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4.4 out of 5 stars17
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 8 March 2009
As another person who watched the classic 1970 movie starring Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight and subsequently bought this novel, I was stunned by how good the source novel actually is. Dickey writes fairly economically but with a power and an intensity that resonates long after the book has been put down. As for the notorious rape scene, Dickey handles it sensitively and without indulging in gratuitous description; I was left uncomfortable but not as nauseous as the film version made me.
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When four "typical" suburban businessmen decide to canoe down a river in the wilderness of northern Georgia, they are unprepared for any of the disasters which will await them. Inexperienced as canoeists, overloaded with beer and supplies, and ignorant of both the river and the mountains, they all have romantic visions of meeting some self-imposed test of manhood, of shooting a deer with bow and arrow and feeding themselves, of becoming one with the pristine environment, and of emerging from the experience "fulfilled" as men. Instead, they discover hostile country men, whom they refer to as "rednecks," who prove to be even more treacherous than the sheer faces of the cliffs along the river, the river's rocks and currents, and the dense, almost impenetrable, woods.

Poet James Dickey combines his ability to create vibrant descriptions of the natural world with his equally sensitive awareness of the need for city people to get closer to their roots. While sympathetic and understanding toward these suburbanites and their "mission," he is also careful to show their ignorance and their casual arrogance, both toward the natural elements and toward the mountain dwellers for whom these mountains and rivers represent the whole world. As the journey on the river begins, Dickey's romantic descriptions parallel the buoyant spirits of the canoeists, and as disasters begin to strike, his descriptions become darker, reflecting ominous events ahead.

When two mountain dwellers attack the four suburbanites in scenes which are by now infamous from the film, Dickey's minute descriptions of the most devastating aspects of these events add power to the story--one cannot simply close one's eyes to the worst of the horrors which destroy one canoeist's innocence forever. As main character/narrator Ed Gentry recreates this and succeeding events, the fact that he is a very "ordinary" man, who also reflects the responses of his readers, creates an additional bond of sympathy between the reader and the characters.

The practical and ethical dilemmas the men face at the end of the novel put the conflict between the "civilized" life of the city and the "natural" life of the wild into new perspective, reflecting the long-term effects of this test of "manhood." All the men have been permanently scarred, and none will ever again see the world innocently. Appealing for its action, the intensity of its themes, the reality of its descriptions of nature, and the questions raised by its ending, Dickey's novel has become a standard of the man-against-nature genre. Mary Whipple
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VINE VOICEon 20 January 2013
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.
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on 14 February 2007
As adventure books go you won't get much better than this one. I'd rate it right along side Buchan's "Thirty Nine Steps", Household's "Rogue Male", Haggard's "King Solomon's Mines". It must surely become a classic.

It is a more complex work than the others cited above in that Dickey creates truly believable characters with convincing motives for the way they act.

Dickey has the ability to write extremely visually so that you are drawn deeply into the aching suspense of the action.

It's a an action novel with a twist in that the real tough guy in the end misses out on the tough guy action because of a broken leg and it's left to one of the more unlikely group members to risk everything in a bid to get them all off the river and safely home.

It's not a particularly macho novel- Dickey breathes too much life into his characters to be that insensitive.

I'd recommend this to everybody and anybody. If you've seen the film and found that gripping you're in for even more suspense and entertainment as you read.

By the way, if you have seen the film you'll have seen James Dickey himself because he plays the part of the sheriff.
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on 17 June 2012
This is a very poetic novel with wonderful descriptions of nature. I believe the author came from this isolated region in the deep south...I found this novel to be as enjoyable as the movie and was surprised to see that the film adaptation was almost gospel/verbatim the book, right down to most of the dialogue and interactions in each scene.
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on 17 October 2009
I was lucky enough to read this before the film was made. The latter was one dimensional by comparison with the book and, although James Dickey was involved, this is arguably one film that shouldn't have been made. Any reader is in for a treat.
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on 24 July 2013
bought this book to research how James Dickey managed to make the story so compelling. As an author I am constantly trying to learn from the masters of my genre. I loved the film, even though it was so cruel and shocking, and the book was just as good.
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on 27 April 2013
The film lived up to everything I remembered of it. The particular item I enjoyed was the making of deliverance where the cast and the director reminisced about the time making the film sometimes it was more intriguing than the picture itself!
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on 11 January 2010
This novel begins strangely and rather flatly, with the lead character (Ed Gentry) spending a day in the office as an Art Director. Although this is a clever slice of suburban calm before the coming storm, I had trouble believing that Ed Gentry could ever be an advertising creative. His career choice didn't seem to gel with his character, it felt like someone else's story poking through - so I Googled "James Dickey" and, sure enough, the author spent several years in an ad agency before he wrote Deliverance. This doesn't wreck the novel, by any means: the stark comparison of sedentary office life with survival in the wild works pretty well... it's just the shoehorned nature of Ed's profession that bugged me. It didn't seem to fit or ring true. He would have worked better for me as a salesman or a number cruncher... not as a middle-aged graphic designer working on a campaign for "Kitt'n Britches" underwear.

In fact, Ed's character is my only complaint about this book. His companions Drew, Bobby and Lewis are well-rounded and well-conceived. So are all of the local yokels and the menacing Aintry police force. The story itself is a great adventure yarn and really keeps you on the edge of your seat, even if you've seen the excellent 1972 movie and know what's coming next. It's a story I could almost believe was real, unfolding horribly before my eyes - if it weren't for certain aspects of Ed Gentry, forcing me to suspend my disbelief.

Take, for instance, his sudden transformation into Alpha Male. Ed's laborious climb up a rock face and subsequent assassination of a hillbilly felt like wild fantasy, to me. Perhaps his exhilaration at his own cunning and skill was meant to be interpreted as a primal adrenaline rush, but it struck me as a deep current of arrogance coming directly from the author... James Dickey imagining himself in such a survival situation and how he would pull through with true grit to save the day. Ed's character under pressure is actually quite irritating - always knowing the right thing to do or say - and Dickey's story rewards this hubris when Ed, Bobby and Lewis get away with their crimes scot-free.

Now that I've read the book, I can see that Ed's character was toned down for the movie. On-screen, his transformation is much more subtle and led almost entirely by abject fear: he doesn't turn into a self-righteous Superman when he steps up to lead the pack. Dickey wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation, so he clearly took the choice to patch up this flaw for the big screen... and I think Deliverance the movie hits perfect pitch as a result.
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on 4 August 2015
The author just goes on and on and on about the most boring trivia; all excitement and tension is lost. Watch the film by all means (it's great) but avoid the book unless you are an insomniac.
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