Malusa brings descriptive life to the vistas of six very different landscapes within these pages. Spending the vast majority of his time outside, Malusa intimately understands how the natural world can be both comforting and sometimes dangerous. He braves conditions as varied as the arid heat and alligators of Australia to the encroaching winter in Moscow.
Malusa's travels bring him to some of the more remote places in our world. Whether cycling through Aboriginal lands in Australia or following Moses' path on his way to the Dead Sea, he views all levels of the human condition and finds deep humanity in people.
Though he is a complete stranger getting odd looks from some people, many others invite him into their homes, and even their wedding parties, offering food and shelter. He experiences each culture on a level not generally afforded to tourist travelers. The authenticity of his encounters is unparalleled. As a reader, one is lucky to gain insight from his words.
Malusa demonstrates how the history of each culture is embedded in the people and their land. Whether discussing the French poet Arthur Rimbaud's profound effect on the area that was to become Djibouti or the downturn of the Russian ruble just before his trip to Russia, Malusa deciphers all with adeptness and ease.
His deep comprehension and prior research of each of his destinations never feels textbookish. The historical context is such a necessary part of this narrative that the reader must understand how these cultures have been shaped. One would miss out on a great wealth of cultural knowledge without the balance of experience and history that Malusa displays.
Into Thick Air is a highly enjoyable, witty travelogue. While there are many who might wish to reach the highest points in the world, Malusa takes a unique approach in his quest to reach the lowest ones. As he writes, "The idea of climbing the Seven Summits...inspired a race to the top of the world. The Six Sumps were forsaken, the opposite of success."
Any reader with an interest in culture, travel or just looking for a satisfying outlet will be glad he decided went with the forsaken journey.
Theresa Studnicky has a Masters in English and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her book reviews will appear regularly in the News Enterprise.