“The Hike just works. It’s like early, good Chuck Palahniuk. . . . Magary underhands a twist in at the end that hits you like a sharp jab at the bell. . . . It’s just that good.” —NPR.org
“A page-turner. . . . Inventive, funny. . . . Quietly profound and touching.”—BoingBoing
From the author of The Postmortal, a fantasy saga unlike any you’ve read before, weaving elements of folk tales and video games 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 the 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.
In this peculiar literary odyssey, Magary reexamines some of the same themes he covered in The Postmortal while throwing in some fascinating dream imagery, assorted video game tropes, and a story structure that's deliberately predictable (with nods to many other tales of wandering through strange lands before returning home) but still surprising. A man named Ben wanders from a hotel for a hike, gets attacked by a bizarre man wearing the skinned head of a rottweiler, and soon gets lost in the woods. As he wanders, he slips into dreams where he relives missed opportunities from his life. In his waking hours he meets various fantastical creatures, including a talking crab and a gorgeous, polite, human-eating giant. Magary throws plenty of humor into the tale the giant has a "death matrix" that measures how painful or slow Ben's death at her hands will be but keeps the focus on Ben's efforts to get home to his family and confront his own demons. Magary smartly doesn't answer every question Ben's journey raises, and the story is more satisfying as a result. The sense of disjointedness doesn't always feel intentional, and the journey is occasionally uneven, but it's always fascinating and worthwhile.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I’d never heard anything about this book or the author, just stumbled across it while I was looking for something to read on a trip. It was a great story and an easy read, I’ll definitely be recommending it to friends.
Review: 4.5 / 5
KEEP LITERATURE WEIRD.
“One little taste of the hopelessness and he knew that more was on the way. It was unstoppable. In human form, it would have been twice Fermona’s size and just as charming. He was hopeless to resist it and, at times, he didn’t even try. It was seductive, the way it urged you to stop caring. It could overpower him so easily, which of course was one more thing to be depressed about.”
— Drew Magary
So, you might have just read that synopsis and reread it because you had no idea what it was talking about the first time. I think that the synopsis gives too much away. All the you should know about this book is as follows: a man goes on a hike in the woods behind his hotel, as the hike prolongs, the stranger things get. This book is what I can compare to one big acid trip (I haven't tried it or been around it, I am just basing this claim on what I know about the drug) in the best way possible. Drew Magary is an author that I had never heard of or read before picking this book up (although while in the middle of reading this novel I decided to pick up his short story, The Rover), but now that I am familiar with this amazing work of science fiction he has created I will surely look more into the novels he has written and has coming down the pipeline. I just want to talk about two things because otherwise I will have to include spoilers which I don't want to do, so I want to discuss a big strength and a big weakness: Ben's character development as the story goes on and the epicness (not a word, oh well) of this journey he finds himself on.
“‘You’re a man of your word, no? You take my tooth, and then I take yours.’
’But mine’s not gold.’
’Show me you are a man of sacrifice. Show me how far you will go to prove yourself to God.’”
— Drew Magary
Ben is the main character of this novel, so I would like to say that he is the most important character in the novel due to the reader having to follow him around the whole time. Ben develops as a character in so many ways due to the timeline of the story and the events that he has to endure. I think that I should mention this now so that I can talk about it here and in the next section, but the hike Ben is on takes a lot longer than a normal one, a lot longer. So during this time that he spends on the hike there needed to be some type of character development and I am so glad that the audience sees the emotions he is gaining as the trip goes on. There is one scene with a vision of his son that comes to mind and him having to leave that behind. The idea of his son is brought up again a bit later in the novel, but instead of a vision, this time a rock. The loneliness inside Ben is seeping out from the pages making the reader think about the loss of their own loved ones and what they would do to have the feeling of connection and closeness again. Ben is a strong character that has an interesting view on the world (as it is visualized through his journey). I am so happy that I got to experience what this character endured (well, not all of it, but that is coming up in the next section). The journey really made me feel for the character and all that he was living for and also made me realize that maybe having everything isn't what you want.
“‘This future you live in... would I like it?’
’Honestly, it’s probably not that different from the world you know. Some people are happy. Some people are angry. There are wars. I don’t know if time makes much of a difference. The world changes, but people act the way people always do.’”
— Drew Magary
I just want to explain the only thing I didn't like about the book. I now see this as a minimal problem, but when I was reading the book I sort of felt like I was being cheated. There are sections in the book that say how much time has passed, examples being: "four years," "two weeks," ect. I understand that the author had to do this to move the story along, but I think it would have been awesome to prolong the story with more of the journey instead of just skipping whole sections. I know that some of the sections would have been really boring to read (aka the castle), but I really think there could have been so much more added to the story forcing the reader to struggle along with Ben in the magical wasteland. That may just be me, but when I finished the novel I thought that the ending more than made up for that little problem.
I seriously do recommend this book for its off-the-wall, insane, schizophrenic narrative. It reminds me of Andrew Smith's writing, just in adult form.
Not What Expected
The book started out very intriguing, but quickly took a different route. A fantasy tale of mystical characters & situations. Not really my style, found it hard to finish. To each their own.