Mountain of the Dead: The Dyatlov Pass Incident Book Review

Helloooooo! I’m sorry I haven’t written recently, I’ve been out of commission a bit because I broke my right foot and badly sprained my left ankle. So I’ve just been trying to heal up and get better. But in my time at home, gaining worse cabin fever by the day, I had plenty of time to read!

Before I get into the book, you need the backstory: back in April, my boyfriend and I drove up to Boston and at night we were watching YouTube videos of an old lady playing video games (she’s absolutely adorable and calls the people that watch her videos her grandkids! My heart is melting just thinking about it!) and she began a new game based on a true story. I thought it was incredibly interesting, so we found a book about the incident and bought it so I could read it ASAP.

The story is crazy. Basically, in 1959 a group of nine very experienced skiers went to a mountain in Russia. The group kept extensive journals and logs about their progress on Mount Otorten and everything was going well. On February 1st the logs stop. No one hears from them even weeks after they should have returned. Search parties are sent out, and the bodies are found.dyatlov pass2

Rather, the bodies were found in a very odd and mysterious way.

They were found in an area that was not where they were supposed to be – almost 9 miles from their original destination. Their tent had been slashed open from the inside as if in a panic – say whaaaaat? The search party then found the first group of people (five out of nine) with a crudely made fire from the limbs of a nearby tree that they had climbed. They were found with barely any warm clothes on and no shoes at all. Two of the members had frozen next to their fire, with their hands and feet charred as if they had stuck them directly into their fire. That group also contained three members who were found dead in straight line, crawling towards their tent.

The the second portion of the group was found closer to the tent, hidden under what looked like a makeshift shelter from the elements. These skiers were found with unidentifiable internal injuries and little to no external injuries other than frostbite.

What happened to this group? Fifty-seven years after this mysterious incident, still no conclusion has been made as to what occurred on February 1st, 1959. But Mountain of the Dead: The Dyatlov Pass Incident by Keith McCloskey provides quite a few theories that you can choose from.
Here’s my issue with this book, and I’ll go right out and say it now: these theories are ridiculous. Some of them make some sense (such as a group fight, or an attack by the local tribes) and you can find truth to them and somewhat understand what could have happened. But for the most part they were just far fetched.

For example, one of the biggest “possibilities” is the Yury Yakimov theory. This is the idea that some sort of extraterrestrial thing with blinding lights and little henchmen with floating orbs that respond only to a human glance could have caused the panic that occurred on that fateful night.

Now I’ll be the first to say that I believe in something else. I believe that there are some sorts of extra terrestrial things out there. Maybe not in the green body, big upside-down tear shaped face creatures. But definitely I believe that there is some kind of life elsewhere, and that weird things happen all the time. I believe that.dyatlov_pass_incident_02

What I don’t believe, is that this Yury Yakimov guy saw these beings in 2002 – more than 40 years later – somewhat near the town where these students died, and somehow I’m supposed to believe that they are the reason behind the tragic incident?

Look, I’ve believed crazier things. But something about the fact that this happened 43 years after, basically just in the greater surrounding area – not even on the frickin’ mountain they died on, and was only seen by two people in 2002 and never again – at least that was made public – just doesn’t make sense to me. The fact that this is such a plausible theory that there’s not only a chapter designated for it, but a 34 page chapter for it, is just ridiculous.

The next theory that they had was that the military caused the incident. Keep in mind, again, I can believe in military cover-ups and things like that. But the fact that this book has at least a total of 60 pages dedicated specifically to military cover-ups or bombings, or Infrasound weapons, or accidental launches of ICBMs without anyone else noticing…. it’s just too much. I can’t hop on that train.

Despite the theories, the book has a lot of good detail, so let’s get into that.

The book starts with what happened as stated by eyewitnesses as they began their journey up the mountain, as well as using what is written in their diaries, and what was found after their deaths. They go into a LOT of detail on the autopsies which I found extremely interesting and helpful in coming up with my own conclusions. Some of the marks and bruises and internal injuries, and even the causes of death just seem very strange, and I thought it was absolutely awesome to be able to read the full autopsy reports.

