Red Shift
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Red Shift

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  564 ratings  ·  67 reviews
In second-century Britain, Macey and a gang of fellow deserters from the Roman army hunt and are hunted by deadly local tribes. Fifteen centuries later, during the English Civil War, Thomas Rowley hides from the ruthless troops who have encircled his village. And in contemporary Britain, Tom, a precocious, love-struck, mentally unstable teenager, struggles to cope with the...more
ebook, 224 pages
Published October 25th 2011 by NYRB Classics (first published 1973)
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Liam Guilar
I think it should have more than five stars. It's up there with Ulysses, the Waste Land and Briggflatts, or with Gawain and the Green Knight or the Tain or the Mabinogion.

I first read this far too many years ago when i was probably the same age as the protagonist, and liked the book for the usual wrong reasons, but I have reread it on a regular basis ever since. For my money he's the best prose writer in English and the most interesting. This book is the hinge in the sequence, moving away from...more
James
This novel was extraordinarily taxing for my imagination. Firstly, there are three thematically related stories separated by centuries, all of which interweave and vaguely shadow each other. Secondly, only two of the three stories are covered in any depth (the Rowley/Civil War story is merely skeletal in comparison to Macey/Logan and Tom/Jan’s tales), and one finds oneself casually relating figures from each of the stories, wondering if doing so is legitimate, necessary, or just some ghostly gov...more
Frank Hestvik
Four or five stars? Originally gave it four stars because of trifling annoyances (the unattributed dialogue can get confusing, if my book didn't have an introduction by the author I am pretty sure I would be very puzzled at what was going on for a while). But no, it's five stars... The way he uses language and crafts dialogue is amazing, it's hard not to have it change the way you think or write. It is, for lack of a better word, a "tight" novel. He is somehow able to use modern language in a wa...more
Alan
Mar 28, 2012 Alan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Weirdstoners
Recommended to Alan by: The New York Review of Books
"Do you believe in confusion at first sight?" (p.110)
Or second sight (in either sense), or third? And what if you could see a future, or a past, or both—even in glimpses, all unknowing and out of control: wouldn't that make you more than a little lonely? Make you go a bit badly, as they say?

British author Alan Garner is better known, perhaps, for the fantasy trilogy he just recently completed after a fifty-year hiatus, the one starting with The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (one of the most memorabl...more
Dave Morris
One reviewer said: "There was too much dialog and not enough explanation. It was even hard to keep track of who was saying what."

Now this is true, but it's intentional and it's really effective. You have to be prepared to let the text wash over you, then the meaning seeps right into your unconscious and it has extraordinary power. The nearest equivalent I've seen to this technique is Benjy's stream of consciousness in The Sound & the Fury. It effects a degree of immersion that you can't get...more
Richard Kramer
A story about this, first. I was in my local independent book store (Book Soup) and I saw this on the shelf, in a
typically striking New York Review of Books cover. It glowed for some reason, so I bought it. I wasn't looking for it.
I knew nothing about it. I saw on the back that Emma Donoghue, whose ROOM I haven't read, blurbed it. I said:
why not? And even as I write these words, I realize that the words "Why not?" are endangered these days. Maybe by
"Why not?" I also mean a life with the element...more
Peter Jamieson
Time loops, the physics of which are currently poorly understood, forms the basis for this novel - and if you approach it with a strong emotional belief in linear time, you'll have a hard time following it.



"Red Shift" is based on the eerie ancient ballad "Tam Lin", and the usual hyperdimensional mechanics apply: the magic of the fairy-world parallels (but doesn't quite match) the logic of our own world, and there are occasional intersections. In this case, three stories match and intersect: a gr...more
Princess T
I just read this book again after many years. What amazed me is how much of it has stayed with me, even though I don't fully understand what it is supposed to be about.
The story is set in 3 time periods spanning near 2000 years. In each there is a troubled young man who is loved by a young woman. The couples are linked by their posession of a stone axe head and their stories take place in the same geographical location.
In two of the stories, the couple are involved in a massacre. In the third,...more
Nicholas During
A pretty amazing book. It combines very interesting themes (love, violence, sex, parents, religion, origins) with an unusual structure that keeps the reader on her toes and thinking. Yesterday when I finished I just had to look up other people's explanations, which was very useful because this book can be difficult to follow (unattributed dialogue, olde vocab, the last page in particular). The problem with reading all the other reviews, is I now don't know what is my idea and what is theirs.

