By Jon Krakauer
Reviewed by Alan Green
One day Christopher McCandles gave away his savings, got rid of his few possessions, changed his name to Alexander Supertramp and set out looking for adventure. He spent two years travelling around America before he started the final part of his journey. The experience that he had been building up to all along. He headed into the Alaskan wilderness to live his dream of surviving off the land. A way of life he saw as offering perfect freedom in contrast to the lifestyles of all the ‘plastic people’ who just follow the usual paths through life. A few months later Alex / Chris died of starvation, alone in the icy wilderness that he had dreamed about for so long.
At this point I’m going to make a prediction. You the reader probably fall into one of two camps. Some of you are thinking that travelling around America and heading out into the wilderness alone sounds amazing. How sad that it ended so badly. Others agree about the sad bit but think that if someone is going to trek into the wilds on their own then they are asking for trouble. We’re not talking about the countryside here. It’s Alaska. It’s freezing cold and they have bears and other dangerous wild animals.
The book is probably more satisfying if you try to avoid coming down too strongly on one side or the other. If you romanticise Chris / Alex as a heroic figure who broke free from a routine life then you miss the darker elements of his story. His choices did hurt other people as well as himself. If you dismiss him as an idiot who went out into the middle of nowhere completely unprepared and got himself killed then this becomes a very frustrating read. That would also be unfair. Jon Krakauer interviewed people who met Chris / Alex on his journey. Selfish, slightly suicidal, foolishness is not the image that we get from the people who knew him.
Into the Wild offers controversy and real life adventure. Plus the chance to explore America and the icy wilderness of its furthest reaches without the risks or even getting cold.