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Ballistics Paperback – 1 Aug 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (1 Aug. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140883376X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408833766
  • Product Dimensions: 21.5 x 3.8 x 13.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 693,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

A lean, powerful book about quiet, emotional people. It animates a world that any smalltown North American could identify in a moment, yet it transcends this environment to evoke something universal: how people live through loss, and how they talk about what matters, or don't (Guardian)

Unlike the standard sub-Carver sentences that characterise most of the genre, Wilson's prose is rich and nuanced, and Archer is a sophisticated portrait of a man intelligent beyond his education (Sunday Telegraph)

The plot twists and turns, but it's Wilson's voice that is outstanding, both raw and erudite (Vogue, Best Beach Reads)

The flinty coming-of-age story Ballistics, a follow-up to his story collection, Once You Break a Knuckle ... Wilson employs a central metaphor that leads a double life, "ballistics" referring both to causation in a family's history and to the gunshots that played a casual role ... A prose style that starts off as bracing, even breathtaking - Wilson can make a simile and a verb out of pretty much anything ... Description is the gift he is keenest to cultivate - rightly (New Statesman)

Forest fires are raging, to match the fiery passions of a hard-nosed, hard-boiled, basically hard cast. The spark for this slow-burning but eventually dramatic story is the heart attack suffered by old Cecil West ... It's a tale that needs a powerful amount of untangling, and it's told with a resistibly macho monotone but with so many betrayals and so much understated melodrama, it certainly packs a manly punch (Daily Mail)

Flinty, hard-edged prose ... Wilson can create a wonderfully tense scene, and his powers of description are often impressive. As Alan and Archer head into the hills to find Jack, they race against forest fires spreading across the valleys, and that constant burning presence works as a taut, nervy backdrop for the revelations to come ... There's no doubt that Wilson can write (Independent on Sunday)

Wilson's debut novel ... Provides all the macho behaviour expected of its title - shooting, hunting and grunting abound - but this is softened by the philosophising of Alan and Archer (Sunday Times)

The mountains dwarfing the township are threatened by wildfires, and Wilson uses this astutely to heighten the novel's background tension ... Archer's flashbacks bring together the potent moments that nudge the reader into the heart of Alan's journey ... Wilson handles the two perspectives ... Providing the reader with an at times enraptured sense of the terrible messiness of a world in which men are stunted emotional mutes, and the women suffer, their endurance taken for granted ... A male-only adventure playground. Wilson evokes it in telling detail ... As Alan's voice fades away and the dulcet, lyrical, often brilliant philosophising prevalent in his and Archer's musings attains the speed of a disappearing narrative bullet, you sense it heading straight for another fist-clenched tale, its bruised lips sealed (Scotsman)

Well-written, confident, and often compelling ... Engaging. His descriptive style is vivid and effective, albeit tinted with a romanticised view of small-town America, and while the novel may not go out with a bang, fittingly, this book is about the journey *** (The List)

Ballistics promises to bring to the longer form the brilliance [Wilson] showed in his superb short story collection Once You Break A Knuckle (John Burnside, Scotland on Sunday)

A hot shot of a novel ... Panoramic drama and epic scope (Tatler)

Stunning debut ... For such an outwardly macho book, it's full of tenderness and subtlety, marking the arrival of a sublime writer (Wiltshire Society)

Review

"Wilson's world is dangerous and unpredictable, and his writing has a terrific, understated force." (The Times)

"Wilson attains such effortless pathos and insight [and] leaves an unforgettable mark in his sublimely judged depiction of boys and men." (The Sunday Times)

"[The] much-lauded Canadian became the youngest ever winner of the BBC National Short Story competition in 2011 ... Picked up ecstatic reviews last year and expectations are high for Ballistics." (Metro)

"D W Wilson takes his place with other North American writers such as David Vann and Daniel Woodrell in eking out savage grace and empathy through muscular prose and the desperate circumstances of his characters." (The Sunday Herald Sun)

