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Sailor Song

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  1,543 ratings  ·  81 reviews
In Alaska to film a famous children's book, the crew of a big-bucks Hollywood production company encounters a tribe of people who have had little contact with whites. By the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Reprint.
Paperback, 576 pages
Published July 22nd 1993 by Black Swan (first published 1992)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,509)
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Hortense
Kesey's split-rail characters-- I think I know them, if knowing them means anything other than day glow highs. They are just dispossessed hangers-on, drifting drunks, forced visionaries blinded in the snowy waters, the breathing fuel dumps, they smell like decaying fish scales and gasoline. People attracted by some mongrel jobs lasting a few months. They are the rush of fools, the slurred speech and 10-pen brains. But sometimes they go off like angelic lace, announcing the end of creation throug ...more
Brad Mcfadden
I first read this book during unfortunate personal circumstances circa 1993. It immediately resonated with the 25 year old rebel that I considered myself to be at the time. Over the years I've read this book about once every five years, and am currently on my 4th copy after giving it to a number of folks with the understanding that they were to pass it along. A lot of the reviews here want to make comparisons to "cuckoo" and "notion". For the life of me I can't understand why... Sailor Song is a ...more
Andrew
The phrase I was searching for throughout "Sailor Song" was "wish fulfillment." It's difficult to read the protagonist, Ike Sallas, as anything but the man hero that Kesey constructed in McMurphy of "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest," and really anything but a stand in for the agonized activist Kesey himself. I'm loathe to draw comparisons between authors and their subjects, but Ike Sallas is simply not a believable character, and if he's just a construct, well, then I guess that's the only optio ...more
Jackson
"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Sometimes a Great Notion" are two the greatest novels I've read. Like those two, Kesey's "Sailor Song" is full of memorable characters and a wonderful, imaginative plot that keeps the reader intrigued. Lots of social commentary mixed in, too, which holds up two decades after the book was written.

Problem is, with a massive book like this, the reader would expect a great payoff. Kesey keeps the reader in suspense, presenting a number of possible outcomes, yet
...more
Brian
Wow, I really liked this book for like 7/8's of the way through. Kesey paints a wonderful picture of a small, coastal Alaskan fishing village full of colorful characters that come into "good fortune" brought on by big business, hollywood types. There was just the right amount of salty sea anecdotes, heroes dressed in middle class garb, villains with suspicious motives, vigilante religiosity, paranoid drug pushers, and reformed drunks all working the various angles of dealing with the draw of mon ...more
Dan
Well well. I'd read the reviews and wasn't going to bother, but came across the book while traveling and decided to give it a go. Most of the book is certainly enjoyable. There are some great moments, and a decent set-up. A few explanations are missing, and some of the lingo I didn't understand, but I kept reading assuming a few more details would be forthcoming. But they weren't. I don't regret reading the book, but would highly advise expecting absolutely nothing from the ending. As others hav ...more
Terry
This is a quick read, and not as good as Keasy's Cuckoo... or ...Great Notion. The scene was set in Kuniak, Alaska, about 2010. Our hero, Ike Sallas, is a retired environmental terrorist. Other important characters are average people. Plot is set when sick Hollywood types sail in to produce an ancient Eskimos movie. What we learn is that the world is full of dichotomies, good and bad, green and black, new and old, etcetera. One part of the dichotomy always threatens the other and in the end the ...more
Mike
this book is great for me. it is fun to read and absorbing. kesey tends to paint a similar protagonist in all of his novels. basically, he replicates himself into his protagonist: strong-minded, strong-bodied, radical and independent. Kesey also understands the flaws a character like this can have, as well as the flaws we all can have. This creates an epic environment in the novel, as each character sorts through their own life's unique problems while trying to survive the plot.

anyways, this boo
...more
Reed
What do you do with a book by Ken Kesey? I guess you read it no matter what. The first 95% of this book is about murder on the high seas, eskimos, and GMO marijuana. The last 5% is fiction. It's kind of like JR waking up from the dream sequence. A weird choice on the part of the rider. This was the closest I've ever come to putting down a 600 page book with fewer than 20 pages to go.
Matt
Kesey is so underrated as one of the all time great American authors. Another incredible novel. This novel pales in comparison to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion, but that made me realize how great those novels are, and how great Kesey is. Those ones are very powerful, often poignant, and while both use humor very well it tends to be more sparse, and/or very dark.

This book is hilarious. It is a story that takes place in a relatively near future in a small fishing vil
...more
David Cohen
Though a bit more nautical than I was hoping, this book was an epic journey into the backatcha bandit and scruffy masculine heros. Reading this book before Sarah Palin was announced to be McCain's Vice President definitely damaged my view of her. This book gave me exactly the Alaska I wanted.
Stranger
This is Keesey at his best ... cut loose of reality ... interweaving folklore with environmental concerns and political satire but never losing the human stories. Engaging, fabulously well-told and never dull. A must for any hip bookshelf!
Sarah
illustrates the parallels between hope and hopelessness as interpreted through individual and cultural perspectives of environmental end-times.
and it's a sweet love story.
Jaime
This book was amazing. It didn't make sense always but didn't have to. Reminded me of a post-apocalyptic Watchmen, but way better. Need to read more by Kesey.
Velvetink
darn review went into the air!!!!


