Make no mistake: The Great Book of BASE is about crazy people doing crazy shit, like Dean Potter freebase climbing on the Eiger. But here's the greatest tribute I can pay this book: after reading it, somehow it seems less crazy, perhaps even – dare I say it? – something I might actually do. Not now, but some day. Probably not this year. Maybe you better ask me again when I sober up.
BASE jumpers parachute off objects: buildings, antennae, spans, and Earth are the source of the acronym. Now I've jumped out of perfectly good aircraft for Uncle Sam, and as a climber, I've often stood atop a route and thought, "Damn, if I had a parachute I could fly back to the car." This thought is balanced by a single cold, hard fact: BASE jumping is dangerous, a fact the book repeats often, as in:
"BASE jumping is dangerous. You probably shouldn't do it. Base jumping is probably even more dangerous than you think it is. At a site in Northern Europe where the BASE environment is heavily regulated and the number of jumps made each year is recorded, approximately 1 in every 3000 jumps ends in fatality. If the odds of winning the lottery were that good, everyone in the world would play."
Fair enough. Yet in 270 pages the author's enthusiasm is contagious, and he is nothing if not comprehensive in covering his topic. Safety, ethics, equipment, weather, more safety, logistics, backstories, yet even more safety, legalities, slider up, slider down, it's all here. The "no shit, there I was" stories and the eye-poppingly wonderful photography are guaranteed to give you frequent sweaty palm syndrome. The Great Book of BASE is simply an awesomely complete treatment of a very exotic subject. It will likely remain the definitive word on the sport for a long time.