The other day I was riding the train home. As usual I was reading a book, and the guy standing next to me got excited when he noticed it was The Eiger Sanction by Trevanian.
“Hey what do you think?,” said train guy.
I looked at him and took a deep breath before I responded:
“I hate it. I think it sucks.”
A look of disappointment swept over his face immediately. I honestly felt bad. I’m normally not this blunt with total strangers but I couldn’t help myself because this was a dreadful read.
I finished this turd the other day and if you’ve read this far you might wonder why I even bothered. There was a time when I would have put this book on the shelf never to be looked at again once I realized it was an abomination (in this book’s case about a dozen pages in). However, a few years ago I read Les Miserables in its entirety and I made a pact with myself. If I could finish that behemoth I could finish anything.
I should have known better because I had read another book by Trevanian that I hated as (Shibumi), but I had bought them at the same time and I have a big pile of books I need to read through.
Eiger Sanction is about a mountain climbing art professor, Jonathan Hemlock, who moonlights as an assassin for a shady intelligence organization. Hemlock only performs hits (or sanctions as they’re known in the book). when he needs money for paintings he buys on the black market. He’s roped into taking a job that requires climbing the Eiger in Switzerland and performing a sanction hence…The Eiger Sanction!
I’m not really going to go in depth about why this book sucked instead I’m going to share a few lines that I feel make my point for me.
1. Upon arriving in Switzerland Jonathan sees the mountain and his emotional state is described as follows “He was afraid of the mountain, his groin tingled with the fear.” What the fuck does this even mean?
2. Another point in the book the author briefly covers the history of people attempting to climb the Eiger. Before any alpinist succeeded he states that “the mountain retained its hymen.”
I cringed after reading this.
3. John is a slick ladies man, and his main squeeze is a black lady named, I shit you not, Jemima Brown. When they are about to go to bed for the first time she asks “Am I your first black?” Who fucking talks like this?!?
4. Jonathan has a friend who owns a resort/mountain climbing training facility in the desert. He goes there to whip himself into shape. After a few weeks of conditioning he’s feeling good and declares “I’m just feeling tough and full of sperm.” While reading my eyes rolled so far back in my head I was afraid my retinas might detach.
5. Speaking of his time in training Jonathan is coached by a mute native American woman named George. At first Jonathan resents her because she’s in much better condition than he is and she isn’t going easy on him. At one point he screams “You are a savage George Hotfort. I’m glad we took your land!”
Even more incredible is I think this is supposed to be a moment of levity. I wasn’t laughing and not just because I’m some millennial whose in need of a safe space. This shit is fucking offensive. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised though considering Jonathan’s arch-nemesis is a suave homosexual who has a dog named Faggot. Hilarious! (this is sarcasm please don’t come after me with pitchforks).
Critics have referred to this book as a “pale James Bond derivative,” but Trevanian countered to such criticism saying this book was a spoof on the spy genre. If you ask me that’s easy to say when your work is coming under fire. Imagine having the luxury of someone saying you suck and brushing it off with “oh that’s intentional.”
Long story short I don’t recommend this book. I picked it up at a used bookstore because I read somewhere it was good. I’m an extremely cynical person and yet I bought in. A momentary lapse of judgment that amounted to about a week’s worth of suffering churning through this drivel. If you are interested in reading spy fiction and/or mountaineering I recommend Frederick Forsyth’s Day of the Jackal and/or Jon Krakaeur’s Into Thin Air.