My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Reader beware – those who open this tale will find their days outside the novel filled with dreams of the Yukon, sled racing, and gold. I promise, you will never look at an egg the same again.
Christopher “Kit” Bellew is a yuppy, lazy, jocular youth who inherited his wealth through a father of hard work and discipline. Pining away his days bored and restless in the city he is given the opportunity to help his cousins and uncle trek their way into the Alaskan Gold Rush. Each man requires a literal ton of food to last him the harsh winter of the north and each man is required to haul it in himself (or with the aid of natives who put the white men to shame.) Without such supplies no man was allowed to cross the barrier checkpoint from civilized life to the wild. Yet, Kit finds a way and in the process earns himself the nickname “Smoke” – a name which will stick with him forever. Once through the icy lakes, rapids, and unforgiving territory, Smoke becomes a big man in a big country whom everyone loves, envies, and strives to compete with. You won’t want to miss this incredible ride through the Yukon.
I didn’t fall in love with adventure stories until my twenties when I felt an undying need to explore the world around me yet was surviving on the budget of a twenty-something. Required to stay put in my living room, authors like London, Beach, and Grey became Godsends and frontier hawkers. The kind to inspire the impossible and breed confidence in any intimidated explorer. While my immediate desires were appeased by reading about long nights under the stars in the desert canyons of Arizona or the frost biting wilds of the Yukon, these novels served to whet my appetite for adventure, danger, and fresh air!
Smoke Bellew is a prime example of such a tease. London hugs the reader in tightly, never letting go until the very last page with the charmed life of Smoke who seems to have a topsy turvy relationship with Lady Luck. With perfect precision we, as readers, toil through the slush of mountains under the weight of 2000 pounds of food and supplies. We labor with every step Smoke takes in the beginning chapters to such a degree that once over that hill and into the true start of the adventure we believe we are Smoke; his exploits become our own and his success ours alone. Together we are transformed from a dandy tenderfoot to the hardened veteran only the Gold Rush could properly create. No other author or novel has taken me so wholly from the sidelines and into character such as this. And never has there been a character I’ve felt more invested in.
Ladies, do not fear being left behind as Smoke finds out fast and early that the women of the Yukon are no easy target for charm and wit, but, rather, can stand quite proudly, successfully, and wealthy without the aid of man.
Enjoy your romp through the crystalline escarpments of Alaska. Try to not be too disappointed when you realize you were born too late to head for the hills in search of gold. Our generation will have its marvels just the same.