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Blind Descent: The Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth Hardcover – June 15, 2010

4 out of 5 stars 158 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, June 2010: Set in impenetrable darkness, James M. Tabor's Blind Descent is as awe-inspiring as any adventure story above ground. Tabor's claustrophobic and pulse-pounding narrative follows two of the world's premier cavers--American Bill Stone and Ukrainian Alexander Klimchouk--as they race to explore Earth's deepest caves, swimming through steering wheel-sized tunnels and scaling rock walls slick with spring runoff. Caving is dirty and dangerous work, and Tabor pulls no punches in describing the many terrifying hazards that cavers face underground, including falling rocks, hypothermia, starvation, nitrogen narcosis, hallucinations, hypoxia, and deadly anxiety attacks. He captures the eerie mixture of excitement and horror that accompanies life in extreme environments, while shedding light on the ineffable and complex moral code that governs men and women in places where survival is hoped for, but never guaranteed. Blind Descent is a captivating summer read for adventure seekers and armchair adrenaline junkies alike. --Lynette Mong

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Tabor, a former contributing editor at Outside magazine and author of Forever on the Mountain, contrasts two sterling teams, one American and the other Russian, in their perilous search to locate the deepest supercave on earth. While the book dwells largely on the obsessive, authoritative American star caver, Bill Stone, the writer gives just enough ink to the bold Soviet team counterpart ,Alexander Klimchouk, and his fair-but-firm leadership in his expeditions into the subterranean world. However, the personalities of the adventurers aside, it's the fascinating information of the big supercave treks that holds the reader to his seat, containing dangers aplenty with deadly falls, killer microbes, sudden burial, asphyxiation, claustrophobia, anxiety, and hallucinations far underneath the ground in a lightless world. Using a pulse-pounding narrative, this is tense real-life adventure pitting two master cavers mirroring the cold war with very uncommonly high stakes. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More to Explore
Discover James Tabor's list of 52 ways to die in a cave, from Blind Descent [PDF].

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (June 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067677
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067671
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #690,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

FROZEN SOLID,the second novel in the Hallie Leland thriller series, will be published by Random House/Ballantine in March, 2013. Hallie travels to the South Pole to complete research begun by a scientist who died inexplicably. She quickly uncovers a cabal bent on changing the earth as we know it. Find much more at www.jamesmtabor.com.

James M. Tabor (www.jamesmtabor.com) was born in Virginia, graduated from the University of Vermont, and has lived in Vermont since 1980. He earned an MFA from Johns Hopkins University and is a former Contributing Editor to Outside and SKI Magazines. His writing has also appeared in TIME, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Smithsonian, Barron's,and many other national magazines. He was the writer and host of the national PBS series, "The Great Outdoors." In 2007, he was the co-creator and Executive Producer for the History Channel Special, "Journey to the Center of the World."
He is the bestselling,international award-winning author of FOREVER ON THE MOUNTAIN (2007, and BLIND DESCENT (2010).

From James Tabor:
"I received my MFA in the depths of a recession and couldn't find a job to save my life. With a wife and new baby, and needing a paycheck, I joined the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C.--then notorious as "The Murder Capitol of America." Policing in D.C. was exciting, exhausting,and dangerous. For a white, upper middle class, son of the South,(my great-grandfather Russell Tabor was a cavalryman with Jeb Stuart) it was also an incredibly valuable, heart-opening, and rewarding experience. To put it bluntly, a lot of cops were dying then, and if incredible African American training officers had not taken me under their wings, I might not be writing to you now.) I hope to write a memoir of those days on the street at some point--a kind of "Training Day" in reverse. Or maybe it'll morph into a novel.
That was one kind of extreme experience. Over the decades, research for my nonfiction writing introduced me to a lot more: mountaineering, hang gliding, scuba diving, caving, horse wrangling,windsurfing,and others. Those close encounters with what Hunter S. Thompson astutely called "edgework" now inform my fiction, as well.
My website, jamesmtabor.com, has lots more details about the books, me, and my life. I'll end by saying that I love hearing from readers, both fans and critics, and promise to respond to every note I get. (Not always quickly, but I will respond.)"

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Entertaining account of the expeditions of two world-renowned cavers (Bill Stone, Alexander Klimchouk) that explored deep supercaves in Mexico (Cheve, Huautla) and the Republic of Georgia (Krubera). Serious cavers will likely be familiar with many of the discoveries recounted, but armchair cavers will enjoy learning about the tremendous obstacles, common to supercaves, that must be traversed in deep cave exploration (e.g., vertical shafts of up to 500 feet, crashing waterfalls, boulders, seemingly impassable sumps, extremely tight meanders).

