Friday, September 23, 2016

The Hike by Drew Magary

27833803This review was written by: B
Received: Publisher (Viking)
Publication Date of Book: August 2, 2016
Pages: 288 (Hardcover Edition)
Stars: 4.5/5

Official Summary:
From the author of Postmortal, a fantasy saga unlike any you've read before, weaving elements of folk lore and video game into a riveting, unforgettable adventure of what a man will endure to return to his family.

When Ben, a suburban family man, takes a business trip to rural Pennsylvania, he decides to spend the afternoon before his dinner meeting on a short hike.  Once he sets out into the woods behind his hotel, he quickly comes to realize that the path he has chosen cannot be given up easily.  With no choice but to move forward, Ben finds himself falling deeper and deeper into a world of man-eating giants, bizarre demons, and colossal insects.

On a quest of epic, life-or-death proportions, Ben finds help comes in some of the most unexpected forms, including a profane crustacean and a variety of magical objects, tools, and potions.  Desperate to return to his family, Ben is determined to track down the "Producer," the creator of the world in which he is being held hostage and the only one who can free him from the path.

At once bitingly funny and emotionally absorbing, Magary's novel is a remarkably unique addition to the contemporary fantasy genre, one that draws as easily from a world of classic folk tales as it does from video games.  In The Hike, Magary takes readers on a daring odyssey away from our day-to-day grind and transports them into an enthralling world propelled by heart, imagination, and survival.

My Thoughts:
You can adjust to anything if you're willing to live on.
~Crab, The Hike

When Magary was asked to describe The Hike in one sentence, he replied: A man goes on a hike and gets very, very, very, very, very, very, very lost.  From the moment I read that, I knew I would inevitably fall in love with this quirky, little stand alone that I was lucky enough to have land in my lap. 

Sitting here now, I realize that there's no possible way to devour this novel and then try to describe it to someone else because it's that insane!  If you try to elaborate on the specifics of the plot even slightly (which I tried to do for my mother), you might get this reaction: 

or this:

or even this:


So, you're basically alone in your lunacy while others watch on.  It's not a pretty sight....observe:

The Hike is literary madness that some might describe as a combination of The Odyssey, Alice in Wonderland, and The Phantom Tollbooth, neatly wrapped into something that's so unique it stands incredibly on its own even while it expresses elements that feel as if they parallel, or at the very least reminisce in, the same vibe as other classic stories.  Consequently, I frequently felt a touch of both the familiar and the spectacular at the same time when reading The Hike, which brought about a daringly amazing experience unlike any other!  Riddled with an abnormally massive insect that immensely grossed me out, a cannibal giantess who is surprisingly cordial, an irritable crab with a sarcasm problem (which I loved!), an old woman who keeps showing up at the oddest of moments, insane murderers with skinned rottweiler faces for masks, and a path that will not hesitate to end your life if you step off of it, this is an impossible novel to predict.  In fact, this book is the definition of sporadic!  Now, that might sound off-putting to some readers, but honestly, that is one of the highest of praises that can be bestowed upon a novel, at least in my opinion.  The Hike didn't follow a set, hackneyed formula like most other publications that are displayed on today's shelves.  Oh no, this one is much more fickle!  We do not pursue the well-worn lines that make up the path through the consistently consulted map labeled Adult Contemporary Fantasy because the map was torn apart and burned by Drew Magary!  Magary is a brilliant explorer of new territory.  I don't even think that I would be able to fit this book properly into a genre if my life depended on it despite the fact that it is marked under a certain one.  There was no rhyme or reason as to what was going to pop up next, and the constant twists and turns kept me awake well after I was supposed to turn off the lights.

The randomness of it all was more than a little addicting to say the least!  (However, while the insanity of it all may be a turn-off for some readers, I assure you that it all had a meaning that is presented at the end.)  Despite all of the craziness, though, this book still retained a structure that drew the plot forward, and the craziness was fascinatingly a way of structure in itself. 

What I loved most about Ben, the main protagonist, was his devotion to his family.  It was what made the book relatable and that much more enriching.  It also gave me a reason to want Ben to defeat whatever the heck was keeping him on the path.  Heartbreaking doesn't even begin to describe how it felt to see a man stripped of everything he loved, forcing him to either give up and dive into despair or keep marching on for one purpose and one purpose only: to get back to his family.  I mean, can you think of anything more touching?  At first, it didn't seem like such a big deal, but the further the story progressed, the more I realized how horrible it must have been to be put in his position.  (I'm a sensitive individual.)  At first, he still had his phone with pictures of his wife and children on it, so it wasn't too terrible.  I was able to keep control of myself...for the most part.

Eventually, the phone died, and all he was left with was one lone image and his fading memories of them.

And then . . . all he had was a faint recollection . . . and I lost it.

Again, I'm a very sensitive person, so maybe this meant more to me than it might to others.  (Plus, I've recently found a deep love for gifs and had to put these in here!)

I also have to mention how unbelievably stunning The Hike's ending was!  I don't think that I've ever seen a conclusion quite as spectacular as this one, and I can't stress that enough.  I was in plain shock at Magary's sheer talent.  Endings are essential to my rating process, and I have to admit that most books that I read either leave me with a distasteful, lackluster feeling or an unsavory sense that everything was wrapped up too quickly.  As a result, their ratings go inevitably down.  This conclusion, though, deserves five stars all on its own!

YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK!  The Hike is divided into three parts, each one leaving you in even more awe and wonderment than the one before it.  Each chapter is an entity of its own.  Yes, this is a novel that is absurdly kooky at points, but if you're willing to let yourself be open-minded to this experience, I feel fairly confident that you're not going to be disappointed.  It will take you high, and it will take you low, leaving you surprised (and possibly hysterical!) at each new revelation that hits you smack dab in the face.  If you're looking for an inventive, ingenious book or just something to get you out of a reading slump, this is undoubtedly the book for you!  While I keep trying to find the words to explain just how marvelous The Hike is, it's just impossible.  You have to experience this one for yourself!       

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