Saturday, December 1, 2007

Peak Experience

Peak Experience is the name of one Joshua Woods' mountain climbing outfit. Almost 15 years ago, Josh and his former girlfriend (another rock/mountain climber) also -- regrettably -- named their newborn son Peak. When Peak was a schoolboy, Josh and Peak's mom broke up and Peak went to live with his mom, her new husband Rolf and -- eventually -- his twin younger sisters (born on his birthday) in New York City. Peak is a bit of a rebel, and at the beginning of Roland Smith's (Oregon author!) Peak, we encounter him scaling the Woolworth Building. Peak is caught just after he leaves his mark (blue mountain peaks), and ends up in juvenile detention. To keep him out of jail, Josh Woods agrees to take Peak to live with him in Thailand for a short while.

Josh has some ulterior motives, however. He wants Peak to be the youngest person to summit Mount Everest. He thinks it will add some glamour and credibility to Peak Experience, which is teetering on the edge financially. Peak is intrigued and agrees to try to summit, but there are a number of obstacles (not just physical strength and a lack of oxygen) facing him, not to mention a few truths that his father is keeping from him. Peak is the story of Peak's preparation and ascent and it makes for one exciting story (even for someone who really doesn't understand the whole "because it's there" concept).

The narrator, Ramon de Ocampo, does a fine job here of portraying smart, mouthy, yet vulnerable Peak. Peak narrates this story, and the harsh world of Everest and those (fools) who climb it comes to life with every frozen, gasping-for-air moment. Peak affects a matter-of-fact tone, but I heard the fear underneath it. de Ocampo also did a great job with Josh -- confident, athletic and using his charm and grin to manipulate those around him. He was a little less successful with the two major non-American characters -- the Tibetan monk (and former Sherpa) [blanking on his name] and his grandson, just a few days older than Peak, Son-ju. de Ocampo doesn't seem as comfortable here, but you can tell he's worked hard on making each of them distinct and memorable characters.

For me, the adventure and suspense more than outweighed these drawbacks. I listened to this because two committee colleagues couldn't commit; and I nominated it!

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