The Signal
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The Signal

3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  528 ratings  ·  153 reviews
""The Signal" accelerates like an avalanche...If men can't be brought back to fiction by books as fine as this one, it's their own damn fault."
-"The Washington Post"
Ron Carlson, author of the critically acclaimed "Five Skies," is an award-winning writer beloved by booksellers, reviewers, and readers alike. His most thrilling book to date, "The Signal" follows the story...more
ebook, 192 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Penguin Books (first published 2009)
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Debbie
This one is a one day read, but very engrossing. Not your typical cowboy story by a long shot! The author has done several short story collections, so this is properly a novella. The sparse language makes the plot twists all the more surprising, sort of like finding that hidden canyon on the long hike in!
Carmen Montopoli
(Disclaimer: I'm writing this having read the ARC about four months ago, so there aren't a lot of details, but I do strongly remember my reaction to the book as a whole.)

I really wanted to like this book. In fact, I really did like parts of it, especially the ones that talk about mundane bits of walking around, etc. But the plot just didn't work for me. It was too obvious, too damsel-in-distress-y, too predictable. Although certain scenes carried a tense weight to them, I never really worried ab...more
Larry Hoffer
A beautifully written, slightly odd and at times frustrating book. Ron Carlson is another writer with an amazing talent for creating beautiful landscapes from words and he has the ability to create amazing tension out of nowhere. (See his last book, Five Skies, for proof.)



This book tells the story of Mack, a rancher struggling to make ends meet, both financially and emotionally, and his now-estranged wife, Vonnie. Despite their estrangement, they meet to hike some trails, fish and spend some tim...more
Larry
Good summer reading for those who like outdoorsy, adventure stuff. The novel is set in the rugged Wind River range of WY. The main character, Mack, is a really broken guy. He and Vonnie have backpacked the same trail every September for nine years, but this year, the tenth, is different because they are no longer a couple. Vonnie sees the five day trip as closure and a chance to fish high country lakes. Mack wants a second chance with Vonnie and something else. That something else is the princip...more
Katie
This was a short mystery novel set in the great outdoors of Wyoming, involving lots and lots of hiking and wilderness. Strengths: the characters and their banter, and the great outdoors setting. I thought the writing involving the setting was splendid. Made me feel like I was there hiking along with them, breathing the mountain air, feeling the crackling fire, and seeing the fantastic vistas. I really liked the character of Vonnie (the female lead) - she was a spitfire, and lobbed wisecracks rig...more
Mark
The only thing going for this book was the fact that it's short in length. The back cover sells it as a love story, with intrigue, but the only mystery is why this couple -- who are already divorced, with one in a new relationship -- would agree to go camping together in the first place.

Mack, the annoying male lead in this melodrama, is constantly ragging on his ex, because of what her new beau purchased for her. "Oh, nice camera. Did Kent buy that for you?" "Those are expensive binoculars! Did...more
St Fu
A beautifully done cliche. An action/adventure morality tale. Mack's father taught Mack about life, but could the son ever be as good and as wise as his father? The good guys and the bad guys are never really in doubt, but we can't always be as good as we want to be, can we? Indeed, Mack's fall begins when his father dies. In part, out of grief (an excuse we'll always forgive) and in part because Mack wants to save his ranch (also forgivable) which leads him to make deals with the bad guys. We k...more
Cathy
Really enjoyed this short novel; whisked me away to the wilderness of Wyoming so that I felt far removed from everyday life(always a good trait for a book). I didn't realize that the novel has been promoted as a mystery or thriller. Although there are some tense moments, the beauty of the book is the descriptions of the mountains of Wyoming. Mack, a down-on-his-luck rancher, invites his ex-wife, Vonnie, to join him on their annual hiking trip. The book covers each day of their hike as they trave...more
Rudy
The Signal has some farfetched plot angles that are annoying. The writing is beautiful. Carlson has attempted to write a thriller. He would have been better off focusing on the characters and their relationships. I have no idea why a girl named Amy has been added to the story. The protagonist is very well developed. The ending is hurried.
Karen
This is set in the area around Jackson, Wyoming, and it was fun to hear places mentioned that I've been on ski trips. The story was not so much fun, but it was interesting and a bit sad yet not depressing. I think it would have been better without some of the more action-adventurey elements in the plot.
Woody
on se perd un peu dans les montagnes , malgré tout on finit par avoir envie d 'en savoir plus même si l 'histoire en fait ne nous surprends pas plus que ça.
Tara
"The Signal:" Ron Carlson Charms a Reluctant Reader

