I have read and loved all Joe Simpson’s non-fiction books; torn between admiration of his courage and disbelief at the way he repeatedly puts himself in danger. I was unaware that he’d made the move into fiction writing until this book popped through my letter box, but I’ve since discovered that this is actually his second fiction novel. Once again I’m torn – this time between wanting him to go back into those dangerous situations (so he’s able to write another non-fiction account of his adventures) and being pleased that he has at last decided to stay inside and do nothing more dangerous than sharpen pencils.
The Sound of Gravity begins with a climbing accident in the Alps. A man has to let go of his girlfriend’s hand, leaving her to fall to her death and him with a decade of guilt. The book goes on to cover events leading up to this tragedy and details of his slow recovery afterwards.
I initially loved the vivid descriptions of both the surroundings and the raw emotions.
But after a while I began to get snow fatigue. Every page seemed to describe yet another snowy outcrop, each with its own near-death experience.
This left me thinking about the differences between fiction and non-fiction. Did I only love Joe Simpson’s previous books because I knew they were true? Were the endless near-misses so much more exciting because they involved the lives of real people? I guess it all comes down to the fact that I just didn’t care about the characters in this book – they had so many accidents that each one began to lose its significance.
If you’re new to Joe Simpson I recommend starting with Touching The Void. The Touching The Void DVD is also very good, especially the extra feature documentary - it is, in my opinion, the best extra feature I’ve ever found on a DVD.
I’m sure that the technical details will mean that this book will appeal to climbers, but I think the average reader will prefer his non-fiction titles.
Have you read any of Joe Simpson’s books?