Goodreads describes the book as:
John Ottway has found the job at the end of the world, working as a hunter for an oil-camp on the North Slope of Alaska. It’s brutal, cold, and isolated, and there’s little he needs to do but wait for the day when he has the courage to end his life, as he plans to, some day, “at a time to be determined.” But the plane that ferries him and the other camp workers between the Slope and civilization crashes in the tundra, leaving Ottway alone with a handful of terrified survivors to face a punishing landscape, wolves who see them as an invading pack, and, ultimately, the prospect of a death he didn’t choose in its most insistent, inexorable form. As he battles to save the lives of those with him, he looks into the darkness of an unforgiving nature and must weigh the abysses in himself and the wrongs he carries against what he leaves behind, and choose whether his own life is worth saving, or not
So I decided to get the short story “The Grey” to read to see if it was better than the movie. It is only 90 some pages long so didn’t take that long to read – started it around 4:30 am and finished it a few minutes ago. I had a several hour break in there too.
OK, the story is well done – I can see the landscape, feel the desperation of the men, and hear the howling wind as it freezes me through. The characters are far more real and the parts of the movie that I thought were unrealistic aren’t in the book at all. Wolves don’t really act the way they did in either the book or the movie – but it was way more believable in the book because it wasn’t about the den or nest. It was about the men being a threat to the wolves because they tried to keep the wolves from eating the dead. The men drew first blood and the wolves reacted as if threatened.
I did like the book – the hopelessness the men feel at every turn sinks into your consciousness until you feel it right along with them. When they wonder why they don’t just lay down and die, you feel it too. When they find it hard to believe that they can still go on, you find it hard to believe too. It shows what resolve the human spirit can have to live…or to die.
I give the short story an A for the detailed scenery, the sense of loss you get when one of the men (and even one of the wolves) dies and the strength of the characters. It was the right length too – much more would have become too drawn out and harder to believe.
ADDITIONAL NOTE: I wanted to mention but don’t want to give anything away – but the main character’s inner turmoil is nothing like the movie either. He has something horrific in his past which makes him feel worthless and that his family (who are alive) is better off without him. Also, there is no indecision at the end on whether he lived or died – it is quite clear on that point from the beginning.