Everest Rising is the story of geophysicist James Von Kamburg and a team of scientists who travel to the Himalayas in an attempt to understand why Mt. Everest seems to be rising, among other unusual phenomena observed in the region.
The novel is noteworthy in its aim to combine science and philosophy, and in particular, metaphysics, in a single, thought-provoking, beginning-of-a-new-reality technothriller. Consistent that aim, the author provides some highly descriptive text, particularly in the last third of the book, for the birth of that new age. That writing task alone is daunting. But while the author’s efforts to depict a new order are admirable, I found several distractions in his style. First, he tends to overuse technical jargon and flowery prose. People ‘cogitate’ rather than think and when someone dies, they are ‘losing synaptic energy.’ Some unique turns of a phrase make for great reading, but to go for them continually makes parts of this book ponderous. Also, separate thoughts are often combined with one embedded in another with dashes – a writer’s tic for this author – making parsing of the sentences difficult. Some additional respect for the simple, declarative sentence would have helped.
The characters of James Von Kamburg and Jared Griffon were well defined, if somewhat unidimensional. James was the scientist blinded by a single passion and Jared was the win at all costs businessman. Maggie, James’ wife, was more complex as she seemed in some ways to parallel the story’s theme – a student in science who turned to art and whose visions/dreams became primary elements in the story. These three also formed something of a love triangle in a backstory that was extensive, yet seemed to add little to the primary plotline.
The objective of intertwining science and metaphysics is obviously ambitious, and for me, the book fell short, primarily because the plot became much more reliant on the metaphysics than the science. It was, by the end, a new reality with new laws of physics triggered by a “mechanism buried since the beginning of time” (author’s synopsis). There is a smattering of modern technology from fields like seismology, geology, geophysics, and the like, but these tools had virtually nothing to do with the story. And while concepts like dark matter and transuranic elements are mentioned, there is no consistent scientific thread driving the narrative. While I have little background for this claim, I believe the goals related to philosophy were more fully met. If the story didn’t call into question the very meaning of existence, it at least significantly blurred the distinction between being alive and not.
In the end, Everest Rising rests heavily on an analogy between what is happening to the earth and what happens to living organisms, and whether this analogy is thought-provoking or only mildly entertaining fantasy probably depends on where you fall in the space between applied science and metaphysics.