I'll...more
Yati
I picked this one up hoping there'd be hijinks with space pirates. Or astronomy. No luck there.

I read the whole thing, went back to the start, flipped through the pages again, and realised that I still had no idea what was going on. Strange, strange book.

I didn't really care about understanding when I was reading -- the words just flowed through me, and I grasped at the bits I did understand (teenage angst and long-distance relationships and hanging on to the things that are familiar) with some...more
Genevieve
Good but very dense, and compact, very strange... This reminded me of Beckett more than anything, which is an odd thing to say of an ostensibly young adult book. But the way this book is almost all dialogue, and the way the dialogue is packed and rhythmical, with few words and repetition, and all the terrified emotion bursting at the seams of that economy, felt quite similar. The difficulty of it, too.

Right now I feel I want to like the book more than I actually like it, so I'm not sure how to r...more
John
I had never heard of Red Shift before last week, though I had long wanted to read something by Alan Garner. When I accidentally stumbled onto a copy, however, of this novel, I was intrigued enough to immediate start reading it. What an interesting premise!

The novel centers around three love stories from different time periods in English history (Roman Britain, the Commonwealth Interregnum, and modern day Britain). The first concerns some soldiers who’ve deserted the Roman Ninth Legion who are “g...more
Rachel Penso
I didn't follow the story very well. I didn't like the way it was written. There was too much dialog and not enough explanation. It was even hard to keep track of who was saying what.
Miles
Sometimes the idea that provides the inspiration for a novel turns out to be better than the novel itself. I think this might be the case with Red Shift. The novel combines the stories of three couples, each from different eras in British history (Roman times, The English Civil War, and 1970s Britain). Garner intertwines these narratives using the parallel theme of embattled love, as well as a stone axe that comes to symbolize various things as each couple encounters it. It's a cool idea, and th...more
Tony Mcgowan
The greatest teenage book ever written - but challenging, even for adults. Actually i think this is one of the finest post-war British novels
Adam
It's almost brilliant. The concept is great, the minimal text approach is enticing and the efforts to make a literary teen book is well intentioned. Sorta like how in the abstract, the late sixties and early seventies (when this books was written) continue to be awesome.

The execution is the problem. Here, its overwrought, almost as if Garner couldn't decide whether or not this was supposed to be high or low fiction. Casting the (1970s) teeny-bop present in a intellectual/skeptical mold while gif...more
Luciana Darce
Eu conheci Alan Garner na biblioteca do colégio, lá pelos treze, quatorze anos e a prosa dela, seu conhecimento de mitologia, sua forma de mesclar o mundo real e a fantasia me conquistaram de cara. Mais que isso, Garner foi uma forte fonte de inspiração para muito do que escrevi nessa época e foi ele quem despertou minha curiosidade para a mitologia celta.

Por todos esses motivos, quando li um artigo sobre grandes livros de fantasia e ficção científica do último século (já não me lembro mais em q...more
Simon
Probably one of the most disorienting novels I've ever read, Alan Garner's Red Shift switches between three historical periods and plots with a kind of jolting non-rhythm that made my head spin. Each of the three plots, the first set in contemporary Britain, the second during the English Civil Wars and the last during the Roman conquest, is held loosely together by a shared place, Mow Cop mountain in Cheshire, a shared object, a stone axe head, and a shared character, a boy named Tom/Thomas/Mace...more
Elizabeth K.
Nov 12, 2013 Elizabeth K. marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I am sad about tabling this for now. I had come across it on a list of great books from the 1970s, and I liked a lot of other titles mentioned, and from the description, this sounded great.

BUT. MAN. It's one of those books that just throws you into the events and expects you to suss it all out from context. I like books like that, at least when they work. Of course, now I can't think of an example from science fiction, but something like Never Let You Go which never comes right out and tells you...more
David Manns
I first read this book as a teenager and found it haunting and moving. I come to reread it 30 odd years later and still find it a powerful book. Alan Garner is one of our finest writers and here he concocts a story made up of three interlinking strands. All feature a troubled boy protagonist and a 5000 year old stone axe. The present day story features two teenage lovers, Jan and Tom. Tom lives with his parents in a caravan, fighting his inner demons while trying to cope with his feelings for Ja...more
Jenna
I marked this book as "to read" for 2 reasons: (1) it's allegedly based on the Tam Lin legend, which obsesses me, and (2) it's a NYRB book.

