March 27, 2013

33 Men by Jonathan Franklin

Ok, for some reason, the Chilean Mine incident was never a blip on my radar.  And I really don't know how I missed it.  But this book was available as an audio book and I decided to check it out.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that in 2010 there was a huge international incident involving 33 men and their plight in the mine. 

But before I start on the story itself, I want to talk about the audiobook narrator.  I don't normally like to talk about such things, as I like to rate the book on its own merits, but I just had to comment this time.  The reader, Armando Valdez Kennedy, has a clear voice, and he's easy to understand.  But then he does the voices.  Each time he says something that a miner or other male Chilean was supposed to say, he adopts a thick deep accent that is reminiscent of a bad Western movie.  I'm not saying that some people don't sound like that, but not every single male Chilean in the book.  It was extremely annoying. 

The book itself has a lot of information packed into it.  Franklin was on scene and able to do many interviews with the miners, their families, and their friends as well as officials.  If you by rare chance are like me, and haven't heard about this incident, 33 Men is about 33 miners who were trapped in a Chilean mine for months after it collapsed.  With strong international help, the Chilean government set about a rescue mission to free the men and keep them alive while the rescue was planned.  Franklin describes from the collapse of the mine to a mini-epilogue, what happened to the miners, their conditions, the officials and workers who were on the rescue effort, and everything in between.

I sometimes felt that the portrayal of the different people in the book was unfair.  There was a lot of time spent getting across the fact that a lot of people thought the miners had homo-sexual relationships while trapped down there.  Honestly, is that the thing to really care about or a detail that strange that it should be focused on?  It's mentioned quite a few times in the book and I think the time would have been better spent on things that were relevant, like the type of food they were getting once they graduated from a liquid diet, etc.  There was also a lot of fuss made about the relatives and their squabbles.  This is a little more important but it still doesn't give the whole story to the reader.  I do appreciate that there were interviews done with the men and you were able to hear them describe their surroundings.  They after all, were the ones with the most accurate information.  But some men were focused on more than others and while I can see this happening because some took more leadership roles, there were a few men that were barely mentioned at all.  And Franklin definitely had some unpleasant things to say about the reporters and other media there, even though he himself acted like a lot of them with what he had to say in this book.

While this book told so much information, it also left out quite a bit too.  It might have been better served to wait a couple of years to write it, just to give a better epilogue on what happened to these men.  As it stands, we know they got out of the mine and we know that they all went back to their homes after medical treatment, but we don't know much beyond that.  If he had waited just a few more years we could have seen how they were doing, and I think the book would have been better for it.  He could have applied that same amount of detail to that part as he did to describing the system of "paloma" that kept the miners fed and clothed, the inner workings of the mine, the political intrigues surrounding the disaster, etc.  He did such a good job there it was a little disappointing to not see it carried through.  But even in that there were those different sections where he focused on what the media had to say about the miners private lives rather than what was actually happening and truthful about them.  It was almost as if the book was going more for sensation than facts.

But another book will probably be out eventually that will take care of all of that.  So until then I'll just wait or do some internet research.  It was an interesting book, but just had a way of going off on tangents that weren't as relevant as they could be. 

33 Men
Copyright 2011

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