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Lost Horizon by James Hilton

By gp | Books | February 1, 2010 |

By gp | Books | February 1, 2010 |

Having not decided what to read next, I was amused to find a frozen paperback in the parking lot at work. It was caked in ice, but with a little cleaning up, was mostly undestroyed by the weather. And the cover announced that it was “the very 1st paperback novel” and how could I ignore that?

I wish I had. Not that it’s that awful of a story, but I really shouldn’t read too many more books from the 1930s. It just isn’t my literary cup of tea.

Lost Horizons may be familiar to most as the story of how a team of men found the fictional Shangri-La, a wonderful utopia high in the mountains of Tibet. Unfortunately, while the word “Shangri-La” conjurs images of awesomeness, this book seemed to lag every few pages. Even the accounts of the lamasery with all its mystery bored me. And that’s why I shouldn’t read books from around this time. The language … is stifling.

In Berlin, two old school chums get into a conversation with a pilot about a missing British ambassador in Afghanistan, who turned up in some Chinese hospital ward with amnesia. He regained his memory long enough to tell the tale. Being evacuated during an Indian revolution, a plane is taken over and then crashes in Tibet. The pilot is near-death and instructs the survivors to head toward Shangri-La, a hidden lamasery in the western Himalayas. The trek is a boring one and characters are fleshed out a little more, but I responded to none of them.

Once they reach Shangri-La, they find that it has central heat and air, and bathtubs, and that when you’re there you age very slowly. And the 300-something year old High Lama is dying and needs someone to act as his replacement. Rather than pick from the other lamas, he thinks about choosing one of the more boring outlanders. I really don’t know, my eyes started a slow glaze about a third from the end. It took extreme force-of-will to finish.

The whole idea of Shangri-La is to inspire you not to leave, right? I just chucked this book into the outside garbage bin.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of gp’s reviews, check out his blog, Guity Partner.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.