50 cents!
Ryan
I never finished reading this, but I watched Kesey write it at the Dirty D in Astoria. When he held a book-singing at the Maritime Museum after completing the book, for the first, and only time,(for myself), I went to get an author's signature on a book. (I once went to a book-signing for a Star Wars book, as a gift for my cousin Pete, who loves Star Wars, and liked that particular author.)
I remember particularly the effort that Kesey put into personalizing each book. He didn't just have a pen
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Lana
So it's been a while since I dived into the sheets with Ken Kesey. In high school I feel in love with Cuckoo, and after college it was "Sometimes", which I often describe as the longest poem I'll ever read. I read "Sometimes" several times over and it only got better.
It's been nearly a decade, and I stumbled across this novel, which was given to me with the explanation that if I were a T. Robbins fan, I would like this. Well I've never read T. Robbins, and I'm a solid Kesey fan, so what to do w
...more
Garry
It took me two readings to get all the plot twists and character interaction straight, but then I am given to reading several days and then sitting out three or four so the threads do become tangled. Still, I recommend Sailor Song. It's a good story.
Melina Martin
In the spirit of fair play, I must inform you that Ken Kesey is my favorite. There is no book I love more than "Sometimes A Great Notion".

"Sailor Song" was a disappointment.

The style was more Vonnegut than Kesey's previous books had been. The content was much more disjointed, held together with cheesy puns and semi-ridiculous scenarios. The novel was clearly wanting development.

At the same time, there was a lot of promise. There was a girl with a big crush, an Angry Aleut, an albino mastermind
...more
Sean Wentz
To say that I fell in love with the characters of this tale would be an understatement. From the first page to the last I've loved following Isaak and Greer through rugged Alaskan terrain. It is a tale that says too much that isn't said. It rings true to alot of our own societal issues in that if we don't shape up we're apt to destroy ourselves. This story creates a town that in the end destroys itself due to its own greed. A truth with which we're all aware yet most of us chose to be ignorant t ...more
Patrick Diver
Takes a while to get absorbed into the story, but well worth the wait.
Ali
Just as I do not judge an entire movie based on its ending, I try not to let a book's ending speak for the entire work. However unsatisfactory the last eighth of Sailor Song may be, the rest is written in an original and awe-inspiring way.
Kesey invents or (re-invents) terms and vocabulary, but the reader knows exactly to what he is referring each time. The hero is everything a protagonist should be: well-developed, flawed, and compassion-inspiring.
Writer and novel are both among my favorites; I
...more
Flan
Just finished it. I slogged through the ending I was ready to leave the hero floundering in his life raft for eternity it got so danged boring. I really didn't care if they whole lot of 'em lived or died. I guess I'm giving three stars out of repspect for Kesey.

It had a kind of Pranster attitude, which I appreciated and I loved the Backachta logo and how it came into being. I can't really say what is missing, but I am sure it is missing and it makes me sad. A good argument that too many drugs ca
...more
roberrrrrrrrrrrrrrrt
after reading "one flew over the cuckoo's nest", i thought this would be pleasant. NOT! what a disappointment. this was a 'monkey wrench gang'-wannabe. the characters are great and well-developed but the story is... what story? in an attempt to show how our nation (USA) is easily distracted by hollywood and ends up destroying our beloved wilderness, this book fails. this was a terrible book. although, i have one friend who likes it. i also have another who dislikes it. i tend to agree with the l ...more
Ferrisfancher ha ha
Jan 03, 2008 Ferrisfancher ha ha rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any asshole i suppose
Recommended to Ferrisfancher by: ...i stole it from brit eckstrom, then don had it for a coupla y
I learned from this book that Ken Kesey really WAS a good fucking writer. ha ha. everybody knows that. I think it was interesting the first time I read it and now that I'm re-reading it years later it really has a lot more depth of character for me since I'm not overly trying to piece together the landscape and time period in which it takes place and am suprised every chapter at all the tid bits that I completely forgot about. Even Better The Second Time !!!
OWWWWW!!!!!!!!!
Thomas Blaine
I came to this novel many years after reading and loving his other novels, and was fully prepared to love this book. My wish was fulfilled for about 3/4 of this novel, with very interesting characters, lively plot, and novel situations. However the last 1/4 of this book is pure weirdness, and though I enjoy the visionary elements, it does nothing to resolve the plot. Overall I enjoyed this book, but would have a hard time recommending it to others.
Cactus
I'll admit my 2 stars are based entirely on having read Sometimes a Great Notion only months previous. It's great writing but none of the characters, or the story itself, really gained traction with me. If I had never read any of Kesey's writing beforehand I surely would have rated it differently. Previously established standards set me up to be dissapointed, a 2 star book when compared to Cuckoo and Sometimes a Great Notion.
Jason
This is my least favorite Kesey novel. The plotlines are interesting, and there are some decent characters, but there are also some baffling clichés. If it weren't for the main character, Ike, I may not have made it to the end. He is a static character, but he's a good hero, and I've been missing good heroes in my recent reading.
Michael
The incredible cast of characters and dystopian near-future setting had me almost ready to start drawing comparisons to IJ. Then I realized I had only 30 pages left to read but the end was nowhere in sight. Kesey must've intended to piss off the reader with the deus ex machina that follows, but that doesn't make it any more satisfying.
Jim
Written a good 20-plus years after Sometimes a Great Notion, Sailor Song is a poor combination of that and Cuckoo's Nest. The novel moves along nicely through the first quarter, but the remainder is a bunch of meandering scenery chewing that leads to a story that never really goes anywhere or takes off.
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What happened to Issak? 2 7 Jan 20, 2014 04:13PM  
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American writer, who gained world fame with his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962, filmed 1975). In the 1960s, Kesey became a counterculture hero and a guru of psychedelic drugs with Timothy Leary. Kesey has been called the Pied Piper, who changed the beat generation into the hippie movement.

Ken Kesey was born in La Junta, CO, and brought up in Eugene, OR. Kesey spent his early years hun
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“Marvelous wonders don't have to happen of a sudden, the way they do in the Arabian Nights. They can also take a long time, like crystals growing, or minds changing, or leaves turning. The trick is to keep an eye peeled, so they don't slip by unappreciated.” 12 likes
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