Friday, April 18, 2014

Review: Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence, and Emperor Penguins

In many respects, Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence, and Emperor Penguins by Gavin Francis is the opposite of Headhunters on my Doorstep, another travel book I started reading at the same time.

Empire takes place in the frigid Antarctic while Headhunters has the author sweating it out in the South Seas. Empire has a more serious and introspective feel, while Headhunters is all about the laughs and introduces you to a number of characters on the islands.

But really, both books are about a journey where the author needs to face some pretty serious challenges. And that made Empire a page turner. Try as I might, I just can't imagine the cold and dark of an Antarctic winter. But Francis tries his best to take me there.

Like Headhunters, Empire goes off on wonderful tangents to give us a history of the area. There are well known stories such as the Shackleton expedition which I could hear told over and over again, as well as some more esoteric journeys I'd never heard of. And of course, there's plenty of description of the wild life (or lack there of) which also makes for interesting and inspirational reading.

All in all, the book is a wonderful travelogue. And what it lacks in side splitting humor it makes up for in genuinely good writing.

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