The book goes into detail about caving techniques, the special dangers of cave diving, and the development of the rebreathers that make extended exploration by cave divers possible. There are vivid descriptions of actions that proved fatal, or nearly fatal, to some cavers. There is also much interesting biographical information about both Stone and Klimchouk. The well-written, page-turning narrative is presented in a way that makes caving accessible to non-cavers.

The advance review copy that I received had no photographs, which was a disappointment. However, the author's skill at describing underground scenes makes up considerably for the lack of photographs. If the hardcover book should include photographs, then this book should receive 5 stars. (Rating changed to 5 stars on 6/2/10. See comments to this review.)
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Caves and caving fascinate me, so when I saw there was a book about supercave exploration, I had to read it. I am so glad I did. I was absolutely glued to this book from the first page to the last. The only thing it lacked was a section of pictures, but that's the price I pay for reading an advance copy--the published edition has several pages of them. Even so, I was able to look those up on the internet so I could have a visual reference, which made the book even more powerful.

This is not so much the story of cave exploration as it is about cave explorers. Tabor researched two premier cavers from the USA and the Republic of Georgia, and devoted a section of the book to each. American Bill Stone has led several expeditions into supercaves in Mexico, while Ukranian Alexander Klimchouk has headed several European expeditions on the Arabika Massif in the Republic of Georgia.

In addition to following the amazing accomplishments of both men, Tabor explained in great detail the hardships and dangers involved in supercave exploration. I felt like I was there on the expeditions; rappelling, digging, crawling, diving, and freezing underground for days or weeks on end along with the cavers mentioned in this book. I have nothing but respect for this handful of people who risk their lives for the thrill of going thousands of feet underground and braving the dangers there in order to share their discoveries with the world. There's pretty much no chance at all of me dropping down the first shaft of Cheve Cave, and forget it with Krubera, so I really appreciate this insider view.

I cannot recommend this book enough. It's highly informative, giving outsiders an intimate view of what goes into supercave exploration, and it's also an exciting page-turner.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
`Blind Descent` is about elite explorers who seek out the ultimate prize: the worlds deepest caves. These so-called "super caves" require days or even weeks underground in large supported missions like climbing Mt. Everest, yet most people know very little about this highly specialized field of exploration. It is one of the few exciting books for a general audience about extreme caving.

Tabor's book is "adrenalin literature", it keeps one flipping pages and the heart racing, the kind of creative nonfiction pioneered with Into Thin Air and The Perfect Storm. But it feels less mature and gimmicky, at 250 pages there are 49 chapters, stopping unnecessarily in the middle of a scene, I suppose to build tension and create cliff-hangers. In effect it causes so much white space between chapters at times I was turning pages faster than a falling rock. There is an unnecessary amount of antagonism created around Bill Stone's personality, the freedom of creative non-fiction for the sake of entertainment went a little too far by inflating Bill's personality against a Russian caver. We have a "race" (which it really isn't) against two antagonists (who really are not). No doubt these techniques will sell books, but I wished for something of more substance and less artificial drama.

Tabor admits that he owes a large debt to Bill Stone's book Beyond the Deep: The Deadly Descent Into the World's Most Treacherous Cave, which is about one of Stone's epic cave explorations in Mexico.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I wasn't sure when I first picked up Blind Descent that I would like it. I mean honestly, how good can a book about caving be when you can't actually see the cave itself? After two days of forcing myself to put this book down, I can honestly say it's the best book about caves I have ever read. The author does an amazing job of describing the caves and explorers. It's no too much detail that you get tired of reading...but it's enough to let you picture it in your mind. The book follows two different main characters, and reading about them and their exploits is like watching a dangerous stunt knowing that something could go wrong. As Blind Descent shows, when you're thousands of feet down in a cave, something going wrong usually means death or a close call for a caver. I think the book is very respectable to cavers, and after reading it, I am glad that more people will understand the risk they take to explorer Earth's last frontier so to speak.

Blind Descent has been a great "armchair adventure" to me, and if you like caves, exploring, or adventure type books, you will not be disappointed with this book! It's something I read in two days because I just couldn't put it down...you'll enjoy the journey.

Update: Mr. Tabor has informed me that the book will have a number of pictures!
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