Book Review – Climbers by M. John Harrison
But it is gained at a price This dark, witty and poetic novel is full of the rugged beauty of nature, of the human drive to test oneself against extremes, and of the elation such escape can bring. Dead as a Doornail - Charlaine Harris. The Dream Archipelago - Christopher Priest.
Climbers: A Novel M. Kirkdale Bookshop Opens at Call Shop. Simon Caldwell 15 Mar In reply to Simon Caldwell: A bit of an ordinary red I thought, probably more interesting for non climbers?
- Climbing stories, climbing fictions.
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In reply to kevin stephens: Agreed: definitely something you'd read for non-climbing content. As a commentary on climbing, it's embarrassing, but as a story for non-climbers it might be OK. Simon Caldwell 16 Mar Anonymous 16 Mar In reply to Simon Caldwell: I suppose I had in mind mainly the celebrated passage about teachers with beards coming up from the Midlands and leading VSs. A silly caricature which might have been OK in the mouth or mind of a character but IIRC is presented as information by the story teller.
Some of the descriptions of the physical and mental act of climbing itself are fairly good, to be fair. To me that seems exactly the sort of thing you might do and for that very reason not that interesting, whereas I have an idea that if I were a non-climber I might find it illuminating. There may not be very many of those about.
Richard J 16 Mar In reply to Richard J: OK, you might be right about this passage.
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I didn't so much say I found the characters unconvincing, just specifically the fact that they never really seem to derive any release or even pleasure from climbing. To be fair, it's a while since I read it.
And it's also true that middle-class London Volvo-and-hut climbing is very different from what MJH is depicting. It lacks the cleanliness of winter mountaineering, or the epic scale of big-range expeditions.
Save for that fearful joy, little in Climbers signifies in the way it should. Seemingly crucial events flit past in a few sentences, barely registered. Even as Mike recalls someone's desperate accident, his climber's mind is still grading the climb, and implicitly disdaining the boy for failing on it.
Climbers is usually seen as an outlier in Harrison's oeuvre — a rare real-world expedition — but its kinships with his other work, especially his dystopian The Committed Men , or the dazzling Kefahuchi Tract trilogy of Light , Nova Swing and Empty Space , are unmistakable. But then to Harrison, all life is alien: the inhabitants of a motorway service station near Penrith or an inner-city Sheffield cafe are as compellingly bizarre as anywhere in The Halo or Radio Bay. The hailstones that fall like "bone dice" on the Yorkshire crags will later return as The Shrander's stolen goods in Light.
Even the free indirect style in which Climbers is told, slipping restlessly from consciousness to consciousness, anticipates the technology that permits Light 's pilot Seria Mau to inhabit her "K-ship" as a dispersed extension of her own mind. Rock-climbing is, at its exhilarating best, a free indirect form of motion, in which the climber becomes — as Mike puts it — "the idea or intuition that sat cleverly at the centre of [the climb], directing it".
The climber achieves a faultless fluency in which instinct absorbs the role of conscious choice, holds leap to hand, and static rock and shifting body appear to flow together. Harrison seems to write his novels in some chronic version of this state.
I have read nearly pages of his work, and cannot recall a single mis-step or over-reach — only a sustained and mobile grace. Topics Science fiction books Rereading. Fiction Robert Macfarlane features. Reuse this content.
Finger flexors fatigue in trained rock climbers and untrained sedentary subjects.
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