Primetime Blues
Valerian Albanov
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buy *In the Land of White Death: An Epic Story of Survival in the Siberian Arctic* online In the Land of White Death: An Epic Story of Survival in the Siberian Arctic
Valerian Albanov
Modern Library
288 pages
October 2000
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Nineteen-twelve was not a good year for traveling. In April, the Titanic made its first and only voyage. British explorer, Robert Falcon Scott died on an Antarctic glacier only eleven miles from salvation. Equally, or even worse in some minds, as harrowing of a disaster is the voyage of the Russian ship Saint Anna. The Saint Anna sailed out on what was supposed to be a brief hunting trip of only a couple of weeks, but which turned into a year and a half of hell.

Curled Up With a Good BookThirty-two men and one woman were on the Saint Anna, which became locked in ice soon after departure. After a winter of freezing and desperation they failed to get free of the ice the following summer and were faced with yet another winter locked in ice. This meant certain death, so a proposal was put forth. Survival might be possible if they were willing to cross hundreds of miles of ice while dragging lifeboats behind them. What to do, what to do; wait for death on ship with no supplies, or walk towards it, gambling on a slim chance for survival? What little protection the ship gave them from the weather would be lost if they ventured on the ice. Polar bears and falling through the ice were also real dangers to be considered. Twenty of the Saint Anna passengers stayed behind and thirteen attempted the trek across the ice. Only two passengers survived.

In the Land of White Death is the first person account of Valerian Albanov, the man who led the crew across the ice. Recently translated into English from Russian for the Random House Modern Library Explorer series, this diary has been expanded to include an epilogue based on the diary of the only other surviving passenger, Alexander Konrad, and newly discovered photographs.

Youíll read this book with your stomach churning and tears standing in your eyes. Imagine a simple voyage turning into a nightmare. Your one hope of freedom (summer, in this case) isnít enough and you face certain death. Terse yet compelling, In the Land of White Death contains other elements than just a freak event affecting human life. There is the man vs. nature aspect, reminiscent of Jack Londonís greater works, the mutinous aspect when the passengers are pushed beyond all their resources, and the fall of civility as the passengers become little more than animals in their fight to survive. The fact that this book was not written by a historian years after the event has taken place separates this book and others like it. These are the thoughts and emotions of an actual survivor written at the time things were taking place.

The summation of a dayís or daysí activities are so heartbreaking. I live in Texas and Iíve only seen snow once in my life when I traveled during the winter. What these people suffered is unfathomable to me. The horrific suffering reaches out from the past through the pages of this book and touches you deep inside, making you ache for what these people lost and how much they suffered. A fantastic book for those who like historical fiction or are hooked on "reality" TV. In the Land of White Death beats "Survivor" by a mile. No way the producers will ever put that show in the Arctic circle and have them fight to the death to get out. An unknown gem lost to time and language barriers, thankfully resurrected by Random House, this will leave you shivering.

© 2002 by Kim Lightfoot for Curled Up With a Good Book

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