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4.4 out of 5 stars
13
4.4 out of 5 stars
Format: Kindle Edition|Change
Price:£5.99


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on 4 August 2012
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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on 10 January 2014
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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on 25 October 2014
Every bit as weird and difficult as all of his novels. But with less narrative interest than usual, which is really saying something!
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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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VINE VOICEon 6 December 2008
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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on 18 August 2005
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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on 24 April 2006
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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VINE VOICEon 22 April 2009
I knew M John Harrison as a science fiction writer so was intrigued to come across this as I'm a bit of an armchair climber.

Climbers is fantastically well written and as the title suggests focuses as much on the climbers themselves as the act of climbing. Though the sections which describes the climbs are gripping.

There is no plot as such, just a description of a year in the life of a group of male climbers in the north of England with some insights into why they do what they do. Harrison was a climber, and his real experience give the book it strength.

Why only 4 stars? Perhaps because the lack of plot means it seems to peter out a bit at the end rather than come to a climax. But I'd heartily recommends this a s a good read.
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on 4 January 2014
I recently re-read this for the third or forth time. Despite having a copy of it already I found this edition irresistible when I spotted it in the library; choosing to offer it a foster home for a few days rather than abandon it on the shelf. I'm usually against introductions but the one here by Robert MacFarlane really nails it.
I grew up climbing in many of the quarries and crags the author references and his evocation of the sense of mood and place is spot on; likewise the era. The prose is sublime, and the final reminiscence very poignant. I'm not sure how anyone without a knowledge of climbing can make much sense of it but for me it's almost become part of my personal history.
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on 24 July 2013
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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