Book Review of The Pioneers & Fast in the Ice
By Joshua Horn — July 10, 2009
The Pioneers contains two of Ballantyne's shorter stories. The first is The Pioneers. It is the tale of Reuben Guff and his son Lawrence as they travel on voyages of discovery in the northern wilderness of Canada in the 1780s. They first go to explore the wilderness with their faithful Indian friend Swiftarrow. Their adventure is cut shore when the discover a Indian settlement which was destroyed by smallpox. In 1784 they set off again with the 'King of Pioneers' Alexander Mackenzie, one of the great explorers of Canada. They travel up a great river to discover whether it leads to the Pacific Ocean. They sail along the river in canoes amidst many dangers from ice, the natives and their own men, and they finally discover that the river leads to the Arctic Ocean. Several years later they go on an even more hazardous journey on the Peace River through the Rocky Mountains. They courageously ascend the river braving many dangers and hardships. This story does not contain as much dialog as some of Ballantyne's others, but it is still interesting as it tells the real life adventures in this oft-forgotten chapter of history.
The second story in this book is called, Fast in the Ice. It tells of a voyage of discovery to search for the North Pole. The commander of the Hope is Captain Harvey, and his crew includes his nephew Tom Gregory, Davy Butts, Sam Baker, and many other wonderful characters. When they arrive in the Arctic regions they have many adventures and Ballantyne tells how God protected them through their dangers. Their ship gets stuck fast in the ice during the winter, and they have to live through temperatures at times 60° below zero! They meet with Eskimos, hunt bears and walruses and fight hunger. Finally after many dangerous times the ship comes free in the summer, but the next day it is crushed in the ice and sinks, leaving the men stranded in the Arctic. Ballantyne tells much interesting information about the 'floes' and icebergs, the lives of the Eskimos and how they hunt the wild animals. This story was very interesting, and I would definitely recommend it.
— Joshua Horn