Read Red Shift by Alan Garner Online


A disturbing exploration of the inevitability of life. Under Orion's stars, bluesilver visions torment Tom, Macey and Thomas as they struggle with age-old forces. Distanced from each other in time, and isolated from those they live among, they are yet inextricably bound together by the sacred power of the moon's axe and each seek their own refuge at Mow Cop. Can those theyA disturbing exploration of the inevitability of life. Under Orion's stars, bluesilver visions torment Tom, Macey and Thomas as they struggle with age-old forces. Distanced from each other in time, and isolated from those they live among, they are yet inextricably bound together by the sacred power of the moon's axe and each seek their own refuge at Mow Cop. Can those they love so intensely keep them clinging to reality? Or is the future evermore destined to reflect the past?...

Title : Red Shift
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780007127863
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 192 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Red Shift Reviews

  • Mark Lawrence
    2019-02-26 08:15

    (aarrrrg - Goodreads or Chrome just killed and lost my review when I was 5 minutes into it!)This book came to me by accident from my publishers in a big box of author copies of The Liar's Key. I guess because they both have red covers...The first thing to say is that I was amazed to see that is was published by HarperCollins Children’s Books. Here’s why:i) Content: In two of the three threads the main female character is gang-raped or comes extremely close to it. In one of them she is deliberately maimed to stop her running off from her new role as sex-slave. There are also a good number of brutal killings. Given that it was first published in 1973 I was surprised to see it described as a children’s book.ii) Style: This is a *difficult* book. It’s a dense literary novel (a very short one) that most adults would struggle with. I may be underestimating him but I suspect that 14 year-old me would not have got far with it.Is it a good book? It is, but not in the way most SF books are. It’s good because you can feel the genius running through it. But it is, as I said, powerful, dense, literary stuff that will not suit everyone. I won’t say I ‘enjoyed’ it exactly. It’s more one of those books I feel challenged by and better for reading.I recently read Garner’s Boneland, published 50 years after the famous first two books in that trilogy, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath. I found the change in style to be vast (though in the context of a 50 year gap, not astonishing). If I had read Red Shift before reading Boneland I would have been far less taken back by the change in style as most of the fundamentals of Boneland are to be found in Red Shift, though the gap between them is still around four decades).The book has three threads, one in Roman Britain, one in Civil War Britain, one in 1970s Britain, all tied together through the same location, through the presence of the same stone age hand axe, and vaguely through the tormented ‘madness’ of the three main male characters.There’s no handholding in this book. At all. The locations and situations are not explained. There is little visual/setting description. Much of the book comes in the form of long unattributed conversations with quick-fire back and forth between the protagonists in short ambiguous lines, often using dialect terms or making allusions to events we have to deduce or literary or period references. We never share the characters' thoughts - it could be a stage play for all the use it makes (i.e doesn't) of character point-of-view. In the Roman case the stray legionaries seem more like WWII or Vietnam soldiers and it’s hard to figure out the local tribes or what’s actually going on.The ‘present day’ thread concerns a pair of lovers in their late teens – so I guess that could be used as a justification for shelving it as YA literature. To my mind though YA literature is work that is written for Young Adults, making some attempt to shape itself to the brevity and nature of their experience. If it’s an adult book that merely features some young adults … for me it’s not YA.Anyway. We have three young men with three young women in three separate situations in three different periods. The only connections are the location, the presence of the hand axe, and the tenuous link through the confused minds of the men. Our modern man seems to be having a breakdown with a variety of mental health issues. The other two the same with fits. So why did I give it 4*?It’s hard to explain. I have a Physics degree, not an English Literature one. I don’t know the academic way to dissect a thing like this. The fact is though that like many pieces of strong literature there’s a power running through this thing. Garner wields the language and he’s using it to cut away not at a story but at something about people that he understands and wants to show us. It’s not something he can just lay down in simple terms – it’s too ineffable for that – but it’s there in the three stories, in the way they’re woven and linked, in the way that something echoes back and forth through the characters. In a sense it’s to do with timelessness, change, and how we inhabit both a place and ourselves.So there.My Goodreads friends give this book an average rating of 2.6 – Goodreads in general 3.57. Try it. Some of you will love it, some will hate it. I can’t wholeheartedly praise it but there’s something here. When other authors call Alan Garner an ‘important’ writer … they’re not wrong.As a final thought - it's very hard to imagine this book being published in the SF genre today (unless by Garner with 50 years of reputation under his belt). I don't find that comforting.Join my 3-emails-a-year newsletter #prizes..

