I have some reservations about this book: chiefly, I felt that the transition at the end from small-scale character study to big epic fantasy plot wasI have some reservations about this book: chiefly, I felt that the transition at the end from small-scale character study to big epic fantasy plot was clunky.
That said, this is an outright brilliant novel, the best that Hobb has ever written, and probably a contender for the best fantasy novel of all time, at least in terms of depth and character. Unfortunately, it'll leave you baffled if you haven't read the other 13 novels, or at least the other 6 Fitz books...
George R.R. Martin already said it earlier and more succinctly than me: 'fantasy as it ought to be written'.
Not recommended for: those who struggle to understand other worldviews; those who have no interest in (and no interest in understanding) sport; thoseNot recommended for: those who struggle to understand other worldviews; those who have no interest in (and no interest in understanding) sport; those who are overly defensive; those who hate monologues.
Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me.
Well now, I've a little problem here. Having struggled out a great big review of this light little novella (150 pages odd) on my blog, which already felt like I was leaving things out and holding things back, I'm not really sure how to say anything concise about it here.
So I'm going to put it in quick, simple points.
- The Rider is a short novel giving a long monologue of an amateur cyclist competing in a race in the south of France in 1977 (the book was written the following year), essentially a fictionalised account of the author's own experiences
- the novel is a sports novel about this particular race, and the thought processes of the participants
- at the same time, the narrator's mind wanders, as he explains the nature of road racing and his own nature - this involves many anecdotes from his own life and from cycling history. Along the way this involves a fair degree of philosophical and psychological rumination
- if you want, you can take this simply as a gripping account of a race - it's written to be readable both by fans of the sport and by those who know little but are willing to try to understand
- it's been called a fun sport novel, a literary masterpiece that will be read for another hundred years, and the ultimate encapsulation not only of the soul of road-racing but of the nature of sport itself. The first two are certainly true, and I only don't endorse the third because not being a sportsman myself I can only surmise
- it may alternatively be read as a study of obsession, an analysis of religion, or simply an examination of the human soul and possibly of the postmodern condition. Only it's also enjoyable to read
- it is, however, written in under 150 pages, with short paragraphs, and generally short, simple, almost brusque sentences. The poetry is in the thoughts, not in the expression, although as you get into the novel the brutal rhythm of the writing does take on a compelling majesty of its own
- it's apparently a well-known novel in the original Dutch, and despite not being translated until 2002 is a cult novel among cyclists. It should, however, be more widely read