"Wilson's voice is distinctive, confident and completely enthralling." (Geoff Dyer) --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. Dean on 28 July 2013
Format: Paperback
Having read Wilson's story collection 'Once You Break A Knuckle' last year, it's fair to say 'Ballistics' was one of my most eagerly anticipated titles of 2013. So it's with some disappointment that I'm only giving it three stars. After finishing his first book I wanted to go back to Invermere and the Kootenay Valley for more and that is certainly what 'Ballistics' delivers - again it's very masculine, all about sons and fathers (and grandfathers), who wear ball caps and never a "collared shirt", shoot guns and drive trucks and know their way around a toolbox, and again it has a sentimental side to it too (these men love their dogs). Wilson's world (and his writing) is quite stylized, but with 'Ballistics' I felt like he'd gone too far - where the short stories still felt real, this feels almost like a parody, or certainly it is parody-able. And despite some great passages, Alan West never comes to life in the way Will Crease did in 'Once You Break a Knuckle' (Crease gets a brief mention in 'Ballistics' as a childhood friend of Alan). The other problem I had with 'Ballistics' is that it is told in two voices (Alan, and his grandfather Archer) and yet they sound too similar, just as Archer sounds almost identical to Alan's other grandfather, Cecil. And Alan never comes across as being in his late twenties - a few times he gets called 'kid' and he does sometimes read as a teenager rather than an adult.
I did like the book though - there's a good story at the heart of it - and I'd still pick up whatever else Wilson writes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 8 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
`We are, if nothing else, jealous and suspicious men'

This is a very rugged and masculine book set in a small-town Canadian community where men bond and compete and fight over women while hunting, shooting and fishing. It's an enjoyable read with a kind of elemental, almost mythic, feel to it but it does tip over into the slightly over-wrought at times. Everyone here has been shot, burned, knifed, and carries the scars both internally and externally. Women have a presence in the story but principally as conduits through which men can compete and fight each other, or for whom they can take revenge and enact retribution.

At its heart are the three generations of the West family, Cecil, Jack and Alan: Cecil hasn't seen his son Jack for almost 30 years, and sends Alan, his grandson, on a quest to find him. Led to Archer Cole, whose own story is intimately bound up with that of the Wests, Alan sets out to track down his father - and his own family history.

This is nicely written with a spare feel to it though it occasionally over-stretches itself into incoherency: `Colton's mouth drew in and sucked air from the meniscus of his coffee' - eh?, and someone's head `pendulumed' across his chest, rather than merely swing, while elsewhere a woman's body is described with its `moghuls of ribs'. It also troubled me a little that Archer's and Alan's narratives are written with the same voice - even though one is a 70-something Vietnam veteran while the other is a 27 year old PhD student writing a Philosophy thesis - I would expect them to sound different and here they don't.

So this has some flaws in technique but makes up for them in emotional resonance and story-telling. Full of men who befriend, betray and only sometimes forgive each other, this is an engrossing if hyper-masculine read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Penny Waugh on 28 July 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Reared by his grandfather, Alan West has returned home, after a break up with his girlfriend, to the Kootenays in British Columbia. Fires are raging in the Canadian Rockies and already difficult terrain has been made virtually impassible. Cecil West, Gramps, suffers a heart attack and, believing himself to be dying, begs Alan to find his estranged son, Alan's father, to make peace.
The story of this book is the story of the dangerous trek to find Jack West and of the men, an old dog, and more peripherally the women, who help or hinder the search.
I found the characters fascinating. All are deeply flawed, from the old men: Archer, the American Vietnam deserter with much weighing on his mind and Cedric the basically decent but unforgiving patriarch, to the sad state of runaway Jack and the callowness mixed with physical courage of Alan. The woman of the book have less depth. Linnea, Archer's daughter and Alan's mother, runs away soon after the baby is born and Nora is a convenient mistress to two of the men, but women are not the prime movers in this book, coming somewhere below the old, three-legged mastiff, Puck, who is definitely a character in his own right.
I can't say the lack of feminine input worried me in the least. They were there and they stood their corner, but I became totally immersed in the men's stories, their loyalties and betrayals, fights and reconciliations. There is much violence and a great deal about guns but that seemed only right and though the ending was muted it felt satisfactory to me.
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