  • mark monday
    2019-03-12 08:11

    "So is it all dialogue then?" asked Mark."Well, mostly. A lot of it unattributed, so there's that too," replied Mark."Unreadable then?""Well, sorta. But no, it's readable. Just a certain kind of readable. For certain kinds of readers. It's not dense and it's not long but it's also not easy. It doesn't let you in easy, into its world. Or worlds. Or, actually, lack of worlds - just one big blending of worlds, in a way. A world of words, bleeding together, these three characters' thoughts across three different time periods and they are maybe the same person essentially but maybe not, the dialogue is all in a modern vernacular but the story skips throughout time. Although time's meaningless too, in a way, and definitely in this book, and the ends these characters meet are all pretty inevitable. Timeless inevitability that's sad and terrible and beautiful and all those things. And maybe hard to grasp too. Different places but similar patterns repeated; different plunges but similar results. Three characters are one character; one place changes but has a similar effect; one axe head, the same axe head. Despair and love and teenage confusion and rape and death and mutilation and teenage angst and people dying and people coming together and people falling apart. Things fall apart too and people return, always. Always the same...So anyway: you like it easy, Mark, so maybe you should skip this one?""Sounds like you are talking to a Mark from a different era! This Mark can handle it. He's as good at reading this stuff as college-age Mark was. This Mark likes a challenge and that Mark did too. Who cares if he bought the book because that other Mark, the one in the middle - or maybe it was the third one? - yeah, he may have liked those other sorts of Alan Garner books, those fantasies, but this Mark will be fine. This is Garner's underappreciated masterpiece and it needs to be read. This Mark isn't much different than those other Marks, not that much; I bet all of them would want to read this book and would find something in it."* LATER *"So what did you think?""It was good. Definitely made me think.""Would that one Mark have thought it was good too? His kind of book like it's your kind of book?""Probably. But he probably wouldn't have cried a bit at the end, like I did. He was more of a shame than a guilt type of guy and crying maybe wouldn't have happened. Crying may have made him feel a little embarrassed, a little ashamed at the naked emotion in himself and in a challenging book like Red Shift. But that Mark had more barriers up. He was the same Mark but probably less vulnerable, especially to himself. This is a good book to read if you like a challenge but also are able to read without those kinds of barriers between yourself and a book and maybe between yourself and who you are. Still, that Mark would have liked it, for sure. Much like Macey and Thomas and Tom, basically only the circumstances are different between this or that Mark. It takes more than a red shift to change a person, or a life."

  • Richard Derus
    2019-02-18 09:12

    Rating: 4.8* of fiveThe Publisher Says: Collins YA editionA disturbing exploration of the inevitability of life. Under Orion's stars, bluesilver visions torment Tom, Macey and Thomas as they struggle with age-old forces. Distanced from each other in time, and isolated from those they live among, they are yet inextricably bound together by the sacred power of the moon's axe and each seek their own refuge at Mow Cop. Can those they love so intensely keep them clinging to reality? Or is the future evermore destined to reflect the past?NYRB edition In second-century Britain, Macey and a gang of fellow deserters from the Roman army hunt and are hunted by deadly local tribes. Fifteen centuries later, during the English Civil War, Thomas Rowley hides from the ruthless troops who have encircled his village. And in contemporary Britain, Tom, a precocious, love-struck, mentally unstable teenager, struggles to cope with the imminent departure for London of his girlfriend, Jan. Three separate stories, three utterly different lives, distant in time and yet strangely linked to a single place, the mysterious, looming outcrop known as Mow Cop, and a single object, the blunt head of a stone axe: all these come together in Alan Garner’s extraordinary Red Shift, a pyrotechnical and deeply moving elaboration on themes of chance and fate, time and eternity, visionary awakening and destructive madness.My Review: Why didn't I hear about this back in 1973? I'd've lapped it right up with happy warbles and gruntled slurps. But what completely baffles me is how anyone could read this unpunctuated marvel of modernism and say, "YA shelves, next!" or even more utterly inapt, "Fantasy novel incoming!" WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. FUCK. are these people thinking? Teens might get absorbed in the time-travel element, and some goodly percentage of them will like the Cormac McCarthy-esque attributionless dialogue, but the fantasy reader is going away very sorely disappointed. Yes, there's a goddess, and heaven knows we're up to our hips in angsty teens. BUT THAT'S NOT THE POINT!*fantods*Okay, I've been ungently squawked at for spoilery reviews. (Good lord, grow up people! Don't read reviews of books you want to read if you're phobic about it!) There are three stories here. All of them take place in a very very tight geographical locus. They are separated by 1500 years (earliest to middle) and 300 years (middle to modern). The dialogue is all modern English, and still Alan Garner manages to convey a sense of the temporal location of the story...if you're paying attention!And all the teens are able to experience each other. It's all psychometric in genesis (go look it up if it's new to you), and Garner handles it *beautifully* by not Explaining it, only making sure you know what happens as a result of the time loops.I'm not sure what else I can say without giving too much of the game away, so let's cut to the chase: I don't like phauntaisee nawvelles and I'm pretty durned hmmmmm about time travel these post-Outlander days. And this novel, this gem of a McCarthy-writes-The Sound and the Fury-with-Virginia-Woolf novel, hooked me, gaffed me through the gills, landed me in the bottom of the boat and (at the very very end) exploded my teensy ickle brain-like thing with wowee.So why aren't all sorts of people warbling their lungs out about it? Same reason I didn't until today: Never heard of it. I picked it up, idly, unsuspectingly, from a shelf in the house...looked at the "99¢" Day-Glo orange Jamesway sticker on the silver-foil coated jacket, winced, and thenand thenoh some more and thenAnd now here I am, warbling about a YA time-travel teen-angsty romantic novel. With me on how weird that is? See the thing that doesn't fit the picture, namely me smiling?Buy. Read. Yes.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  • Liam Guilar
    2019-02-21 11:13

