Angela's Reviews > Falling Uphill

Falling Uphill by Scott Stoll
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's review
Jul 19, 10

Read in August, 2009

** spoiler alert ** Reading this book was like being trapped watching an endless slideshow of pictures from someone else's vacation. Like those pictures, the events may have been meaningful to the author, but he fails to convey to the reader any sense of the wonder he experienced along the way. My freshman English teacher was the first person to explain to me a basic tenet of good storytelling: Show, don't tell. If you show the reader what you're experiencing, they can experience it along with you. If you just tell them what you're experiencing, the best you can hope for is that they'll form a rich image of what you're doing.

Stoll wants us to be caught up in his experience, but all he does is tell us about it. HE is the focus of the story, not the experience he's having. This emphasis on the individual, rather than the adventure, may have been okay if he had grown or changed from chapter to chapter. Instead, I was bored with him and his apparent search for ... something. I was never quite sure what he was looking for, but I was pretty sure by the end of the story that he never found it. He's very proud of himself for the trip - and maybe he should be. (Logistically, it is a big undertaking.) Unfortunately, he's so intent on dazzling us with this grand trip that he misses the chance to help us learn about the world in the way he experienced it.

Finally, this book rated a 1 because the entire project is in need of more editing. The writing is simplistic, the overall construction needs tightening, and someone needs to help him resist the urge to dabble in metaphysics at the end of the book. I really wanted to get on board Stoll, but I ended up feeling bored and disappointed by the limited scope of his retelling.

The author advised me that "sharing some pros, helps create paint [sic:] a broader more useful critique..." I am part of a book club that rated a book we all hated a "1" rather than a "0" simply because it got published. In keeping with that tradition, hats off to Mr. Stoll for getting this book in print, and undertaking the Herculean effort of promoting it all on his own. Other pros with the book? From his saddle he sees things on an intimate scale which, at times, provides insight into corners of the world I'd someday like to visit. Unfortunately, you need to wade through a lot of other material to find those nuggets. An additional pro? "Falling Uphill" provides inspiration to anyone who may want to undertake this kind of trip. Stoll makes it seem very accessible to just about anyone, and I put down the book thinking, "If he could do this, so could I."

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Scott (last edited Feb 19, 2012 08:08AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Scott Stoll Considering you helped edit the second edition (on behalf of my girlfriend at the time) I find this post-edit critique (which used to be a neutral 3-star review) bewildering. Too bad you didn't share this with your editorial comments, as it could have helped me and my readers. Additionally, also sharing some pros, helps create-paint a broader more useful critique.

PS. There are some free online chapters, so you can decide for yourself:

Update 12-12-10: Hi Angela, Thanks so much for taking the time and effort to re-write your review a third and fourth time. It is much better, but I wish I had known, I would have sent you a copy of the second edition, which incorporates many, if not all of your comments, as I understood them.

Forgive me for being defensive -- I have literally invested my life in this project -- but as a side note, considering our connection this review seems biased. There are a lot of factual errors; for example, this book was professionally edited by two people, and not all editions are self-published, and many chapters were published in magazines and newspapers around the world. There are more, but suffice to say I didn’t appreciate your use of quotes marks around “girlfriend”, which demeans what has been a very valuable and insightful relationship, one of those relatively rare people that make you rethink life. We spent almost two years together. In fact, I forgot to mention that she was one of the main reasons I left on my trip—to fill that missing hole—which of course was me. So, I owe her a debt of gratitude. And considering you are both lawyers, I'm surprised about some comments that breached my explicit request to remain confidential.

Angela I find your comment ironic, Scott, since I didn't help edit your book in any way. Just ask your ex "girlfriend" - my comments weren't included in her attempts to improve your memoir. I would have been more than happy to share these thoughts - and did share these thoughts with her - it's just that our mutual friend had a different focus to her comments than I had. It really is too bad you didn't get more critical review of your book before you self-published. It could have used it.

Your comment is also helpful in explaining why I went back and changed my review. I initially listed this book as a 3, which is my rating for something that didn't waste my time, but that I wouldn't recommend except with caveats. I revised it to a 1 once you and my friend parted ways, and I no longer had to tread softly on her feelings about you. I just couldn't let this book be listed as a 3 when compared to other 3 books, since it was one of the weakest books I read last year.

I didn't like the book, Scott. Not even a little. For one thing, I actually worked at the factory that made your bike, so I met many, many people undertaking trips like yours. You might be surprised by how many people do this - and how few of them feel the need to brag about it to the rest of the world.

I could have enjoyed learning about the places in which you traveled, but rather than talking about the places you went, you talked about YOURSELF in the places you visited. This approach might have worked, if you had evolved during the book, but that wasn't the case. I didn't even understand the last part of the book where you were having a conversation with some higher being/power about the lessons you learned, and at the end of it all I felt like you were right back where you started, except perhaps with even less sense of where you belonged/what you wanted than when you started.

And, above all, your writing style was pretty sophomoric. Run-on sentences, comma splices, and awkwardly worded phrases were common and distracting. When you put a book like this out for public consumption, you need to be prepared to accept criticims. I was just giving my honest opinion in the second review.

Since you raise the issue, I'll be sure to revise the second review.

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