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Climbers: A Novel Paperback – 4 Nov 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New Ed edition (4 Nov. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753819554
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753819555
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.3 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,225,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

M. John Harrison has abjured the high-pitched melodramatics of TOUCHING THE VOID for a microscopically observed novel about a group of climbers... descriptions of the various climbs are painstaking and suspenseful, and Harrison has a sharp ear for dialogue. But most impressive is his acute sense of place... the raw beauty of the Pennines. (Sinclair McKay The Daily Telegraph)

'Stunning.... Harrison makes an intensely poetic and evocative brew of the interstices between sport, passion and obsession. Moments of exquisite surreality rub against others in which you can smell the soil and stone'. (The Times)

Book Description

The only novel ever to win the Boardman Tasker Prize: 'Sheer brilliance' - Iain M. Banks

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I have been an enthusiast of M John Harrison since I read the incredible 'In Viriconium'. This book captures the single mindedness obsession and isolationism that occurs when you live for a pastime. It is beautifully written. A window into someone else's life. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
This is a remarkable novel, ostensibly about climbing, but as much about masculinity, failure, the desperation of life in Britain in the 1980s, and finding meaning for one's life. Harrison is sometimes overlooked because he's thought of as a "science fiction" writer. Set aside the snobbery in that judgement and the stupidity of such classifications. He is a powerful and exact writer who is hugely admired by other writers (and is in his turn a fine critic who regularly reviews contemporary fiction in the Times Literary Supplement). His naturalism in this novel is no less metaphorical than the more apparently fantastic writing in his Viriconium novels or in the Kefahuchi tract trilogy (Light, Nova Swings, Empty Space). In a world with any justice, he'd be spoken of in the same breath as AS Byatt, Martin Amis or Julian Barnes as a master of modern British fiction. This new edition has a preface by Robert MacFarlane, a man who knows his literary history and his mountains, and who thinks very highly of the book. If you've never read Harrison before, this is a good place to start; if you have, you already know how good he is, so read this one too!
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Format: Paperback
Mike is a failure in his "real" life; fleeing a loveless marriage he returns to his ancestral North and falls in again with a clique of gritstone climbers; the novel essentially follows a series of tangled, fragmented lives through a year of climbing, contrasting the precision and determination required to master increasingly challenging problems on rock with disorganised, aimless lives. This is a book written by a climber; Harrison has been active in the sport for many years. The descriptions of climbing are powerful and seem authentic; the tales of Northern life just as affecting and powerful.

Harrison is more known for his fantasy and science fiction; this book brings the same cool detachment and eye for detail to a more mundane milieu and works just as well as his more fantastic work. A compelling and powerful novel.
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May not be everyone's cup of tea but it was one of the best books I have read, looked at some of the other books written by this author which are science fiction but could not get far with them but this book is nothing to do with SF and the places mentioned actually exist.
Recommended
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Although I've never climbed in my life, I absolutely loved this novel. It described certain aspects of human behaviour - the tedium of daily life, the desire for escapism, and the ultimate pointlessness of life-avoidance tactics - like nothing else I've ever read. Although inclined to be dour and depressing, the book's scattered with incredible moments of beauty, humour (the adrenaline-junkie who, on falling off a rock-face into a tree, enjoys it so much that he does it again) and surrealism (the feral Scouts and Guides who roam the Pennines). Everyone should read this book.
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A series of episodes with a climbing theme, set mainly during the extraordinary (now forgotten) draught of 1984, when much of the North of England had an abnormally dry Spring and Summer - perfect for climbing.

The book is narrated by "Mike" who shares much in common with the author M John Harrison; a fell runner and keen climber. Quite deliberately, as the various sections accumulate we're presented with an accurate description of the 'respectable' fringes of British society in the mid 1980s. Hence my 5-star rating - you can read this as a description of climbers and their adventures, or as a brilliant social novel.

Harrison's descriptions and dialogue are excellent, some of the characterisations are near perfect, and it's only the somewhat random and chaotic structure of this novel that grates.

At times brilliant and inspiring, sometimes dark and disturbing and always entertaining, "Climbers" is a brilliant work of art. Buy it and cherish it.
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I get great visceral pleasure from M John Harrison's SF but it is his contemporary writing that I rate the highest. In fact there are few writers I can think of that I would rather read a description of a location by. The landscape that is also a state of mind - an ambiance and emotion - despite or maybe because of the apparent detachment he often employs. Small courtyards, rock faces, beaches, skies at evening. It is odd how the detachment also feels like intimacy - This book will stay with you. When I put it down the world actually looked different for a while, sharper, brighter, reading it had heightened my sensibility.
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