    I think it should have more than five stars. It's up there with Ulysses, the Waste Land and Briggflatts, or with Gawain and the Green Knight or the Tain or the Mabinogion. I first read this far too many years ago when i was probably the same age as the protagonist, and liked the book for the usual wrong reasons, but I have reread it on a regular basis ever since. For my money he's the best prose writer in English and the most interesting. This book is the hinge in the sequence, moving away from the fantasy of the earlier books which reached their culmination in 'The Owl Service' (which also needs more than five stars) towards the apparently difficult, more "adult", 'Thursbitch' and 'Strandloper', and for that reason is a good place to start if you're interested in discovering a great writer.I think the book suffers critically because it was marketed to the "young adult " market, and the protagonist, at least of the modern section, is a very troubled adolescent. Garner's writing career resists easy definition but that hasn't stopped people pigeon holing him to his detriment. But as more than one critic has pointed out, 'Red Shift' could be regarded as one of the last masterpieces of 20th century modernism and Garner should be seen as a significant figure in 20th century English Prose.What most readers find difficult about this book, the fact that the story is told in mostly untagged dialogue and shifts between three time periods, is in fact the ultimate compliment Garner can pay his readers. He takes seriously Bunting's "Never explain, your readers are as smart as you are" and presents the story and steps back.

  • Cphe
    2019-03-03 11:35

    Found this novel mentioned on the NYRB Classics list a while ago. I read all of the reviews pertaining to this novel because Science Fiction or YA novels aren't a genre that I feel a lot of affinity for. This is an unusual story and the concept greatly appealed. Three vastly different time periods and three very different love stories, each one unique in its own way. The common denominator through the ages is an axe head and a place called Mow Cop.This is one of those novels that when completed I couldn't say with any certainty that I actually liked/enjoyed, however it was compelling and evocative. I wouldn't call this YA, there are really dark, oppressive themes running through the novel. It's a story that is very ambiguous in places, the dialogue is sparse and not straight forward, often struggled with what period of time was referenced and which character was speaking at the time.Having said all of the above it was it was compelling but difficult in places. One thing I will say about the NYRB Classics novels, they are thought provoking and this novel is no exception.

  • Manny
    2019-03-03 08:29

    To quote Steely Dan,I did not think a girl could be so cruelAnd I'm never going back to my old school

  • Frank Hestvik
    2019-03-14 10:17

    Four or five stars? Originally gave it four stars because of trifling annoyances (the unattributed dialogue can get confusing, if my book didn't have an introduction by the author I am pretty sure I would be very puzzled at what was going on for a while). But no, it's five stars... The way he uses language and crafts dialogue is amazing, it's hard not to have it change the way you think or write. It is, for lack of a better word, a "tight" novel. He is somehow able to use modern language in a way to convey a feeling of ancient strangeness or other-worldliness. This makes me interested in how he'd write actual fantasy.I say "actual fantasy" because I don't think this is fantasy, even though I see it classified as such. It even has an ugly fantasy-ish cover. It doesn't remind me in the slightest of any fantasy I've ever read. It consists of three stories set in wildly different eras tied together by geographical location and the stone head of an axe. Each story features an outsider who seem to pierce time, make it irrelevant. And I'm pretty sure he is writing about Aspergers or some-such other neurological abnormalities before these diagnoses existed, before we started to cling to them.A very strange and beautiful book.

