Thursday, November 21, 2013

Review of Escape from Kathmandu by Kim Stanley Robinson

For those looking to relax and have a little fun with a sci-fi conceit, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Escape from Kathmandu may be just the ticket.  Taking the idea of the yeti and running—full tilt—with it, serious literature it is not, but fun, indeed, it is.  (Please note this review is for the novella, not the short story collection of the same name.)

George Fergusson is mountain guide waiting between treks in Kathmandu.  Staying at the Star Hotel, he passes the left-mail rack everyday.  One of the letters, which bursts its envelope, catches his attention, but it isn’t for some time until he lets the dust convince him that the owner has left the country for good.  The story of a group of botanists and zoologists studying the plant and animal life of the upper Himalayas contained within, there is one surprise: the mammalogist meets a yeti.  But things turn all the more interesting when the mammologist returns looking for his unreceived letter.

All hell breaking loose in the aftermath, Robinson takes the reader on a romp through the capital of Nepal’s exotic taxi, rickshaw, and cow filled streets as the story of the yeti unravels—secret service, Jimmy Carter, hash, and yetis in disguise escalating the E.T.-esque plot.  For those who enjoy a simple thriller, this is it.

Indeed a one-off, Robinson knowingly presses harder on the absurd pedal the more things progress.  Searching out worthwhile content would be a wasted endeavor, that is, save one item: the debate over whether it’s the scientist’s duty to report what he finds, or look at the larger picture and refrain from citing evidence for the protection of a larger ideal.  Otherwise, Escape from Kathmandu is Encino Man in the Himalayas.

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