Sometimes a key element in a novel -- the main character, the setting, etc. -- can be so inherently appealing to a particular reader that the book's success is guaranteed before the author earns it page by page. If an author's topic and the reader's interests coalesce, it's not that difficult for the story to capture the reader's approval and simply coast forward on a wave of good will.

This being the case, I must applaud the skill with which Ron...more
Jacqueline
Ron Carlson takes us through a six day camping trip in the beautiful mountains of Wyoming with all kinds of unexpected turns. The hero of the story is a country man named Mack, fresh out of jail and a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, he’s not your typical hero. He embarks on this journey with his ex-wife, Vonnie, who he lost after he started getting involved in drugs and other criminal activities. Vonnie and Mack decided to go on one last camping trip together, it being a tradition of their...more
Jonathan
Published by Viking Adult, May 28 2009.
"The Signal" by Ron Carlson is a constant escapade of one man’s personal issues in relation to his life and the people revolved around him. The book consistently represents different problems, whether past or present, which build upon each other to create a conclusive and suspenseful ending. Carlson’s descriptive writing brings out the setting and provides fruitful explanations of nature and the freedom from civilization while camping in the forests.
The...more
Craig
The Signal by Ron Carlson, May 28, 2009 Publisher: Viking Adult
A Break for the Landscape
In The Signal Ron Carlson presents the reader with a beautiful façade. The landscape and backgrounds are magnificent even breathtaking yet the broken character that is Mack remains the focal point therefore turning the gorgeous mountainside into one of a crumbling landscape. Barely containing his emotions he struggles through the loss of his father and his marriage. This story can only be described as bitter...more
Charles Raymond
“The Signal" a novel by Ron Carlson is a wonderful love story about a young couple, Mark, who is the protagonist, and Vonnie his recent ex-wife who reunite for a six day camping trip in the mountains of Wyoming, for one final get together. Every year for the past ten years they would meet on the Ides of September, at nine fifteen, this routine trip was a promise. a yearly rite, and Mark wonders if Vonnie will show up or not, he is hoping for another chance.

The novel is a short book under 200 pag...more
Keytrice Castro
Ron Carlson’s The Signal, published by Viking Penguin in 2009, is a captivating story of a picturesque cowboy, Mack, on his final fishing trip with his ex-wife, Vonnie. The two met while he was just a hand at his father’s ranch; by then he knew everything about the forests around him as if he lived in them—and he practically did. His earthly experience and her deep curiosity drew them together as each summer passed, and soon they were in love, making the best they could with what they had. As Ca...more
Jeremy
To mark their tenth annually hike into the Wind River Mountains, Mack and Vonnie work on a final goodbye to their relationship. While Mack tries proving to Vonnie he is getting his life on track, Vonnie sees it will never change. Mack still has some pieces of his life out of order and has every intention of making the changes. The struggles of love for Vonnie and the projects that keep her away have Mack contemplating his next move. The hike takes place mid-September every year since they became...more
Colleen
I listened to this novel as an audio book and was pleasantly surprised. It is more of a "guy" book than what I normally read (with a true modern-day cowboy serving as the main character and an element of CIA-type intrigue woven into the plot). That said, the main character's ex-wife is also central to the story as the former couple goes on one last hike together and she is a skillfully drawn and nuanced character -- not the one-dimensional, helpless bimbo so often featured in these type of "guy"...more
Ron Charles
Back in olden days, before we started worrying about the survival of novels, we used to worry about the survival of novels for men. But that battle was lost so long ago that we should declare the field a national park and open a visitors' center (Look, kids -- Norman Mailer published right on this spot!). Chuck Palahniuk and his "Pygmy" vibrator gags notwithstanding, polls suggest that only 20 percent of fiction readers are male. Ian McEwan warned in the Guardian that "when women stop reading, t...more
Thom (T.E.)
A solid outdoor adventure that understands today's West. Some great nature writing (much of the book is set in Wyoming wilderness), sadly mundane drug-running that's given a clear-eyed portrayal, a very tainted hero who's land-poor, and the love of his life (who just isn't cut from the same cloth). Adding to the mess are lawyers and bankers; folks who wander into the mountains for all kinds of reasons; and people who say they work with the government but actually think they're above the law. The...more
Stephen Gallup
This slim novel covers a six-day hiking and fishing trip into the mountains of northwest Wyoming, but also packs in as back story the previous 20 years in the life of the main character, a down-and-out cowboy named Mack. How all that is accomplished with such visceral immediacy in a mere 184 pages must be a testament to the author’s skill.

