Cafe Doom

General Discussions => Book Reviews => Topic started by: Geoff_N on October 20, 2010, 05:52:01 PM

Title: Not horror but a great read
Post by: Geoff_N on October 20, 2010, 05:52:01 PM
Climbers by M. John Harrison
Reviewed by Geoff Nelder
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Phoenix; New Ed edition (4 Nov 2004)
ISBN-13: 978-0753819555

Jon Courtenay Grimwood told a SF writing group at the Winchester Writing Conference that they should keep their reading up to speed by reading M. John Harrison’s SF novel, Light. I did and enjoyed its flickering in and out of Quantum Mechanics to tell an interesting story without losing readers. So, when I found a copy of Climbers at a bookstall at NewCon5 I puzzled because it didn’t resonate as a science fiction. Nevertheless, I have dabbled at climbing – even got a Mountain Leader Training cert somewhere in the attic – so bought the book. I couldn’t put it down – it is not science fiction though a little fantasy creeps in with a mention of the mythical runaway children nakedly inhabiting Kinderscout and other uplands in the North of England. The writing style is exquisite, full of the sensory Show (colour, aromas, touch, taste, sound) that I urge new writers even when many best sellers don’t.
I can’t resist this quote: Let’s have some tea,’ said Pauline. ‘I can easily make some!’ she added as if this ability had suddenly surprised and delighted her.
As the title suggests, Mike takes us through his experiences as a rock climber. It feels like an autobiography, but is described as a novel. What makes this book personal is Mike’s distain for teachers (I was one), especially it seems of Geography (me), and is based in Yorkshire (I lived in Sheffield and Huddersfield). The distain is because of a pure love of Mike for his climbing with other friends, on whose lives their hobby impacts. It is beautifully written and I forgive his nose-downing. I admit to a  bit of abseiling and climbing decades ago and still rock scramble but I identify with his tactile love of the geology, flora and fauna, which are superbly portrayed even in cold rain.
Mike’s descriptions of people are amazingly observant. Educational psychologists tell us that teenage boys are clumsy because their heads can’t keep up with their body growth. Mike describes them as: ...big vague boys with a hit-and-miss way of walking... Brilliant.
If you relish good writing and have teetered on the edge of a limestone or sandstone edge, better still, traversed it, then this is must reading.

Title: Re: Not horror but a great read
Post by: LeeThompson on October 20, 2010, 10:04:01 PM
Thanks Geoff! Sounds like great to me!  :cheers:

Title: Re: Not horror but a great read
Post by: delph_ambi on October 21, 2010, 03:36:48 AM
Sounds my kind of book.

delph_ambi, ex-rock scrambler.

Title: Re: Not horror but a great read
Post by: Geoff_N on October 21, 2010, 04:23:52 AM
Funny thing is that using our Cafe Doom crit template, Climbers would score poorly though max for Voice and characters. There's no proper story arc - unless you count a kind of hint at a return to beginning at the end - tense tends to be rather odd in places, and all that but it won the Boardman Tasker Prize and is up there on my exultant reads that made me glow, along with AL Kennedy, Tibor Fischer, and China Mieville.

Title: Re: Not horror but a great read
Post by: Rev. Austin on October 21, 2010, 04:35:33 AM
I'm not sure if this would float my boat, but you have made it sound intriguing, Geoff.

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