In the High Peaks

Monday, July 2, 2018

Force of Nature by Jane Harper, Author of The Dry

As I'm sure you are able to see, I'm struggling to restore my "Blogs of Substance" blogroll. I'm laughing now, because I tried to add Katrina's "Pining for the West" blog, and it appears five times in a row! Just laughing...  I'll keep working on it!

Next up:
I really need to read Jane Harper's highly acclaimed debut novel The Dry. I really need to because I feel I could better assess Force of Nature, her second novel, to better advantage.

Jane Harper, who lives in Melbourne, Australia, writes thrillers, with psychological suspense via the viewpoint of her (fictional) member of the Federal Police in Australia, Aaron Falk.

The premise is this: A group of women and a separate group of men enter the fictional wilderness area called the  Giralang Ranges, a "bushland" area, supposedly  a half day's drive west of Melbourne, to undertake a wilderness retreat, hiking and camping, at the behest of their employer, a corporate entity, the name of which I now forget. (Note: There is an actual suburb named Giralang, it's the wilderness area that's fictional.)

This excursion is intended to foster cohesion among fellow employees of differing strata and pay grades by having them return to nature and to rely on their fellow hikers and employees in a way that will strengthen the individuals and the bonds among everyone involved. The men do fine; but with the women, five go in, but only 4 return. One woman vanishes in the middle of the night.

Review: Spoiler Alert!!
I have many bones to pick with this novel, this thriller.
I mentioned one of them--the setting--in a previous entry, when I believed that the Giralang Ranges must be a real wilderness area in New South Wales. The fact that the location is fictional has nothing to do with my dissatisfaction. I'm assuming that there are other "bushland" wilderness areas open to the public for hiking that are similar to the fictional setting, somewhere in NSW.

Next, the thriller has a very long sagging middle, when the women are trudging along, having squabbles, but not much of "thriller" caliber occurs. This goes on for most of the book. The main force of all the action and relevations occurs in the last 60 pages, and it drags out. I found this tedious.

Moving on, I'm sure my background as a state-licensed hiking guide influenced my view of the authenticity of the novel.
First of all, in this novel, there is an executive "wilderness retreats" company that sponsors wilderness experiences for corporates. 
Next, no responsible organization would send untrained individuals out into the wilderness without a trained guide and without prior training in wilderness navigation. Compass reading in conjunction with map reading, GPS technology, etc. And no one would forbid cell phones, as this company did, in the mistaken notion that phones would detract from groups forming cohesion.

So, even though this book was published in 2018, no one had GPS navigation (GPS is never mentioned in this novel, and it is not a historical), no one had a cell phone (absurd!), and no participant was recently trained in navigation technology without a GPS. (Two women had training from high school and now they were in their 40s! This, evidently, was considered acceptable by the company.)

Every single thing that happens on this wilderness trek is based on what never would have happened had proper, ordinary precautions been put in place. The executive wilderness company would have been sued and put out of business by the corporation sending its employees out there, in the event that anything negative happened.  Absolutely impossible behavior by all groups and persons involved.

In the acknowledgements, Harper thanked the Australian version of the National Park Service for their help, etc., which made it resoundingly clear to me that Harper never went out into the "bushland" herself. She would have recounted her adventure and the people guiding her if she had.

So, my conclusion is: Research Lacking and A Sagging Middle.

I still very much want to read The Dry, because of its acclaim.


  1. Lots of people seem to have been having problems with Blogger recently - but five of me, crazy! I see you've sorted it out. Every week I say to myself I must revamp Pining - and it never happens - maybe next week.

    1. Hi Katrina,
      I think it's all a matter of personal preference. I stick to my belief that the most important part of the blog is the posting, so I try to do that. I just don't post enough.