Top critical review
Good, but not great, account of an interesting profession
Reviewed in the United States on December 27, 2018
This is a good read, and one that if someone asked me if they should read it, I would probably say yes, however, I don't think I would ever recommend this book without prompting.
My biggest gripe is the poor organization of the book. The author tries to weave in tails of his life and historical accounts of fires, which I actually think he does relatively well. My only problem is that he doesn't tell his life story in a linear fashion, often jumping back to tell us about more stories from his firefighting days that weren't as a smokejumper, which in a way makes this book more about firefighting than smokejumpers. The author jumps around a lot from paragraph to paragraph - one paragraph is talking about gear and the next about a random story out in the woods and then the next is about something completely different. Chapter divisions feel more like random stop points than an actual way to organize a story.
I also tend to agree with some of the other reviews that the author can come across as a bit preachy at times. Ranting about how there haven't been enough gear advances but then also saying that the best gear has to be made by smokejumpers feels counterproductive (material scientists know a lot more about heat resistant materials for making personal protection shelters than smokejumpers do.) The author definitely puts the profession on a pedestal, which I think comes from the fact that he is using the book as a defense of needing the profession. Through this, a lot of his points feel circular with the author relying on pounding his arguments with brute force rather than different arguments and evidence. I think the author needed to sit down and decide if he wanted to write a memoir or a defense of smokejumping before writing this because it ends up not quite accomplishing either.
Ultimately, the book could have used a better editor for organization and trimming down needs, but it is still a decent read.