In Dancing on the Edge of an Endangered Planet, John Mattson spins a series of exciting tales about a lifetime spent adventuring in some of the worlds most beautiful and remote places.
Mattson has ridden rodeo broncs, been a downhill ski racer, trekked Amazon jungles, climbed peaks in Peru, kayaked hair-raising whitewater runs and scaled desert canyon pinnacles. Along the way, he also found time to become an engineer, a master carpenter, photographer, writer and publishing entrepreneur.
In Mattson’s breezy, humble, sitting-around-the-campfire voice, readers are introduced to a global cast of colorful characters that, through a blending of skill, willpower and courage, overcome the inner and outer limits of wilderness experience. Although the author emerges unscathed from these numerous adventures (and sometimes one wonders how), not every ending is happy: there are tributes to friends and acquaintances lost along the way. Mattson also patiently explains the technical aspects of some of the sports he loves, and footnotes add additional information.
From homespun snapshots of his early life on a North Dakota farm to amazing photographs taken from mountain summits and river canyons, Mattson’s photography adds immensely to the spirit of the book.
A few issues: Mattson changes the names in a series of stories about illegal climbs in Monument Valley “to protect the outlaws,” and a character named “Sven,” takes the forefront in some adventures. Is “Sven,” Mattson’s alternate ego, a figment of his imagination or a real person? In addition, some faces are blurred in photographs, also to protect identities. And while kayaking in Yellowstone, he refers to the park as “Jellystone.” All of these factors take away from the rich honesty of the narrative.
Overall, though, Dancing on the Edge of an Endangered Planet is a fascinating collection that will enthrall outdoor and armchair adventurers alike. Mattson’s is a life truly lived on the edge. Here, it is served up with a generous helping of love and respect for the places he visits, people he meets, cultures he experiences and planet on which he lives.
Also available in ebook.