  • Matthew Marcus
    2019-03-07 04:34

    Alan Garner, along with e.g. Susan Cooper, is an author I knew as a child I was *meant* to like, but who just didn't do it for me at the time. On the evidence of Red Shift, the problem could be that I came to him too young. I can't believe that all of Garner's works can be quite as full-on as this, but the amount of death and rape that occurs, on an almost casual basis, in the historical portions of this novel, makes modern YA fiction seem like it's written for babies by comparison.That may have made it sound too horrifying for delicate constitutions already. Which would be a shame, when it's such a beautiful and thoughtful piece of work. The book deals with a pair of teenage lovers, Tom and Jan, in modern-day (that is to say, 1970s) Cheshire, but quickly begins to intercut with the stories of another Thomas at the time of the Civil War and a Macey during the Roman invasion, and their own respective love interests. Little is made fully explicit but it does become clear that in some sense all these superficially different stories may be the same story, linked by sacred ancient places just outside Crewe, by a prehistoric axehead travelling down through the ages, by the boys getting glimpses through each other's eyes when in visionary states. Of the three different time periods, initially I was very drawn to the Roman one, because of one brilliant stylistic decision on the author's part: to have the soldiers of the Ninth speak "Latin" in the language and jargon of American GIs. A gimmick perhaps but for me it really, really worked, especially when the local tongue remains the familiar speech patterns of Cheshire lads through the ages. Things get pretty nasty in this strand very quickly as the soldiers put to death a village full of civilians, taking only one young girl prisoner to be their comfort woman and "catering corps". Contrastingly the 17th century didn't seem very exciting at first, but that's because the violence and redemption there only erupt towards the end of the novel, and when they do it's just as appalling and heartbreaking.The main story takes place in the present day, as you'd expect, though. Life and liberty are no longer quite so cheap by 1970s but the dramatic stakes are no lower as we watch Tom and Jan's once-in-a-lifetime love affair burn brightly and then begin to sputter and die. Think Billy Liar or Johnny from (Mike Leigh's film) Naked to get some idea of the character of the brilliant, tormented and probably doomed Northern lad once again embodied in Tom. But nowhere near as cynically drawn as the empty Billy Fisher, and nowhere near as poisonous as Johnny: you're rooting for Tom throughout, even when he screws up as he must. I should also say that the female protagonists in each age aren't mere props for the purpose of illustrating the emotional journey of the men; certainly in the historical segments they are far stronger and more dynamic than their menfolk, and while Jan may initially seem something of an audience to Tom's smart-mouthed intellectual pyrotechnics in 1970 there's a stunning moment when the balance of power shifts and who's losing who suddenly flips. Suffice it to say that Jan is no junior partner in this romance and when it's her turn to give as good as she gets, boy is she up to it.When time is clearly an illusion, when we keep on meeting our lovers and reenacting our flawed fragile love affairs in every age throughout history, what does it mean to die? I appreciate that I've probably already put people off from reading this book by speaking of the pretty heavy stuff that it lays on in the historical sections, but I actually found it quite optimistic. There's a telling bit in the Roman section where the tribal woman gets casually "maimed" by one of the squaddies and basically looks him in the eye and tells him, you understand nothing, you haven't even hurt me, this is nothing at all. She is a priestess, or perhaps the goddess herself, she knows what's going on before the reader does. Here a life is just a little glimpse of the bigger reality, and death just drawing blinds that will be reopened next morning. I read the final chapters with a lump in my throat as you really do want those kids to somehow make it work. And they might not this time round, but you get the feeling that they will, in some unimaginable future they will.One last note to say how much I appreciated this being set in and around Crewe - I went to school in Chester myself so it all felt like, if not quite my own childhood stomping grounds, at least just round the corner. Garner has a real understanding of how Cheshire is a place that's neither here nor there, not north or south, not fully England or Wales, relevant to most people only as a part of the map that you travel through on the way to more important places. We've all changed trains at Crewe at some point in our lives, right? I got a big laugh from Tom and Jan describing Crewe as "the last town God made" as they traipsed around it. Alan Moore has put his own "flyover" ("train-through"?) country of Northampton on the map with his own work, but Garner was working with the same visionary English brushes even earlier, it seems. I'm sad his work didn't resonate with me the last time it crossed my path. I think I'll be catching up with what I missed this time around, at least.

