The master of adventure writing (Road Fever, 1991; A Wolverine Is Eating My Leg, 1989, etc.) continues his spree with another collection of high-wire essays culled from National Geographic, Rolling Stone, etc. ``I have been in the business of giving people back their dreams,'' declares Cahill, who means to say that he does what others only dare to dream about. This collection starts with a bang—actually, a hellish sequence of eruptions—as Cahill wanders through the apocalyptic, burning landscape of postwar Kuwait: ``The whole world smelled like a diesel engine....The ground was black, the sky was black, the drifting clouds were black.'' This ominous note recurs in other essays, some of which describe moments of real fear: stalking a grizzly in Yellowstone; facing down a silverback gorilla in Africa; undertaking a hazardous ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite (``I thought, not for the first time, Why am I doing this?''). But Cahill is a wag as well as a risk-taker, and the laughs are many, whether at defecating in a latrine over a bat-filled abyss or at watching his shoes melt during the first day of a trek across Death Valley. Beauty, too, makes the danger worthwhile. Spelunking in Lechuguilla Cave, Cahill finds ``crystals the size of small trees, forests of aragonite flowers, huge-domed pits, rooms as high as thirty-story buildings.'' Paradise itself sometimes comes his way, usually in the form of isolated islands: Tonga, where he spaces out on kava, or Peru's Taquile, where everyone gets married on May 3rd. Other pieces cover falconry, ice fishing, paragliding, bungee jumping, and similar Tarzanish topics. Some rocks block his path—a piece on Elisabeth Clare Prophet is dull, another on cattle mutilation is tasteless. But who ever scaled a mountain without a few setbacks? Not up to Road Fever's turbo-charged standards but, still, manna for Cahill fans, who should be legion by now.
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