Hey hey! The 2016 Hikers forum is open on WhiteBlaze, I've started sharing my blog with folks that might be interested so I'm going to work to keep material coming out even if they are just book reports.
For this installment of 'Wiki Reads An AT Book' we have Appalachian Trail - A Novel by Darren Drevik. This one is actually about a SOBO attempt, I have mostly been focusing on books that talk about the NOBO experience. In all honesty I bought this one by mistake....but read it all the same.
In truth my feelings about this one are a bit mixed, it was a good story, but boy was it dark. It didn't contain the same happy go lucky vibe as the past few books I've read on the trail. Without spoiling too much about the overarching plot of the book, which despite it's darkness did have a way of keeping me hooked in and wanting to know more, the book contains about everything that can go wrong on the Trail sans a bear attack.
The main character Nate Townsend is making the journey of a lifetime, but it's all for a very mysterious reason which takes most of the novel to reveal itself. As for that dark content I was talking about sexual assault, hillbilly attacks, and self harm are all MAJOR points that drive the plot forward. So reader beware if you are sensitive to that kind of content.
Unlike the last 2 books I've read 'Stumbling Thru' and 'Thru' I would be hard pressed to recommend this book to anyone planning on hiking the trail or that has a loved one hiking the trail as it might not bring out the right feelings about the Trail. Otherwise it was a very good and engaging read, but don't let the beautiful and bright cover shot fool you, this is a dark book.
I'm reading White Blaze Fever next and get closer to my end of tour date when I'll be able to get home and start getting some better prep content out there.
So I'm back on the hiking book wagon after a short trip to the Crimson Skies Universe. THRU: An Appalachian Trail Love Story by Richard Judy was a great read, while I still think the Stumbling Thru series was a better read overall this book was a serious contender. It was another book that was fiction, that was undoubtly based on the authors experiences during his thru-hike.
This book is great because the profits get pumped back into the trail via the Appalachian Trail Muesum Society. When I picked it up the sub-title of a 'love story' had me wondering if the book was going to be about the love of the trail, or love found on the trail.
It wound up being the latter, the novel revolved again around a group of chracters known as the 'Bly Gap Gang' who had a series of adventures up the trail. As they hiked diffrents sets of chracters experienced diffrent levels of romantic intrest in other hikers. Hearts were broken, hearts were won, all conveyed to the reader via journal entires, shelter logs, and emails home from the characters.
The complaints I have about the book are minor. I again fall small editing errors throughout, like Stumbling Thru I imagine this was simply because the book was not coming from a big publisher. The biggest issue I had was that the 'Bly Gap Gang' was a extremely diverse group of characters and I felt that in their writings they lacked distinct voices as characters and the authors style bled through too much detracting from the character themselves.
This may sound like a large complaint, but it didn't detract from the story and is a really nit-picky thing to complain about, in the end the book was great and would still make a better film than 'Wild' or 'A Walk in the Woods' simply because theres more material to work with and true character arcs.
Despite being in three college classes and deployed my cadence of reading hiking books is not slowing down. Soon enough there will be no more books to read, and hopefully I'll be out writing about my own adventures, however after a book I have to read for school 'Appalachian Trail - A Novel' is my next fun reading assignment.
*As a side note I do want to apologize about the number of book reports I seem to be sumbitting to the blog, but being deployed and in school really limits my ability to post content outside of that. I may have a gear review or two soon though.
So I dunno if 2000 can be considered retro, but after finishing 'Stumbling Thru' and writing my last review I was looking for something good to read, but decided to get away from the hiking subject for a bit. Wouldn't want to read them all at once. I some settled on the old Crimson Skies companion novels.
For those who don't know Crimson Skies is an alternate timeline universe where the United States collapses after WWI and air transport becomes the countries primary mean of transporting goods and services, as the railways fell into disrepair and the interstate was still in it's infancy. The massive zeppelins used to carry goods from nation to nation became alluring targets for pirates and fortune hunters. Basically the universe of Crimson Skies is a mix of Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, and Top Gun. So it's basically the best thing ever.
There were two video games released under the title Crimson Skies on the PC (and it was ported over to arcade systems at some point) and Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge on XBOX. There is also a tabletop game from FASA, I grabbed all the rule-books and may post some AAR's here when I actually play.
