Drew Magary is a popular columnist for the sports blog Deadspin and correspondent for publications such as GQ. A recent study by the creators of Read It Later revealed his entertaining, brash articles as some of the most saved and shared across the web. His 2011 novel, The Postmortal, expanded his fan base by introducing him to the science fiction community. With his second novel, things get even stranger.
As a longtime fan of anything unusual and “weird,” I can easily conclude that The Hike is among the strangest books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It begins normally enough: Our protagonist Ben checks into a hotel room for a business meeting and expects to be back in the arms of his loving family the next day. Of course, this doesn’t occur, and readers are sent along with Ben into the colorful (and sometimes horrific) imagination of Magary.
Ben starts walking a path, one that is as metaphorical as it is physical: a nightmarish fever dream of a quest that he must complete before being rewarded with a return to his former life. Styled after early video games and fantasy role-playing, the plot is generous with nods to its inspirational material. Fans of fantasy gaming will find something about which to smile knowingly on almost every page, but the book will appeal to any lover of colorful characters or an adventure stories. There are certainly deeper themes worthy of examination as well—questions of what is an “afterlife,” and just how much control humanity truly has over its own destiny.
While reading, I found myself repeatedly asking, “What the heck just happened?” before I took a moment to re-read, process and then accept that yes—this crazy thing had indeed just happened. True to its nature, the story stays unpredictable and weird right up to the climax. Magary’s book is a love letter to fans of gaming, fantasy and adventure, but above all, to open-minded readers who can relax and hang on for the ride.