The White Road by Sarah Lotz

Posted On 29 May 2017

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The White Road is the second book that I’ve read by Sarah Lotz and has definitely cemented her on my list of authors I will automatically pick up.  She has a knack for writing the sort of things that just give you the plain old creeps.  A wonderful way of wording things that make your skin prickle and give you the feeling that you’re being watched.  I simply loved this book.

At the start of the story we meet Simon Newman as he embarks on a journey through the notorious Cwm Pot caves.  Simon and his friend Thierry run a blog called ‘Journey to the Dark Side’ and in a desperate attempt to gain more traffic and turn the site into a going concern they’ve come up with a plan to go filming inside caverns that have been closed to the public following a tragic accident involving flash flooding. The TLDR is that things go wrong but the footage Simon manages to take turns the blog viral and Thierry comes up with a new plan for the next venture.  Everest.  Basically the two are taking footage of the dead and Everest is a perfect opportunity.  Not the nicest or most sensitive way to go about things but the two think they’ve hit on something and they’re not going to let morals or feelings of sensitivity get in the way.

Basically, if I hadn’t already read Miss Lotz I might have hesitated about picking this up as caving and climbing are not my usual type of read but I found this absolutely fascinating and I don’t know whether that’s down to the level of detail and descriptions or the element of fantasy realism that accompanies the adventures.  The story uses a strange phenomena now known as ‘the third man’ factor.  Shackleton was the first explorer to mention a feeling he had of being accompanied when in situations of extreme hardship and following his revelation other adventurers came forward to relate their own similar experiences.  The third man became immortalised in a poem by T S Eliot and Lotz has taken this idea and given it a dark and ghostly twist.

I won’t delve any further into the plot but let you find your own path.

What did I love about this?  Primarily it boils down to the writing.  I have no idea about caving or climbing so how well researched or believable either of these two tales are is unknown to me – but, whilst I might not know all the hard facts what I can say is that the story comes across, without doubt, as plausible and well constructed.  The first part of the story where Simon is caving – I didn’t want to leave that story at all, it was so intense I could have kept on reading – and this isn’t the primary focus of the story.  It was packed with drama and tension.  The darkness, the claustrophobia, the fear – they’re palpable.  Reading it made me scared and I was sat on a comfy chair in the living room.

Then we move onto Simon joining a team of climbers making an attempt on Everest.  Like I did, you may be thinking ‘no way would he get away with that’ – and why would he even try.  It’s dangerous enough for highly trained and experienced climbers let alone relative newbies who stopped climbing after one fall.  But again, Lotz pulls this off.  She creates a brooding atmosphere that is so believable that you’re sat on the edge of your seat reading, barely able to put the book down.  The cold, the fear, the hunger, the frost bite, the extreme exhaustion, the struggle to breath at high altitude.  Reading this certainly gives you this whole new sense of wonder and respect really for those who undertake it and Simon certainly doesn’t get off lightly in fact he pretty soon comes to realise just how much in over his head he really is as each day becomes a fight to survive.

In terms of characters – the main character is Simon.  He’s not a bad guy really.  Okay, he’s made some choices that might not be totally endearing and he’s currently climbing up a mountain with a group of people who he has lied through his teeth to.  But, I didn’t find that I disliked him.  More I felt sorry for him because he seemed unable to step away from his choices even as he was making things worse.  The climbing team is only thinly sketched really, apart from one character who shares a little page space sharing with the readers similar experiences to those that Simon is going through.  Simon does steal the show but it was interesting to read the other POV.  Then we have Ed – Simon’s original guide down through the caves.  Oh dear – what an unusual, weird and incredibly creepy guy.  Well, I say that, but maybe he was just a little unhinged.  One thing for sure – I would not have wanted him as my guide.  In point of fact Simon wasn’t overly keen on the idea but again his inability to step away, make excuses or simply say no stepped in.

Now lets talk about the whole ‘realism’ aspect of the story.  The whole issue of whether Simon is being accompanied by an ‘other’.  An apparition or maybe an hallucination caused by trauma?  What Lotz manages to do is manipulate your own fears in an expert way.  Whether you believe there is something sinister stalking Simon or whether there’s a scientific explanation underlying it all what is really clear is that his story is scary, its gripping and it will hold you until the end of the book where you’ll actually find yourself wanting more.

Okay, that’s it for me.  I had no criticisms for this at all – or at least nothing that springs to mind immediately.  I thoroughly enjoyed this, it surpassed my expectations and has pretty much cemented Lotz on my ‘go to’ list of authors.

I received a copy through Netgalley courtesy of the publisher.  The above is my own opinion.

“Who is the third who walks always beside you? 
When I count, there are only you and I together. 
But when I look ahead up the white road, 
there is always another one walking beside you”  T S Eliot, The Wasteland

Friday Firsts: The White Road by Sarah Lotz

Friday Firsts
 is a new meme that runs every Friday over on Tenacious Reader. The idea is to feature the first few sentences/paragraph of your current book and try and outline your first impressions as a result. This is a quick and easy way to share a snippet of information about your current read and to perhaps tempt others.  Stop on by and link up with Tenacious Reader.    This Friday I’m reading : The White Road by Sarah Lotz.

whiteroadHi T.

No easy way to say this, but I’m going back to Tibet.  Yeah.  Back to the mountain, though I swore I never would, remember?  Leave for Heathrow in 5.  How’s that for casually dropping a bombshell?  I’ve tried everything else, T, and going back is the only way.  Got to the point where it’s this or a padded cell.

If I don’t make it home, there’s a dropbox file you should check out.  Sounds ominous, I know, like I’ve gone full B-movie: If you’re reading this then I’m already dead…. Password is ‘fingersinyrheart06’.  Anyway, read it.  Or not.  Up to you.  Do whatever you want with it.  Just needed to tell the truth.  Put the record straight, you know?

Farewell and adieu, mate.


So long, and thanks for all the fish.  Si


My First Impressions

Wow, what an excellent start.  Yes, I was anxious to read on.  I’ve read Sarah Lotz before and she’s very good.  This book just really appealed to me and the start really struck a chord.  I like books that start like this I must admit.  And, yes, I’ve read on – I can barely put this down and even when I do it’s still on my mind.

What you reading this Friday??  What are your first impressions??

*The above excerpt was taken from an advanced reader copy and it is possible that the final version may have further changes.

Waiting on Wednesday : The White Road by Sarah Lotz

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was created by Breaking the Spine.  Every Wednesday we get to highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  My book this week is : The White Road by Sarah Lotz

A cutting-edge thriller about one man’s quest to discover horror lurking at the top of the world.

whiteroadDesperate to attract subscribers to his fledgling website, ‘Journey to the Dark Side’, ex-adrenalin junkie and slacker Simon Newman hires someone to guide him through the notorious Cwm Pot caves, so that he can film the journey and put it on the internet. With a tragic history, Cwm Pot has been off-limits for decades, and unfortunately for Simon, the guide he’s hired is as unpredictable and dangerous as the watery caverns that lurk beneath the earth. After a brutal struggle for survival, Simon barely escapes with his life, but predictably, the gruesome footage he managed to collect down in the earth’s bowels goes viral. Ignoring the warning signs of mental trauma, and eager to capitalize on his new internet fame, Simon latches onto another escapade that has that magic click-bait mix of danger and death – a trip to Everest. But up above 8000 feet, in the infamous Death Zone, he’ll need more than his dubious morals and wits to guide him, especially when he uncovers the truth behind a decade-old tragedy – a truth that means he might not be coming back alive. A truth that will change him – and anyone who views the footage he captures – forever.

Not a long wait for this – due out May.  Horror!!!