  • Alan
    2019-03-10 08:17

    "Do you believe in confusion at first sight?" (p.110)Or second sight (in either sense), or third? And what if you could see a future, or a past, or both—even in glimpses, all unknowing and out of control: wouldn't that make you more than a little lonely? Make you go a bit badly, as they say?British author Alan Garner is better known, perhaps, for the fantasy trilogy he just recently completed after a fifty-year hiatus, the one starting with The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (one of the most memorable titles I've ever run across, by the way). He wrote this novel—which as far as I know has nothing to do with weirdstones or Brisingamen—back in 1973, but it doesn't seem dated, probably because most of it is set in times that are already centuries past.But it is confusing. Red Shift is built from fragments, constructed out of banter and brief flashes of description. Its tripartite plot threads get woven together without firm demarcation, united by geography and separated mostly by dialect and incidental details. Tom and Jan are young lovers in the late 1960s; Logan, Macey and a few others have become separated from the lost Ninth Legion of Roman occupiers in the 2nd Century A.D. and are "going tribal"; and Thomas Rowley and the Puritan townspeople of Barthomley must face Royalist soldiers in the 17th Century. There are connections among the three, but they're deep and subtle ones. The whole book resounds in the head like a radio play, the clank of iron against stone clearer than any visual sense of the windswept summit of Mow Cop in Cheshire, where much of the action takes place.All this makes Red Shift a book that despite its brevity is hard to read quickly or in pieces. Which doesn't make it a bad book, but does mean you have to be paying attention. This slim, handsome reissue of Alan Garner's novel comes with a new introduction by the author that clears up some of the murk—I do recommend reading it before starting the novel.The book ends with a cipher—and not one that's casually unraveled. Much like the rest of the book. You've been warned; this isn't quick escapism. But it is a work that rewards scrutiny, after all is said and done.

  • Nooilforpacifists
    2019-03-05 04:17

    Unusual, to say the least. And more difficult to decode without better knowledge of British slang. But, oh, what a concept!--similar voices switching at a jump between similar stories on the same British landscape, separated by hundreds of years.It doesn't quite stick the landing in intelligibility or meaning. Still, extra points for attempting such a complex weave of storylines.

  • Skip
    2019-03-08 09:19

    The worst book I've read in 2014. This short novel weaves three separate stories from different time periods in England (Roman times, the Commonwealth Interregnum, and modern times.) The last and main story concerns Tom and Jan, young lovers dealing with Tom’s mental instability, his overbearing parents, and Jan’s living in distant London. Most of the book consists of abstruse dialogue, and the book switches back and forth, without exposition, between the different stories. There were only two mildly interesting parts for me, and one quote: "I need to adjust my spectrum ... I could do with a red shift. Galaxies and Rectors have them. Why not me?"

  • Dave Morris
    2019-02-26 09:21

    One reviewer said: "There was too much dialog and not enough explanation. It was even hard to keep track of who was saying what."Now this is true, but it's intentional and it's really effective. You have to be prepared to let the text wash over you, then the meaning seeps right into your unconscious and it has extraordinary power. The nearest equivalent I've seen to this technique is Benjy's stream of consciousness in The Sound & the Fury. It effects a degree of immersion that you can't get with the conventional kind of storytelling where the reader picks the details of meaning out of the author's "lectured" narrative.I read the last few pages - a deliberately cut-up collision of fragments from the three main story threads - with my heart in my mouth and when I closed the book my hand was shaking. Alan Garner credits his readers with maturity and intelligence. This isn't just a novel for teenagers, it's a novel for anyone who has ever been a teenager.

