Dream On, Irian Jaya"
4. "Ripcord"
5. "My Friend Phil"
6. "Tirada Los Tubos"
7. "Frankenstein"
8. "Meltdown"
9. "Bird's Boys"
10. "The Green Arch"

Long can be an excellent writer, using evocative, vivid language to describe scenes. For example, there's this moment when his snowmobile balks while on an ice sheet in Canada:

"The engine coughs, farts, then revs to a shrill din. Good thing, because I've just yanked the starter cord off the sprocket. Water and ice shoot from the speeding belt. Our feet churn in deep slush and my hands are numb from heaving on the cord. I would have ditched it long ago, but now we've sunk so deep we need the machine's velocity to pull us out. In a 40-foot circle, the ice has sagged, like a coin on loose sheets."

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