My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really like what Matt Dickinson does. I think he’s in the process of carving out a sort of modern Hardy Boys / Biggles esque niche; a sort of very ‘boys own’ adventure style reinterpreted for the modern era. I had a lot of time for Mortal Chaos, and so I was more than happy to accept a review copy of the start of his new series – The Everest Files.
Whilst on his gap year in Nepal, working with a local medical charity, Ryan ends up talking with a local girl. This is Shreeya and she asks Ryan to find out what happened to her friend Kami. Kami’s story, once Ryan discovers it, takes place on the unbearably dramatic slopes of Everest.
The thing about Dickinson is that he does what he does very well, and I think in a way I was waiting for him to get there. I could have done without the framing story of Ryan, though I think that will pay off in the sequel. It’s when we get to the story of Shreeya and Kami that this book starts to properly get going. And when it gets going, it gets going brilliantly. There is such truth about Dickinson’s adventure writing and it’s thick with tension and honesty. I really love it but it took such a long time for me and the story to get there.
The other issue I had about this is a stylistic tic that pops up quite often in the text. It’s the habit of having the odd sentence in italics.
For dramatic effect
I don’t think this is necessary at all, and it’s something that I’d welcome being dropped in reprints and the sequels. Dickinson’s writing is strong enough with this sort of panicky emphasis, and it does prove distracting.
So, how to sum The Everest Files? Problematic, but good. Honestly so. Dickinson writes Everest with love and with respect and with fear, at times, and that’s a heady combination to read and it’s one that will keep me coming back to it and to him. And it’s something I understood in the final moments of the story, and I think it’s something that I understood when I finished; Everest casts a spell. It cast a spell on Ryan, on Shreeya and on Kami. It’s something you can’t deny, once you’ve been caught in it. And that’s a beautiful, terrifying story in itself and one that Dickinson comes very close to capturing.