I don’t recall having heard of Ron Carlson until a couple weeks ago, when a former teacher described him as “one of the most under-appreciated writers we have....more
Mike
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael
This book was really, really back and forth for me.

The writing. The sentences were sometimes pure, devastating, and concretely constructed. Other times they used turns of phrase that were just plain awkward, vague pronouns, and ineffective fragments. I suppose this would be the place to mention the pace, which was strange. The book really didn't pick up for me until after halfway through. The first half seemed an even spread of flashbacks and detailing the characters going into the woods, which...more
Sonide
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lydia
The Signal was not what I expected. It’s a novel about a man who has lost everything in his life and wants to fix it, but does not entirely seem to be able. The book is broken into the six days he spends with his ex-wife on a camping trip, but includes flashbacks frequently enough for the reader to understand the motivations and feelings of the main character, Mack. This gives the reader a full understanding of Mack and makes him a rounded character.
Throughout the book, Mack is trying to fix...more
Karen
This novel is about a man named Mack and his wife Vonnie who are splitting up but reunite to spend a few days hiking in the mountains of Wyonming which they've done annually for ten years. This is to be their last trip and their way of saying goodbye to each other. Mack owns a ranch and in desperate need of money to keep it going has turned to crime and other bad addictions, which is part of the reason why his marriage fell apart. He accepts a job to find a plane that crashed in the mountains, b...more
Emily
Adventure, Romance, Mystery

The Signal by Ron Carlson.
Penguin Books, New York, 2009.

Ron Carlson portrays his novel as a story about romance and adventure. However, he puts a twist on what could be a classic tale. This is not a story about a budding romance, but one about a final trip before a couple’s divorce. Further, the adventure that is taken is not a simple hike through the woods. These characters are experienced in the wilderness and have taken this trip nine times previously. Carlson also...more
Steph
I hadn't read any Ron Carlson since my graduate days, and then it was mostly short stories. I found this book on someone's book list here on Goodreads. Otherwise, I doubt I would have ever come across it. But now I'm ready for more Carlson. I think I'll try FIVE SKIES next.

THE SIGNAL is about a recently divorced couple on a camping trip in the Wind River range in Wyoming. Mack is an I.T. specialist and former ranch hand who has never stopped grieving the loss of his father.

Growing up on a worki...more
Holly
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Ron Carlson is an American novelist and writer of short stories.

Carlson was born in Logan, Utah, but grew up in Salt Lake City. He earned a masters degree in English from the University of Utah. He then taught at The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut where he started his first novel.

He became a professor of English at Arizona State University in 1985, teaching creative writing to undergraduates and...more
More about Ron Carlson...
Five Skies Ron Carlson Writes a Story A Kind of Flying: Selected Stories The Hotel Eden Return to Oakpine

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