Drew Magary is an odyssey through an Alison in Wonderland-like world on acid. Trust me, this is a compliment! I know this might not be popular opinion, but this is one of the best, funniest, and weirdest books I've read in a long time.
Yes, The Library at Mount Char was weird, but that took me a long time to like and understand. I think The Hike succeeded where the latter didn't. The Hike could almost pass for a children's story, if only for that pesky cursing, drinking, and mild sex!
Ben is an ordinary dude, with an ordinary life. He has a wife, Teresa, and three children. Everything is normal....until he heads to the Poconos for a business trip. After settling into his hotel, Ben decides to go for a hike in the woods. What could go wrong? Everything!
At first, it seems like Ben is lost. Did he see that tree before? Did he pass that rock before? But things take an odd turn. He sees two men with Rottweiler faces burying a body. Yes, men with dog faces. Men with dog faces who are out to kill Ben. Somehow he gets away from them, finding a tent, drinks, and a backpack filled with food. How is it that supplies just happen to magical find their way to Ben? Nobody is that lucky, but he's not about to squander his good fortune. Partaking in beer and hot dogs, Ben takes the first of several trips down memory lane. He dreams of a former girlfriend, but it feels so real that Ben believes he's cheating on Teresa. Is it all just a really bad dream? He'll wake up soon from this nightmare won't he?
There is no waking up from this nightmare, at least not any time soon. In the morning, Ben seems to be caught in some medieval world. He encounters Mrs. Blackwell who doesn't seem to understand anything Ben is talking about. Like how does one charge their phone, when this lady doesn't even know what one is? But she's there to set Ben on his path and offer some very wise advice. Ben has to find the producer and to do so he has to stay on the path. If he leaves the path, he's not only risking his life but his sanity.
Along his travels, Ben meets some very funny, dangerous, and weird characters. A crab named Crab becomes Ben's sidekick. Yes, don't call Crab anything other than "Crab" or he'll snap your fingers off with his claws. As insane as it sounds for a grown man to speak with a talking crab, it's funny and it all makes sense. Ben and Crab appear to be a real-life Odd Couple, but they become friends and save each other at every turn. When they meet Fermona, a human-eating wise-cracking giant, Ben and Crab work together to outsmart her.
Days turn to weeks. Weeks turn to months. Months turn to years. Yes, Ben is stuck in this wackadoo alternate universe for years. The friends and enemies he makes on this journey come and go. The only constant is Ben. Slowly, he's losing his physical and emotional strength. How will he ever get out of this cycle? Does he want out? If he does get out will he be the same? Will his family be the same? Will they even remember him? Sometimes it felt like Ben's journey was a way of atoning for his past sins. He gets to re-live many prominent moments in his past. The memories are so vivid, it's hard to know what's real and what isn't. But each morning it's clear that Ben is far removed from reality.
This was my office book club pick, and I really didn't have high hopes. Fantasy just isn't my thing, but I'm trying to read outside of my comfort zone. I'm glad I did. From start to finish, I was hooked. It's heavy on the fantasy/magical realism, but it's also about discovering the depths of one's own humanity. It becomes clear that the answer to Ben's problems is not within this wacky world but himself. Whenever he realizes that he just might be saved. Overall, this was a fun, heartwarming, fascination, and WACKY read!
Rating: O.M.G. !!!