Kim Stanley Robinson's early attempt at writing a travelogue about an alien, hostile environment. No, not Mars.

I happen to like Kim Stanley Robinson. I have read pretty much his whole oeuvre and he has never let me down: his novels are consistently amazingly researched, show high hopes in humanity and are often thought provoking. His style is effortless and he creates fascinating, multi-faceted characters. And he is never boring.

So recently I got hold of his early works: Escape from Kathmandu is a collection of four fairly short stories depicting the adventures of two American trekking guides who have a pretty cool thing going in Kathmandu: in between guiding hopeless American tourists, laden with travel sickness, culture shock and video cameras they hang out in a shabby hotel in downtown Kathmandu, smoke dope, drink beer and eat hungaro-austrian delicatessen at 'little Vienna'. Oh yes, and get in all sorts of troubles:

  • Part 1: Escape from Kathmandu. In which George and George meet a Yeti, save it from slavery, the world press, the secret service and introduce him to Jimmy Carter.
  • Part 2: Mother Godess of the World. In which George and George meet a sleazy American documentary maker, a sexy british climber, save the spiritual future of a tulku and climb Mount Everest on the cheap.
  • Part 3: The true Nature of Shangri-La. In which George and George try to save Shambhala from the Chinese, the Indians and the Nepalese bureaucracy and end up having diarrhoea.
  • Part 4: The Kingdom Underground. In which George and George save Shambala's underground tunnels from the Swiss and accidentally kidnap the King of Nepal.

It's like a juvenile romp through the himalayas with plenty of laugh out loud moments, secret passages, diarrhoea and a little bit of the supernatural sprinkled on top of it. Nevertheless, I was surprised by the absence of communal bathing, a staple in KSR's later novels.

An excellent book for the bath tub, the beach or just for a nice afternoon on the sofa.

Kim Stanley Robinson: Escape from Kathmandu. Published by Tom Doherty Associates, 1989

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