Title: An Unsung Hero
Author: Michael Smith
An Unsung Hero, by Michael Smith is a non-fiction account of Antarctic exploration. Set in the early 1900’s, the book catalogues the history behind man’s pursuit of the South Pole, a mysterious and daunting place that was referred to at the time as the ‘last undiscovered frontier’. Primarily, the book focuses on the wily and glory-seeking men who try to conquer the Pole by becoming the first to reach it, but its real substance lies in its descriptions of the destructive and disastrous nature of trying to go places, where quite frankly, man has no business going. The sub-zero Antarctic temperatures and its moving glaciers often prove too much for even the strongest of men.
This book provided keen insight into the limits of the human body. As I sat in my warm bedroom, with the book in one hand and a hot cup of tea in the other, I read about these men sledging through the Arctic snow for months at a time, while enduring temperatures that often dropped to 100 degrees below zero. I often found myself in a state of awe. “How is this possible?” I thought. “These men are crazy!” I couldn’t help but consider myself ‘soft’ in comparison to them. On the same token, I deemed myself considerably more ‘intelligent’ than they were, for whom in their right mind would ever sign up to endure something like this? It was both captivating and entertaining to contemplate these things. Less exciting, however, was the books lack of description in regards to internal conflict. The book was written from a third person viewpoint, by a narrator who had no specific ties to any of the experiences. He was simply a researcher with an affinity for the subject. This, I believe, limited his ability to get inside the minds of the men who went on the expeditions. We rarely knew what they were thinking as they endured hardship. Were some of them on the verge of losing their minds? Did they cry themselves to sleep at night? Did they pray that they would survive? These are all things that I would have liked to know.
Overall, the book provided a compelling read. It had enough substance and excitement to generate interesting discussion with friends and family who wanted to know ‘what I was reading’. It also provided many opportunities for me to put my book down and surf the Internet for more information on Antarctic travel. I found myself wanting to know more about the subject. I would highly recommend this book to anybody seeking a non-fiction book that is manly, adventurous, and informational.