  • DiscoSpacePanther
    2019-02-28 07:16

    I was given this slim paperback novel at the age of nine (or perhaps on my tenth birthday), after having enjoyed Elidor by the same author. I must have given up on it after 3 pages as, at that age, I found it totally inpenetrable (I preferred stuff like HHGTTG at the time). I have since periodically given it another try, assuming that as my tastes matured I would finally find something to induce me into continuing it - but with the same result.I picked it up again recently, after having picked up a few boxes of my old books that had been mouldering in my parents' attic, and decided I would give it one last try (at ~150 pages, I thought it would be a quick win for my 2015 Challenge quota!). 2 days later, I have my verdict.Plot summary: Three mentally ill young men in three different time periods (the Roman occupation, the Civil War, the 1970s) have things happen to them in the vicinity of Mow Cop hill in Cheshire. Inside this novel is an interesting story trying to get out. However, I found the lack of descriptive passages (the novel is told virtually in its entirety via the utterances of the characters) gave me no way to anchor myself in the story, and thus I found that it flowed past me without really hooking my interest. This might be my fault as a reader - perhaps I am not sophisticated enough to get excited by all the nuance. I suspect that part of my problem in engaging with the novel is the key male protagonist from the 1970s portion of the book. Like Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye or DBC Pierre's Vernon Little, Tom is an entirely self-absorbed teenager with too much contempt for those immediately around him. I took an immediate dislike to the character, which intensified as the book continued. Contrast that with the character of Jan, his girlfriend and the other protagonist from the '70s scenes, who is far more interesting and well balanced character, albeit a little needy. The other time periods don't really have an impact on the story other than to give occasional bloody and confused interludes to Jan and Tom's tale. (There are narrative problems with these sections, too: in the Roman sections the names of the characters are too easy to get confused, and the spoken stream-of-consciousness writing style gives insufficient means to flag who said what to whom; in the Civil War sections the protagonist character babbles incoherently, and there are altogether too many characters called Thomas.) Indeed, in the Civil War section's climax there is a massacre, but it all passes incoherently like a fever dream due to the lack of descriptive sentences. I appreciate that this was probably authorial intent, but I didn't find it satisfying.One word review: Disappointing

  • Richard Kramer
    2019-03-15 10:35

    A story about this, first. I was in my local independent book store (Book Soup) and I saw this on the shelf, in atypically striking New York Review of Books cover. It glowed for some reason, so I bought it. I wasn't looking for it.I knew nothing about it. I saw on the back that Emma Donoghue, whose ROOM I haven't read, blurbed it. I said:why not? And even as I write these words, I realize that the words "Why not?" are endangered these days. Maybe by"Why not?" I also mean a life with the element of surprise, of happy collision, of chance.I'd like to say RED SHIFT rewarded my "courage" by being one of the Best Books I've Ever Read. I don't know about that;let's say it isn't. But it challenged me. It changed me, I think. I didn't "get" it, a lot of the time, but that became all right,in the experience of reading it. It's set, in Cheshire, England, in three different time periods -- the present (which would have beenthe early 70's, when the book was written), the 2nd Century, and the 17th Century, during the Civil Wars. Each section hasa damaged, visionary young hero who turns out to be connected to the others from the other times, although I'm not sureI fully understand how. Which is, again, all right. The book is mostly dialogue, and pages go by during which the author doesn'tlet the reader who is speaking. Again, somehow: all right. I followed Alan Garner; he made me willing to do that; there's magic here,rough magic, sad magic.This is something rich and strange. Why not? Yes. I hope my year is about tha.

  • Peter Jamieson
    2019-03-02 04:15

    Time loops, the physics of which are currently poorly understood, forms the basis for this novel - and if you approach it with a strong emotional belief in linear time, you'll have a hard time following it."Red Shift" is based on the eerie ancient ballad "Tam Lin", and the usual hyperdimensional mechanics apply: the magic of the fairy-world parallels (but doesn't quite match) the logic of our own world, and there are occasional intersections. In this case, three stories match and intersect: a group of 2nd century Roman Army deserters, an English Civil War scenario, and a 1970's teenage couple.A Neolithic axe-head retains certain tragic memories, and these are re-enacted each time with those who possess it. The axe-head is thus the nexus for a time-loop - while being also a magnet for those already fated to possess it because they're on the brink of re-enacting the old tragic interplay of events: the story of Tam Lin's rescue by Janet. Except that, of course, the rescue doesn't always occur - especially in the modern scenario, where the central characters are cut off from each other by something worse than warfare: poverty, the denial of a teenager's independence and responsibility by its thick-headed parents, the supreme difficulty of truth-speaking in modern British culture.There you are: enchanted axe-heads. Told you they were dangerous.

  • Yati
    2019-02-20 06:14

    I picked this one up hoping there'd be hijinks with space pirates. Or astronomy. No luck there.I read the whole thing, went back to the start, flipped through the pages again, and realised that I still had no idea what was going on. Strange, strange book.I didn't really care about understanding when I was reading -- the words just flowed through me, and I grasped at the bits I did understand (teenage angst and long-distance relationships and hanging on to the things that are familiar) with some wonder. It's when I put down the book and try to make sense about what it was I had just read, I couldn't.I think I said something about Garner's elliptic prose when I read The Owl Service -- it's probably even elliptical here; half of the time I had no idea who was saying what. Strange, strange book.

