Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Signal by Ron Carlson

A man, a woman, the American wilderness

This novella is about hiking in the woods but apparently hiking in the woods is an insufficient hook so two unlikely plots are clumsily glued to the core story, with a heavy thumbed reliance on unrealistically evil villains. The real villain of this novel is civilization, the real estate development causing the end of the rancher’s influence. This story is similar to Galveston, the good guy who screws up trying to redeem himself.  Our hero, Mack, a flawed suffering macho man, is paired with his ex wifeVonnie, the innocent woman that he has failed to protect. Can he protect her now, now that their hike in the woods is interrupted by a pair of grungy rapists as well as a black ops CIA technician? However, the story was definitely gripping, and near the end, I couldn’t put it down. A story has power when you care about the main character.

Initially, I wasn’t crazy about the prose style - Hemingwayesque, with lots of description of nature. But it started to grow on me. The images of nature were very memorable. In some ways, this was a prose poem about camping.  It really didn't need the action movie plotting.

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