Red Shift chronicles the long-distance relationship between Tom and Jan, two teenagers in 1970s Britain. Jan is a nursing student and the daughter of two psychiatrists; Tom is an emotionally fragile astronomy student who lives at home with his smothering parents.

Tom's parents are skilled in the art of emotional manipulation. They don't want their little boy t...more
Richard
Strange, difficult, and bleak, but also intricate, moving, and rewarding once it gets going. I was thinking of putting this aside and I'm glad I stuck with it. The novel follows three troubled boys and their relationships that each take place in different eras but the same geographic location - on and around a hill in England called Mow Cop that's been occupied for thousands of years. There is an object that links the three stories - a neolithic stone axe - but there is also a kind of bleed thro...more
Ione
Frustrating, challenging, and emotional, this is one of those books that stays with you. I read it all in one sitting! On the surface it appears to be a pseudo-sci-fi novel about time loops and the power of specific places and artifacts. It follows three very different, but connected, narratives, which all take place in England--the first is set in the 1970s, and follows the story of two young adults in a deeply intense relationship. The second is the story of the lost Ninth Roman legion, a ragt...more
Matt Poland
By far the strangest book I read this year, maybe for the last few. Pungent, melancholy, and intense, and remarkable for being the first "fantasy" novel I've read written after 1950 that completely avoids the influence of Tolkien or Lewis. Then again, I wouldn't call this a fantasy novel, necessarily -- as a historical novel it does what so few historical novels do (Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall being an exception), which is to make people in the past seem quite strange yet recognizable. (By the sam...more
Margaret Sankey
A neolithic ax-head links three couples in Crewe, England--a 1970s pair of disillusioned college students, an English Civil War set of star-crossed lovers and some Roman deserters and a Celtic girl they've kidnapped. The narrative is mostly dialogue and spare, and some reviewers have called it experimental or modernist. Mostly, I think it is just weird.
Erik Ʌngle
21% into the story, and all I've encountered are repellant characters, opaque dialogue, and a dearth of narrative. That's not what I look for when I read fiction.

I was almost tempted to continue reading due to the low word count, but then I remembered my experience with Hunger, and decided to move on to something I may actually find enjoyable and/or instructive.
Tim
Difficult content, especially for a supposedly YA novel (albeit one which has now made it into the New York Review of Books series for adults). Even though it clocks in at just under 200 pages, it feels a lot longer than that, mostly due to the language and style of the writing. Although this might improve upon re-reading, I unfortunately have no desire to read this book again. It was hard to grasp much of what was necessary to fully understand the story. The 'easiest' parts were those that took...more
Electric Landlady
This is a tricky one. It falls into the category of "books that make me feel dumb and/or borderline autistic because there is so much going on that I KNOW I'm not picking up on," together with e.g. Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary. By coincidence (or not?) it too features characters who speak almost entirely in quotations or allusions. I found it tiring to read.

Ultimately what I had the most trouble with was the treatment of women and sexuality; maybe it was intended to make readers feel uncomfort...more
Andrea
Well that was bizarre. This is a really unusual book: three plotlines, each set in the same geographical area, but at vastly different times, held together by the presence of a stone axe head and a sense of impending madness.

I think I originally wanted to read this because it refers to the lost Ninth Legion, but I didn't get what I expected at all. I'm going to have to read this book again in a few year's time to make my mind up about it. I imagine it'll be stuck in my head until then.

The Wikip...more
Brent Hayward
An artifact is the apex of three tightly entwined tales. That, and love, madness, violence, poverty. Under Mow Cop, in the English countryside, centuries churn and a talisman moves from the teenage couple in a modern-day, doomed relationship, to the tribal Britons who capture and hobble a goddess, into a civil war siege. Patterns are repeated. Madness and desperation surface and circle. Garner has tightened his prose so much there's no fat left, unattributed dialogue, terse powerful sentences re...more
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NYRB Classics: Red Shift, by Alan Garner 1 4 Oct 29, 2013 09:17PM  
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Alan Garner OBE (born 17 October 1934) is an English novelist who is best known for his children's fantasy novels and his retellings of traditional British folk tales. His work is firmly rooted in the landscape, history and folklore of his native county of Cheshire, North West England, being set in the region and making use of the native Cheshire dialect.

Born into a working-class family in Conglet...more
More about Alan Garner...
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (Tales of Alderley, #1) The Owl Service Elidor The Moon of Gomrath (Tales of Alderley, #2) Thursbitch

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