  • GrimMandarin
    2019-03-19 07:27

    So earlier this year, I read a couple of books by Mark Fisher which referenced this book. As a teen I had always wanted to read Garner, so I decided this would be a good time to start. Weird, eerie, etc.And now...I don't really know what to make of this book. I've never read anything quite like it. I don't really understand much of what happened. Parts of the narrative passed through my mind without latching on, so I couldn't even tell much about them at all.What I do know is that this book made me feel. The main narrative is tragic for reasons I can't really describe. Some of this book affected me deeply.I can't recommend or not-recommend this one. It's complex, dense, and sad. It's also a demanding read, as so there is so little description, and long stretches of dialogue that might - but not always - drop a hint that time has passed. It really takes a lot to keep on track with this, and I have a feeling that each time you read it, the experience will be a bit different.It doesn't matter. Not really now not any more.

  • Jeremy Jackson
    2019-03-07 10:37

    This was my introduction to the much-lauded Alan Garner, and I know that I think that I very much enjoyed it. Red Shift is rather intense, a little bizarre, and wholly remarkable. I took away something solid from this book, but I'm not quite sure what it is yet; those are some of the best kinds of books.

  • Jenna
    2019-03-08 11:32

    I marked this book as "to read" for 2 reasons: (1) it's allegedly based on the Tam Lin legend, which obsesses me, and (2) it's a NYRB book.Red Shift chronicles the long-distance relationship between Tom and Jan, two teenagers in 1970s Britain. Jan is a nursing student and the daughter of two psychiatrists; Tom is an emotionally fragile astronomy student who lives at home with his smothering parents.Tom's parents are skilled in the art of emotional manipulation. They don't want their little boy to grow up, so they try their darnedest to drive a wedge between Tom and Jan.Tom's and Jan's travails reverberate across the centuries, touching the lives of a 2nd-century berserker named Macey and a 17th-century good-for-nothing named Thomas Rowley. Macey's and Thomas Rowley's gruesome adventures, pockmarked by gratuitous rapes and decapitations, mirror Tom's and Jan's inner turmoil.As if this weren't enough, there is yet another character in Red Shift whose name is a variant of Tam, Tom, or Thomas: Thomas Venables, a brutish-but-noble soldier who serves as a rather implausible deus-ex-machina in one of the book's three interweaving plotlines.While I admired the spareness and immediacy of Garner's writing style, I found the main characters to be thoroughly exasperating and difficult to sympathize with. The three main male characters (Tom, Macey, and Thomas Rowley) all have the emotional intelligence of a three-year-old, and they contribute nothing of value to the romantic relationships in which they participate. The three main female characters are all stereotypical, bosomy, motherly, nurturing Earth-Goddess types, always patting their boyfriends on the back and comfortingly saying "There, there..." This is a grotesque distortion of what I believe the Tam Lin legend is all about, which is why I can't bring myself to give it more than 3 stars.

  • Princess T
    2019-02-27 06:13

    I just read this book again after many years. What amazed me is how much of it has stayed with me, even though I don't fully understand what it is supposed to be about.The story is set in 3 time periods spanning near 2000 years. In each there is a troubled young man who is loved by a young woman. The couples are linked by their posession of a stone axe head and their stories take place in the same geographical location. In two of the stories, the couple are involved in a massacre. In the third, they are in the process of breaking up under the strain of a long distance relationship.What I loved about the book is the poetic and powerful use of language. There's a kind of magic at work because an awful lot is said in between the lines. This is true both of the action, which is portrayed almost entirely without description and (even more) of the emotional content, which is overpoweringly intense in spite of a conspicuous lack of emotional vocabulary.What annoys me a little is that I still don't understand how the three stories are linked and why they turn out differently or how the book is supposed to be a retelling of the ballad of Tam Lin.The final verdict, however is that I don't want to stop reading it. That i have already begun to read it again. That I will keep going over various lines and phrases and story lines. That i will research the quotes. That i will write poetry to try to capture the feelings the book awakes. That i will do these things as much in the remaining part of my life as I now realise I have been doing since the last time I read it.

  • Nicholas During
    2019-03-18 05:25

    A pretty amazing book. It combines very interesting themes (love, violence, sex, parents, religion, origins) with an unusual structure that keeps the reader on her toes and thinking. Yesterday when I finished I just had to look up other people's explanations, which was very useful because this book can be difficult to follow (unattributed dialogue, olde vocab, the last page in particular). The problem with reading all the other reviews, is I now don't know what is my idea and what is theirs.I'll just say I like it a lot, though thinking about it I can't see mine own teenage years in the character of Tom, though I gather that Alan Garner wasn't thinking of the average boy. I loved the ancient Roman England era, and the brutality of it all really hit home. Some of the tribal religious rites seemed trivial. But the description of the soldiers lost in Britain and fighting the tribes to stay alive was powerful. The Civil War part lagged most. But overall, a really excellent book that I will definitely recommend to those looking for a challenging read.

