The publication of any new Sarah Lotz book is cause for celebration in my mind, and The White Road* is no exception. Ever since staying up way past my bedtime to read The Three, it’s been my go-to recommendation for a book that will hook new readers. And while I didn’t love Day Four as much, I recently went on a boat trip and it freaked me the heck out. So thanks for that Sarah Lotz!
Adrenaline junkie Simon Newman sneaks onto private land to explore a dangerous cave in Wales with a strange man he’s met online. But Simon gets more than he bargained for when the expedition goes horribly wrong. Simon emerges, the only survivor, after a rainstorm trap the two in the cave. Simon thinks he’s had a lucky escape.
But his video of his near-death experience has just gone viral.
Suddenly Simon finds himself more famous than he could ever have imagined. Now he’s faced with an impossible task: he’s got to defy death once again, and film the entire thing. The whole world will be watching. There’s only on place on earth for him to pit himself against the elements: Mt Everest, the tallest mountain in the world.
But Everest is also one of the deadliest spots on the planet. Two hundred and eighty people have died trying to reach its peak.
And Simon’s luck is about to run out.
I’m a fan of the ‘found footage’ genre, more the horror movie type than the sometimes more disturbing real ones. It’s always fascinated me that your last moments could be caught on film forever. The video of the man running in a panic around the catacombs, only to drop the camera with his only light source and continue on into the dark? Terrifying. Well worth a Google deep dive if you’re in the frame of mind to be spooked. So I was interested to see how Sarah Lotz would take a very visual medium and adapt that for a novel.
However, it’s pretty difficult to transfer an event from one media to another- comic books work well as movies because they’re very visual, book adaptations on film don’t generally work because they lack detail, and a describing a viral video in words… I’m not sure it worked seamlessly. The writing didn’t manage to put me in the shoes of Simon. It’s definitely a book based on plot and that creepy vibe that’s hard to pin down. That is definitely where Sarah Lotz excels, she is the master of the prickling at the back of your neck, from a cave in Wales to the top of Mount Everest.
Another thing that hooked me from the blurb was the fact that Simon is a blogger. He’s more of a Buzzfeed kind of clickbait content creator than anything I would follow personally (yeah, I said it) but- I’ll take it. At the beginning, when he’s struggling for page views, oh boy did I empathise.
And lastly, the OCD representation in the book was interesting to me as it’s manifestation was similar to how my OCD is. And I appreciated that when Simon says it’s “quite sweet”, the character gives him a “‘don’t patronise me’ look”, because real mental health problems are anything but sweet. Later when Simon’s own mental health deteriorates, he takes on the same coping mechanism. The representation is accurate, but shallow, showing only the surface of the problem with no conclusion which I know some readers don’t like. But for me, I took this at face value. Sometimes mental health problems have no conclusion. I’ve read books before where OCD has been given to characters to make them more ‘interesting’ and that’s gross, but this felt to me like a well-rounded but background character who has an obsessive compulsion disorder.
Unless you’re a climber, in which case your hobby might be ruined forever, The White Road is out now and can be bought here!
I was certain I could make out words hidden in the watery clamour; it was tantalising like listening to a conversation through a wall.