The Himalayas, 1935.
Kangchenjunga. The sacred mountain. Biggest killer of them all.
Five Englishmen set out to conquer it. But courage can only take them so far. And the higher they climb, the darker it gets.
Is it perhaps a bit bold of me to say that I think Michelle Paver has written some of the best ghost stories of the 21st century so far? Nah, to hell with it. Michelle Paver has written some of the best ghost stories of the 21st century so far. Now, I love a good ghost story, but Michelle’s brand of spooky holds a special place in my heart. The scares are understated, but that’s what makes them all the more terrifying. There’s a scene in Thin Air where narrator Stephen is sleeping alone in an ice cave. I won’t reveal any more about the scene because I think it’s one that readers need to experience first hand in all its spine-tingling glory, but I will say this… That scene is going to haunt me for weeks. Despite reading said scene on my sun-drenched balcony in the middle of the day, it truly chilled me. Everything – the sound of the bees buzzing around my potted plants, the warmth of the sun against my skin, the rustling of the leaves on the tree opposite my balcony – faded away, leaving nothing but that cold, dark ice cave and the thing inside it.
For me, one of the things that makes Michelle Paver’s ghost stories so terrifying is the fact that they’re set in very remote locations. Thin Air mostly takes place high in the mountains, far from civilisation. To think yourself completely alone only to discover that you’re not is a prospect that is absolutely horrifying to me. To discover this and have no means of escape… Well, if I was in that situation, I think I would be catatonic with fear.
Another thing that makes Thin Air as chilling as it is is Michelle’s fantastic writing. Her writing is evocative, so much so that I often felt like the expedition’s sixth member. Everything that Stephen and his fellow mountaineers experienced – from the snow and ice crunching underfoot to the burn of the cold air at the back of their throats – were things that I was able to experience vicariously through Michelle’s words. For me, Thin Air isn’t just a ghost story. It’s an experience, and if you’re looking for a novel that will chill you to the core, it should be your next read.
Also, can we just take a moment to appreciate this picture that my boyfriend created for my bookstagram? He took a photo of me holding the book in my gloved hands and photoshopped it onto a mountain. He did it all on his phone and I think he created a pretty epic picture.