  • Karen
    2019-03-15 12:18

    This book is designated "young adult," but it's a challenging read. The writing is spare. Action is mostly communicated by dialogue without attribution and there's little description and no explanation of what is going on. Yet, although the writing is spare, there is a lot going on. The story takes place in three time periods in the same geographical area. The three storylines have some things in common, including an ancient axe head, a man who is troubled by disturbing visions and a woman who attempts to protect and love him. In each time period the people are experiencing terrible violence of different kinds. The three threads are brought together at the end of the book in a way that's unexpected and powerful, but also raises questions. I recommend this if you like to mull over your books for days after reading the last page!

  • Genevieve
    2019-03-21 05:35

    Good but very dense, and compact, very strange... This reminded me of Beckett more than anything, which is an odd thing to say of an ostensibly young adult book. But the way this book is almost all dialogue, and the way the dialogue is packed and rhythmical, with few words and repetition, and all the terrified emotion bursting at the seams of that economy, felt quite similar. The difficulty of it, too.Right now I feel I want to like the book more than I actually like it, so I'm not sure how to rate it. But I do like it.Of the other Alan Garner books I've read, the one most that most resembles this is Thursbitch.I was left with 'not really now not anymore' ringing in my head against 'hurry up please it's time.' It'll take time for me to sort that out.

  • Jan
    2019-03-02 08:16

    Three mentally ill young men are nurtured by three women in three time periods: Roman Britain, the 17th century British civil war, and what must have seemed like modernity to Alan Garner when he conceived this book in the mid-1960s (it was first published in 1973.) They are linked by names (Macey, Thomas, and Tom); by a stone axe head; and by the colors of their visions (moving from red reality to blue-silver hallucinations.) The novel may be an interpretation of the legend of Tam Lin. The tight dialogue totally lacks dialogue tags ("so-and-so said") and is terrific, especially the speech of the Roman soldiers of the lost Ninth Legion. Some of the imagery is gorgeous, but the book doesn't really hang together. It doesn't gel. It isn't soup yet. Have I made myself perfectly obscure?

  • Tony Mcgowan
    2019-03-09 08:16

    The greatest teenage book ever written - but challenging, even for adults. Actually i think this is one of the finest post-war British novels

  • Rachel
    2019-02-18 06:30

    I didn't follow the story very well. I didn't like the way it was written. There was too much dialog and not enough explanation. It was even hard to keep track of who was saying what.

  • Jenny
    2019-02-18 06:16

    ahhhh i'd forgotten how much i love alan garner

  • Busyknitter
    2019-03-13 08:19

    Never read any Alan Garner before, though there are a number of his books around our house, possibly originating from my older brother’s teenage collection. But this is the 1992 impression and just happened to be sitting on the shelves, so I have no idea how it entered our universe.Anyhow I read it because: It’s short (I’ve been reading through a lot of doorstops lately) It was mentioned in a tangential discussion about the folk horror genre on my new, favourite books podcast, Backlisted I think it’s fair to call this quite an odd book. Set in three time periods, but one location, it explores fear, violence, alienation and sex in a way that let’s its early 70s sensibilities hang loose and free. My main thoughts: Don’t read this if you are looking for coherent narrative (there are three clear “stories”, but you have to work to find them. They’d never publish this under a Young Adult imprint now. I really hated the awful relationship between the modern story male protagonist and his parents.

  • Colin
    2019-02-24 06:12

    I can't remember when I first read Red Shift, but I do remember being confused and disorientated by it. This time round, I've been knocked sideways by the sheer genius of Alan Garner's groundbreaking book. It's incredible to think that this psychologically and narratively complex novel was first published in 1975 on a children's list. Moving almost at random between three interlinked stories set in Roman Britain, the English Civil War and modern times, Red Shift addresses some very big issues. It's full of telling detail, easily missed on a first reading and is an exhilaratingly deep and moving reading experience.

  • Alan Newman
    2019-02-21 04:34

    A story of 3 periods of history in an ancient part of Cheshire, linked by unlikely love affairs, epilepsy and autism, and the mystical presence of an ancient stone axe found in a prehistoric Barrow tomb and the stars in Orion's Belt the name Tom. Slim but dense, often enigmatic, rapid post modern changes in time periods. Dialogue in modern story seemed contrived and unrealistic, probably on purpose. Basically a story of tragic loss and emotional and/ or physical violence thwarting love; tho the story in the Roman period ends on a more hopeful note