Book Review: “The White Road” by Sarah Lotz

Having read The Three and Day Four, I was looking forward to reading another book by Sarah Lotz. I wasn’t disappointed.

There is so much that I enjoyed about this book. Yet again, like The Three in particular, Lotz is happy to challenge how a book is presented and what can be achieved. In this case we see sections of diary with strike-throughs, something I’ve not seen in a novel before. These sections really help to add to the tension of the character’s situation. Having played around with challenging with what can be done in a novel myself (writing my first novel, Hijacking Japan, in a way to try to make it proceed in a real-time format), I really like the way that Lotz is prepared to break with the standard conventions of writing and publishing.

Also unusually for a novel, Lotz provides additional information at the end of the book that can help the reader. This includes a list of useful books related to the subject matter of the novel (climbing mountains and going in caves), details about some of the key mountains referred to in the novel, and a glossary of climbing and caving terms. Having got the Kindle version (which automatically takes you to the first page of the main text), I only discovered these sections, unfortunately, after I had read the book – knowing there was a glossary would have been useful, though highlighting the relevant word in Kindle usually brought up sufficient information. I really like it that Lotz provides details about books (as well as other information) that help to explain how the research for the book was done (this was the way I first came across one of Lotz’s books, since she mentions my book Dealing with Disaster in Japan in The Three), and this is not only something that authors should do more of, but also helps to explain how the book became so believable (and helps make it seem more believable – a form of ‘pillars of truth‘).

The descriptions of going through caves and tunnels, as well as climbing Everest, are so detailed that you really can imagine being there with the characters. In fact, when I was reading the first chapter, I started feeling quite claustrophobic and had to stop reading for a bit. On the subject of chapters, though, it should be noted that the chapters are amongst the longest I’ve ever come across for a novel. There are small breaks (sometimes to coincide with a change in day, for example) in the chapters, but the formatting on Kindle doesn’t always make this clear, and seeing that Kindle was estimating sometimes that I had well over an hour until the end of the chapter was a bit of a surprise.

There is so much I could try to unpick in terms of the characters, their observations, etc, but I suspect that I couldn’t do this without impacting your own journey through the book. I found the descriptions really vivid – often helped by making comparisons with famous people (whether real or fictional), and I particularly liked the link made between one and Quint in Jaws, my favourite film (which I manage to bring into my novel Tokyo 20/20 Vision).

There were a few phrases that particularly stood out for me, particularly in relation to my research on disasters and disaster movies;

Readers don’t want the truth, they want a triumph against the odds, not an old cow cursing her way up a hill.

Mountains have a way of stripping you to your core.

The dead don’t haunt us, we haunt them.

Overall, I found The White Road a fabulous book – another ‘confliction’ one (one that you want to get to the end of so that you find out what happened, but at the same time you don’t want it to end as you’re enjoying it so much).

Click here to get more information about the book on Amazon.

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