Thin Air by Michelle Paver

I bought Thin Air from South Kensington Books during a day working in London. The reason I jumped at it was because I had read Michelle’s previous ghost story Dark Matter three months previously. Dark Matter properly gave me the chills, so I was looking forward to more of the same.

There is quite a lot of familiar territory in this book as covered by Dark Matter. It’s set in the 1930s and once more focuses on a group of men embarking on an expedition, this time up Kangchenjunga in the Himalayas. The natives are once again deeply suspicious and wary of the destination, and there is a lot of dismissive snobbery from the wealthy and/or esteemed mountaineers.

I think that because of the similarities with Dark Matter, Thin Air didn’t scare me quite so much. However, I want to make really clear that that isn’t because it isn’t good. In vice-versa, I think it’s extremely likely I wouldn’t have found Dark Matter as scary if I had read Thin Air first. They draw on similar concepts, so it’s natural that first time reading will contain more shocks. That said, Thin Air has more than its fair share of ‘moments’ because that’s what Michelle writes so well.

Throughout the course of the book, the main character, Stephen, begins to unravel, so that the final chapters are filled with dread. I feared the night falling, and the next appearance of ‘it’. When candles snuffed out and matches scattered in the darkness, just as an ominous shadow passes the tents, I found myself holding my breath. It’s fair to say I read the final climactic scene on the mountain with a clenched jaw.

Thin Air further confirmed for me what Dark Matter proved – that Michelle Paver really knows how to write ghost stories.