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The Shocking Simplicity of Genuine Terror

If you challenge the mountains, settle for a draw

As you probably already know if you’ve been following me, I love the mountains. Hiking, climbing, photographing the landscape around me, it doesn’t matter: there are a very few spaces in the world that make me so eager to stay outside. This is why, asked to review the second story set in the mountains in a matter of days, I couldn’t say no.

Last week it was Bishop by Candace Nola, today it’s Crevasse by Clay Vermulm. A horror story unfolding during a climbing trip, I couldn’t say no, and I was so eager to read this book. I finished it in a couple of days and not only because it’s a novella, but because it really dragged me in, just like the…

Well, before we move into spoiler territory, let’s start from the beginning: a few mountaineers have been disappearing during their trips on the mountains in the American Northwest. The book opens from the point of view of Travis, one of such climbers: he’s chased by a very strange bear, and to escape it he falls into a crevasse.

Despite all these strange happenings, Greg decides to bring his girlfriend Quinn to a climbing trip in that exact spot. They have a lot of fun in the first few days, and this is why they decide to stay a little longer. Nothing strange, you’ll say, but Greg didn’t warn his parents about his change of plans, and so they begin to worry about him. They ask Ellie, a friend of Greg’s father who works as a mountain rescuer, to track the two youngsters.

But Greg and Quinn’s trip is going well, actually, so well that they decide to try a difficult multi-pitch ascent for their last day. And this is when things begin to go South. Figurative South, not the geographical one. The ascent is more difficult than they expected, the weather is worse, and there’s this strange climber in a red jacket that seems to be stalking them. Will Ellie make it to the mountains in time to save Greg and Quinn?

Before I get into spoiler-land (I don’t think I can talk about this story without mentioning its ending, I just can’t), I have to say that this story proved to me once again how you don’t need gore or graphic violence to provoke fear in your reader. Sometimes a stalking stranger who continuously repeats “Hello?” is more than enough.

I read Crevasse from the safety of my seaside house, but I could feel the tension building up and the terror the protagonists should have felt in those long moments hanging from a mountains with nothing but a rope to prevent them from falling. It felt like being there with them.

Spoiler Land

Ok, let’s talk about that ending. Despite this being just a short story I already cared a lot about the protagonists, especially Ellie. You know, my soft spot for independent women. Seeing them defeated by the Ancient One was quite a bummer in the beginning, because I was really rooting for them. Moreover, I’m always expecting some unexpected trick from the good guys when everything seems lost, and seeing them defeated was quite the shock.

But the more I think about it, the more I appreciate the ending Clay Vermulm gave us. It’s simple, straightforward, and allows the audience to really enter in the bad guy’s mind. Also, who said that the Ancient One is the bad guy?

Crevasse‘s ending also reminds us that despite all the high hopes and the experience we might have, we are often hopeless when it comes to overcoming some serious difficulty in the mountains.

“If you challenge the mountains, settle for a draw”. I’ve been gifted a t-shirt with this quote some years ago, and I think it’s fitting.

To sum it up, I was once again gifted with the opportunity of a free great read, and I’m happy I could read it and ramble about it. I’m sure this is one of those stories that leave a mark in the reader, so you should definitely read it. And it’s a very quick read: you have no excuse.

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