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Sailor Song

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  1,803 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
Set in the near future in the fishing village of Kuinak, Alaska, a remnant outpost of the American frontier not yet completely overcome by environmental havoc and mad-dog development, Sailor Song is a wild, rollicking novel, a dark and cosmic romp.

The town and its denizens —colorful refugees from the Lower Forty-Eight and Descendants of Early Aboriginal People- are seduce
Paperback, 576 pages
Published July 22nd 1993 by Black Swan (first published 1992)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Brad Mcfadden
Jul 26, 2012 Brad Mcfadden rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 10, 2016 Joey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-library
This book seemed much longer than it really was. Other than the run in with Greener and the last two chapters not much interesting happened. Any comparison with McMurphy and Sallas can only be found with two people on opposite ends of the spectrum. Many reviews I read made them sound like the same person. No colorful personalities in this town either. Just a cast of trite characters in a rundown muddy hovel of a town. But still not a bad book. I loved how the last two chapters ran everyone's sto ...more
May 15, 2009 Andrew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 12, 2016 J.M. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pirates
Chances are you've only read One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. Chances are you have no intention of reading this last Ken Kesey novel. I'm not about to change either of those probabilities.

This isn't even that long, at 529 pages hardcover, yet it feels bloated. It reminds one of the reason that clarity is such an important attribute for writing, to say nothing of the entertainment value. It ultimately reads kind of like a joke that only the joke-teller finds funny, and the more he laughs at it th
Apr 21, 2011 Jackson rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"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
May 31, 2012 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 25, 2011 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 16, 2012 Terry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
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
Jul 24, 2007 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 04, 2010 Ali rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Anna Zenchenkova
" - Вот это жизнь! Понимаешь, о чем я? Чувствовать этот зов открытого моря. Романтика! Необитаемые острова. Подчиняться неведомым течениям и узнавать неизвестное. Неужели ты станешь говорить, что тебе все это безразлично?"
Чудесная книга. Местами очень смешно, местами - очень грустно.
Jan 26, 2008 Reed rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 06, 2014 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ben Crisp
Jun 09, 2015 Ben Crisp rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Kesey is a master and this is another example of his brilliance. Though slightly different in tone to either Cuckoos Nest or Sometimes a Great Notion, it still holds the similar themes, most notably in the anti-capitalist stance, that ran through both those books. This however is more light hearted in nature, elements of adventure jumping in and out.

Essentially it revolves around Ike Sallas, a character not dissimilar from Hank Stamper from Sometimes a Great Notion, maybe modeled on Kesey himse
Jun 23, 2015 Yasha marked it as couldn-t-finish  ·  review of another edition
Somehow I'm not interested it the book yet. Maybe next time.
David Cohen
Nov 26, 2008 David Cohen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 16, 2007 Stranger rated it it was amazing
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!
Feb 10, 2016 Justin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book more than I did. I was such a fan of Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion and the premise behind this sounded so promising that I thought it was going to be a homerun. Alas, I only marginally enjoyed it and really longed to hear more about the societal fall that made Kuniak one of the world's last unaffected places and more about Ike Sallas's history.

Unfortunately, the past was left largely unexplained and the main story of the town's invasion by a film crew felt all too
Jul 14, 2009 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
darn review went into the air!!!!

50 cents!
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
Sep 22, 2010 Lana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 15, 2014 Garry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Benjamin Kahn
This started as a great book, but was ruined by the ending. It seemed like Kesey created a world, got tired of the process and so just decided to end it with a deus ex machina. Terribly disappointing.
Melina Martin
Nov 15, 2012 Melina Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Amber Rae
Mar 07, 2016 Amber Rae is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't get very far. The story telling reminds me of my drunk uncle amping up a story to make it more interesting...when really it's just fancy squabble. I was taken back by the cat/woman comparison. Writing style too masculine.
Sean Wentz
Sep 20, 2011 Sean Wentz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 06, 2015 Patrick Diver rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Takes a while to get absorbed into the story, but well worth the wait.
Feb 05, 2008 Flan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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What happened to Issak? 2 9 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.” 13 likes
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