Unfortunately, I feel like after those first couple chapters, this book just fluctuated up and down. It was pretty much a reading roller coaster. Sometimes it would be super interesting, and sometimes it would be kind of crap, or at least really slow. When it was good, it was really good. But about 30% of the book was just really slow and far-fetched.

As far as this being a good book, as in a well written and well researched book – I think it lives up to my expectations. But as far as it being an exciting book to read, I would say that it was really only like 75% exciting and the rest was just filler.

Honestly, I was pretty disappointed with this book. Maybe it’s just because I was so looking forward to it. I mean, I’m incredibly interested in the stories behind murders, and strange deaths – I’m just very interested in crime and things of that nature so this seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to read a new awesome book. But sadly it was less about what happened on their journey and more about trying to find ANY SOLUTION, no matter how ridiculous to fill in the gaps that are left by the mysterious incident.Dyatlov Pass incident

For those interested in this kind of book or topic, I would suggest you read it, but don’t waste your time on the boring parts. If you’re reading it and are like, “wow. That’s stupid.” just skip over it, because the best parts of this book are honestly the true parts of this book, and not the billions of theories.

I’m sorry to give you basically a disappointing book review, but hey, man, that’s what I signed up for! Gotta give you the truth! Nonetheless, I’m currently reading a crime novel about the serial killer Carl Panzram, so when I’m finished with that I’ll be sure to let you guys know what I think of it.

If you have read this book or know of any other theories or stories and want to share them, please leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail at rachel@booksandcleverness.com.

Until next time!

Rachel

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Nonfiction or Fiction?

Hi y’all! I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything in almost four weeks. Fortunately, I’m going to cut right to the chase. I’m in a nonfiction mood and I’m starting to wonder what is better: nonfiction or fiction. Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true. I’ve just been starting to wonder when nonfiction or fiction begins to be too much.

For example, for a long time I really only read memoirs. I loved them, I loved being able to transport myself into someone else’s life for a short while. But for whatever reason I stopped reading them. I decided that fiction caught my eye more and that I could transport myself into not just someone else’s life but an entirely different universe and that was extremely appealing to me.

…Until recently. Recently I’ve been on a Netflix binge of crime documentaries. And I’m not talking about watching Law & Order type stuff. I’m talking watching shows about serial killers, about man hunts, about treatment in prisons and prisoners stories – even about the Drugs War inside prisons. I’ve been going ALL OUT to the point where I decided it would be a great idea to start reading nonfiction books again. But fear not, I decided to stick to the scary theme of murderers and bought The Strange Case of Dr. H.H. Holmes.

H.H. Holmes was America’s “first” serial killer. After murdering dozens of people during the Chicago World’s Fair in the late 1880s and continuing his murder spree by using his home (dubbed “The Castle”) as a glorified torture chamber, H.H. Holmes became an infamous name in history. Quite the uplifting story! This nearly 500 page book was extremely graphic and extremely strange to read because a part of me wanted to believe it wasn’t true, even though it 100% was. Also it was partially written by H.H. Holmes himself as his written confession of a lot of murders.

To give myself a change of pace after reading it, I decided to buy a book called Deep Down Dark by Héctor Tobar. This book is about the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped 2,000 feet below ground for over 60 days. Again, so uplifting. I’m almost done with this book, and to be honest it’s absolutely incredible. I think it’s even being turned into a movie, which would be really cool. But it’s nonetheless a very depressing story. As nice it is, and as great as it is that they were found and rescued, it’s still about 33 men living in their own filth in pitch black eating a spoon full of canned tuna a day and drinking dirty oil filled water that the men bathed in. So, yeah, not very happy.

But to top it all off (and to bring into light my predicament) I started thinking of books I should read next. And rather than read the many books I’ve already bought, or even to read the Star Wars prequel book that my boyfriend surprised me with, I’ve started thinking I should re-read The Diary of Anne Frank AND Night by Elie Wiesel. Because apparently serial killers, dying miners and crime documentaries weren’t enough, I had to decide to not only read, but RE-read two of the most depressing books of all time.

Now here’s where the predicament lies: I don’t think it’s at all bad to be reading these things! There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to learn more about things that school doesn’t go over. I’ve never been in a classroom that was like, “Hey kids! Lets talk about Jeffrey Dahmer!” It’s just not going to happen. Sometimes you need to use your own curiosity to learn things that aren’t publicized too much. Knowledge is power.

