Quill and Quire


« Back to
Book Reviews

Way Out There: The Best of explore

by James Little, ed.

The outdoor adventure community in Canada (if those who enjoy traipsing through our country’s solitudes can really be called a community) is small; the community of those who write about such adventures is even smaller. So even casual readers of explore: Canada’s Magazine of Outdoor Adventure will be familiar with many of the writers in this best-of compilation. With only so much to pick from in the magazine’s somewhat brief history, regular readers will find a great deal of Way Out There familiar.

Most of the features collected here are well written, and the scope of material, in terms of geography and tone (which ranges from solemn to slapstick), is satisfying. A few stories even address the motivation for this kind of activity and the reality of “adventuring” in the world today, which is healthy. Real adventures are a little hard to come by these days.

Though not really about an adventure, J.B. MacKinnon’s “Behind the Grass Curtain” stands out as a well-done account of a fairly harrowing experience in southern Sudan. Despite our collective wish to believe otherwise, Canadians are not too welcome in some places on this planet. The 19-year civil war in Sudan, partially fuelled by Calgary’s Talisman Energy, has managed to create just such a Canuck-hostile environment, and MacKinnon goes there to find out exactly what it’s like to be the bad guy.

Mark Anderson’s “On The Trail of Gulo Gulo” is a tight, fascinating investigation of an animal, the wolverine, that most will never see, and few understand. Mark Schatzker’s “Who Has Seen the (Goddamn) Fish” is a funny, self-deprecating look at fly fishing in New Brunswick.

Perhaps the best story in the collection, Ian Brown’s “The Boys and Their Backcountry,” traces the, ahem, adventures of that most elusive of creatures, the middle-aged male, through the powdery wilds of B.C. Brown’s mix of self-deprecation, nostalgia, and clear thinking about this whole adventuring business make the whole volume worthwhile.

Compilations are never perfect, but they do help to take away the fluff – the lists masquerading as articles, the gear reviews, etc. – leaving you with the entertaining, fresh, and sometimes profound feature articles, a magazine’s heart and soul. 


Reviewer: Andrew Kett

Publisher: Greystone Books


Price: $24.95

Page Count: 370 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 1-55365-164-2

Released: May

Issue Date: 2006-7

Categories: Reference