I read Wings of Fortune: Book One and Wings of Justice: Book 1. There is also a game companion book which features shorter stories, similar to those that used to be found at the Crimson Skies website.
Now each of the two books I read were intended to be a 3 part series making for a total of 6 books. The books themselves were good but both ended with cliffhangers that were intended to be resolved in the next book. However FASA went under before the books were published, interestingly they were written. This will sound ridiculous but they were written in English, and the transcripts were translated into German and published in the German language. Available on amazon.de for a couple bucks.
I love the Crimson Skis universe. I played the games when I was younger and the books were great (I'd like to know how they ended...maybe I'll have them translated...) the rights for Crimson Skies are back with Microsoft I believe. They had been licensed to Smith and Tinker, a company that went under and was headed by the original creator of Crimson Skies. I think a reboot is long overdue, it's really a refreshing 'fantasy/scifi setting'
If I was to recommend one of the books I read it would be Wings of Fortune: Book 1 – Pirate's Gold. The story is less of a cliffhanger and it's all around a better read. While grabbing these books, as well as the old FASA game books, and Spicy Air Tales novels I came across montanaraiders.com, which is a still active Crimson Skies board. They have available for download the 'Zeppelins and Bombers' game book that was originally slated to be released under FASA before it folded. The fans there worked with the author and digitally published it for free, and they have several other fan created resources.
Personally I think the Crimson Skies Universe is in need of a huge reboot, perhaps a game for Xbox One, or re-launching the table top, honestly I'll even take a movie. It's sad to see this great property going stale while games like 'World of Warplanes' thrive in popularity.
In the past year I have been reading quite the collection of long distance hiking books. However the two part series of 'Stumbling Thru' is the first time I have been compelled to write a review or talk about them, outside of complaining about Bill Bryson quitting the trail twice in 'A Walk in the Woods'.
Stumbling Thru is fiction, though undoubtedly many of the situations and scenarios were somewhat based off reality due to the fact that the author completed an AT thru hike in 1999. The stories main character, a man named Walter, was bused to Amicola falls and kicked out onto the trail by his wife Angie, who was hoping the outdoor adventure of a thru hike would bring him back to reality after his business failed and he shut down as a husband.
Walter reluctantly takes to the trail and meets a wealth of characters including some that quit after just one or two days of hiking, weak sauce. However this is where 'Stumbling Thru' begins to shine, the book doesn't focus on Walter finding himself (despite it being the overarching plot of the series) it tackles trail stories and hi-jinks in a broken memory format, reminiscent of how you would tell a story to friends around a bar.
Often times trail books find themselves hanging their laurels on vivid descriptions of the landscape and deep thoughts. Personally as a reader who enjoys a good laugh (basically the saving grace of Bill Bryson's work) all of this ink based self reflection often times can feel like pretentious narcissism (says the guy with a blog where he writes about whatever he feels like).
Stolz however cuts out the majority of this, or limits it to a point where it truly supports the story and isn't the whole story. It is partially due to the fact his story is fictitious. But taking the focus off this type of content and onto the good times of hanging bear bags, fart jokes, and drumming up the most exhaustive list of stand-ins for the word 'fuck' ever, the books were real page turners.
Now I'm not an English major, but I was able to catch a few editing errors in the book and they were truly my only complaint, but it was in no way shape of form a deal breaker.
With both 'Wild' and 'A Walk in the Woods' getting movies this year...and my personal feelings on both see them as less than acceptable to represent hiking in film. I think that 'Stumbling Thru' should be adapted to the screen. With all of the intertwining stories it could easily be cut into a film in the style of 'Love Actually' with all of the characters stories winding in and out of each other until they finally summit. Hollywood are you listening!?
The epilogue was a great touch and a way to give us some insight to how Walter's story ended, however the other characters didn't receive the same treatment. We know how they left Katadhin, but I'm interested in knowing what happened to the other characters (specifically Skunkers and Flutterby, I have to know). Huge thanks to A. Digger Stolz for putting together such a great set of books that is now my go to recommendation for a hiking book to friends and family.