Brian's Reviews > 127 Hours: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

127 Hours by Aron Ralston
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really liked it
bookshelves: awesome-narrative-non-fiction

(4.0) Well-written account of a trying experience

I don't see any acknowledgment of assistance in writing this book, and since he graduated summa from Carnegie Mellon, he's probably a bright guy, so I think he may have actually written this himself. He also gets pretty jargony (and specific!) about several of his more harrowing maneuvers out on mountaintops. I wouldn't expect a ghost writer to allow that to happen. If he did indeed write this himself, it makes the read that much better, cause it is quite well written.

He walks us through his fateful day mountain biking, then canyoneering until his arm gets pinned between a large boulder (that he shakes loose) and the wall of the canyon he's descending. After days sitting in place, failing to sleep, shivering through the night and eventually experiencing hallucinations that blur the line between dream, psychosis and time travel. Eventually a vision of his son in a red shirt (he was childless at the time), convinced him he was going to make it. That he had to make it. But with only a dull multi-tool he couldn't find a way to amputate his arm (he'd already tried lifting the boulder off his arm and carving/banging enough of the boulder apart to free his pinned arm). Well, since he's around the tell the tale, we know he eventually overcomes and finds a way to free himself after five days, at least two of which were survived on his own urine alone.

Every other chapter was an hour-by-hour account of his ordeal in the Utah canyon. The other half were a longer thread of his development as an outdoorsman, focusing in particular on his near misses, accidents and failures in judgment. Like his proudest moments were when he was closest to death. He does seem to suggest that he had this all coming. It's not clear how much he learned from the experience about taking proper precautions, though he does learn never to leave on a solo expedition without being very clear with at least someone what his intended itinerary was. As this thread catches up with the Utah incident, he starts to give us the narrative of his friends and family who become increasingly worried about his condition (when he fails to go to friends' parties, show up at work etc.), and eventually recounts the search and rescue effort that eventually saved his life.

I thought this structure was fantastic. He seems to acknowledge inspiration on this organization to Quentin Tarantino...not that he'd notice/care or would need the ego massaging (though in truth, doesn't Tarantino just steal his stuff from others anyway?). It enhanced the reading experience (as opposed to say, The Murder Room, where such interleaving just gets in the way).
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Reading Progress

March 16, 2011 – Shelved
May 29, 2012 – Started Reading
June 2, 2012 – Shelved as: awesome-narrative-non-fiction
June 2, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Kyusik (new)

Kyusik Chung I like how the cover has the actor and not the author of the memoir.


Brian welcome to movie tie-ins. even better: they changed the name of the book in this printing to match the movie. wonder how mr ralson feels about all this...or is he laughing all the way to the (snow)bank?


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