He melds his personal experiences of some of the globe's wildest places with incisive analyses of history, culture, politics and more, crashing the postcolonial hangover into future shock to see what sparks it sets off ... The book's title piece [is] a rip-snorting adventure yarn about traveling to the mind-boggling elevations of the Himalayas ... Some of the book's shorter pieces are fascinating, deeply researched journalism ... Shacochis' accounts sometimes boom with macho swagger, but it's balanced by wry self-awareness, a tender heart and a brilliant, analytical intellect. His writing is simply splendid.
Many of the pieces collected in Kingdoms in the Air are vivid portraits of iconoclasts and rugged individualists who have surrendered their Western comforts for adventure and higher purpose in the developing world ... Shacochis evokes the pains and pleasures of the trek with lyrical prose.
A collection is a strange beast, and the order and tempo of things might be blamed as much as the quality of any given piece. Stuck in first gear, alarmed by the first 150 pages, you might skip forward. Midway through the book, Shacochis comes alive on open water, when he describes a friend caught in the waves and sinking ... Whatever stories endure, be they the ones from the mountains or the sea, it’s undeniably tough to travel, to be far from home, and to cut down an epic voyage into a smaller shape — for the rest of us. At worst, Shacochis seems tired of this task, annoyed by the rules of the road and the way an older body cooperates or doesn’t with these demands. But when he recaptures what I imagine is the spark that inspired his first travels, when he seems rested and ready, somewhere he cares about and wants to share, his best writing inspires us not to argue with destiny.