This is a frightening book. In particular, the theme of an alien country within a country. The narrator can spot 'to the block', precisely where 'suburbia ended and red-neck South began'. Yet within an ordinary afternoon's car ride, the protagonists enter a country frighteningly different and unsafe.
It is unsafe from both the moral outlook of it's inhabitants and from the power of Nature. Ed and his friends live in a country where all decisions are made by white middle class men and they seek 'the promise of other things'. In this other country, the game is played by different rules and they are not the masters.
Given the publication date, it is tempting to draw analogies with the Vietnam War. One wonders about the novel's later influence: 'The Deer Hunter' anyone? Or 'Never get out the boat!' in Apocalypse Now?
I found the ending oddly ambivalent and sensed, rightly or wrongly, that Mr Dickey was unsure of how to end it.