But when is it enough? When do you tell yourself, “you know what, I know it’s really interesting, but maybe limit yourself to one depressing book every now and then.” or “instead of watching The Killer Speaks, let’s watch Bob’s Burgers for a while”?

The hard thing is: I have no idea. For years and years I only read fiction. To give you a time frame, the last two memoirs that I read were the hilarious Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? in 2012 . and then The Devil at My Heels in early to mid 2014. That’s THREE years ago and more than a year ago! So am I going to be stuck on this autobiographical kick for the next three years, or at the very least a year? That seems like a really long time. But in comparison, I’ve been reading fiction books for that amount of time and haven’t felt like that was too much. It seems normal, it seems like what a regular reader does.

Which makes me wonder: which is better? What captures the attention more? What makes nonfiction seem somewhat scary in comparison to a fiction book? Fiction can be just as depressing (see my Letter to John Green. God damnit The Fault in Our Stars) but I guess it’s that disconnect: when you’re reading fiction you know that at the end of the book, it’s over. It’s done. But with a true story it hits you in the empathy gut really hard for a long time. It’s something that won’t leave you.

So I guess what I’m saying is, what’s better? Reading something completely depressing and horrible but knowing that it’s just fiction, or reading something that is true and horrible, but will ultimately give you more insight into the real world?

Comment below or send me an e-mail at rachel@booksandcleverness.com so I can hear your opinions. I always love your opinions!

Until next time (and hopefully it won’t be four weeks from now!)

Rachel

The Mime Order Review!

Hooray!!! I’ve finished The Mime Order!!! It was absolutely incredible. Samantha Shannon’s first book was wonderful – a powerful depiction of human survival instincts. Her second book is honestly even better – a powerful depiction of human manipulation and deception.

It’s always a little weird after you finish a book. It’s almost like the world around you is exactly the same – going on as usual as if you haven’t just had deep emotional trauma the past week you’ve been reading the book. No one quite understands that feeling of absolute shock, of having to tell everyone you know that right now you’ve just experienced something that only a book can do: get you involved into an entirely new world, only to have that world shatter beneath you. It’s both a horrible feeling, and, in a weird way, a wonderful one.

It took me a total of 10 days to read the 500 page book. I was reading maybe two or three chapters almost every night, so it took a lot longer than it did for me to read The Bone Season, which had about the same amount of pages, but only took me 3 days to read. Looking back on it, I’m glad it took me ten days because that’s 7 less days that I’ll be wishing I had another one of her books! I mean, holy cliffhanger…!

Shannon has an estimated five more books until she completes the series. I, for one, can’t wait. After reading The Bone Season last January, I claimed it as one of my all-time favorite books. The second I started reading The Mime Order I started to lean more towards the excellence of the sequel. By the end of the book I was in love. The last hundred pages or so are just mind boggling. It’s so intense that I was literally sitting in bed biting the inside of my lip so hard that it bled. It was so fantastic, such an awesome novel. This has easily become one of my top favorite books of all time, and that includes the first novel of the series, giving Samantha Shannon some pretty decent reign over my favorite books.

In my studies, (*pushes glasses up my nose*) I’ve learned that a good author knows how to captivate you, to get you interested in the story, and to be excited reading it. But a great author brings you into the novel as if you could be any one of the characters, so that even the goings on in the story start to seem real! For example, as I was reading last night I felt this dread in my mind and actually thought to myself “oh my god. I have to compete in a scrimmage in a few hours!” before snapping myself out of it and realizing that I was certainly not competing in a scrimmage, but that Paige was. So a great author gets you to feel those exact emotions that a character is feeling. It’s not just you following a character around and hearing their story, but rather being a part of their story. This writing technique is something that Shannon excels at beyond anything else.

I have to say, though, now that I’m done with the book I’m almost at a loss for what to read! I have a ton of books that I own that I really want to read, but when I think about which one to choose I just say to myself, “It’s no Mime Order… It’s no Paige and Warden.” So touchè, Samantha Shannon, touché. You’ve managed to keep me hooked for another year. The next book can’t come soon enough! Hurry it up, lady!

Until next time (with a new book!),

Rachel