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Red Shift (New York Review Books Classics) [Kindle Edition]

Alan Garner
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews


“Long before Philip Pullman and J. K. Rowling there was Alan Garner, a children’s author who crossed the boundaries between real and imaginary worlds—and between a young and an adult readership.” —The Times (London) list of the 50 greatest British postwar writers
“A work of poetic imagination that will keep any adult mind at full stretch.” —Daily Mail (London)
“ . . . a magnificently multilayered novel . . . a superbly exciting piece of literature.” —The Sunday Times (London)
“A bitter, complex, brilliant book.” —Ursula K. Le Guin 

From the Publisher

Alan Garner's book The Owl Service was widely acclaimed:

"Without doubt Mr Alan Garner is one of the most exciting writers for young people today. He is producing work with strong plot structure, perceptive characterisation and vivid language." - Times Educational Supplement

"The Owl Service is not meant only for children or anyone else; it's a novel; and not many better novels will be published this year." - John Rowe Townsend, The Guardian

"Alan Garner is one of the outstanding present-day writers for children; and The Owl Service takes him a step further into more magical, legendary, adult worlds than he's gone so far." - Isabel Quigly, Catholic Herald

"No confirmation of the stature of Alan Garner as a writer of children's fiction is needed: if it were, his latest novel, The Owl Service, would establish it beyond doubt." - Financial Times

Product Details

  • File Size: 292 KB
  • Print Length: 232 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (October 25, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004KPM1CQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #687,622 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "hard" Young Adult book that is also great! May 20, 1999
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I am amazed that Alan Garner's "Red Shift" is out of print, and also that I am the first reviewer of it on
Garner's "Red Shift" is a culmination of his development as a novelist, starting with the fantasy adventure "The Weirdstone of Brisingamen", before he completely changed, and wrote his "Stone Book" quartet, stories of his ancestors, stonemason, blacksmith, and others. Increasingly, from "Weirdstone" to "Red Shift", Garner's use of fantasy moves from overt to inner. In his first books ancient forces, old gods and creatures, co-exist in our own modern world. Although Garner was not entirely original in writing such stories, it seems that his were the first that spawned many similar stories for children and adults. But the Merlin-like magician in "Weirdstone" develops into the psychological presence, a form of possession, in the modern characters of "The Owl Service" (the novel immediately before "Red Shift") who find themselves repeating the actions of love, lust, murder and revenge which are told in the Welsh myth of Llew Llaw Gyffes and Gronw Pebwyr in "The Mabingogion".
In "red Shift" the move from outer fantasy of "Weirdstone" to inner possession of modern characters in "Owl Service" becomes the shared consciousness, at moments of trancelike crisis for sets of characters living in three separate eras: post-Roman Britain, the English Civil War, and modern Manchester. An ancient Stone Age axe head is the focus of this possession-like shared consciousness.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bitter, subtle, complex December 19, 2005
A bitter, dense, vigorous book about the violence and betrayals we inflict on each other. So much is lost along the way - and although there is some survival at the end, what kind of survival is it?

There are three interwoven stories, spanning three points in time and one in space - the times are the later Roman Empire in Britain, the British Civil War of the 17th century, and the modern age. The space is a part of Cheshire around an iconic hill, Mow Cop. And the three are linked - apart from their biting emotional motifs - by an object, a prehistoric axe head, that appears in all, a talisman of the ages.

In the earliest thread, a ragged remnant of a Roman legion - just a few soldiers, conscripts from who-knows-where - have to deal with the wild and ancient tribes, as vicious and crafty as the soldiers. Wonderfully, Garner has made them talk the lingo of modern squaddies, because that's how they would have sounded to each other. In the Civil War, villagers take refuge in a church from the prowling band of enemy - but not all the hatred is political...In today's world, a near-genius innocent, a sacred fool (who quotes Lear's lines for Tom the fool) is paired with a girl above his social level and distrusted by his parents: there are no swords here, but "words" is an anagram of "sword" and the pain is the same.

Incredible tight, elliptical exchanges: you may have to read a page twice to "get" everything that is happening (and then you won't be sure). American readers may have a problem with the British idiom of the 70's and some archaic words of the Civil War times, and the Cheshire idiom, but it's worth it.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The hardest book I ever read at 14 March 12, 2005
This was one of the most difficult books I read as a kid - and so ultimately one of the most satisfying too. Alan Garner in no way talks down to his target audience and here he produced possibly his best work with a plot that demands the reader's attention. If only all books were this well written!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entirely confusing yet ultimately rewarding July 9, 1999
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
My review of this book will never be as articulate as the one written before mine, but I would like to express my opinion of "Red Shift". I have recommended it to so many friends who have all given up before they have reached 50 pages in. I must admit that I was tempted to do the same, though I cannot be more glad to have persevered. The story finds clarity in the last few pages (and in the wonderful encoded passage at the end!) If you have time to devote to this book, it is worth all the effort. Truly greater than "The Wierdstone".
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Challenging, Grim, and Compelling February 7, 2010
I discovered this book by chance when browsing a used book store. The title caught my eye, and the cover showed the silhouette of a castle and a quote from Ursula Le Guin: "A bitter, complex, brilliant book."

Well, I thought, I'm bitter, complex, and brilliant, so this just might be for me. So I plunked down my eighty-five cents and took it home, never knowing it was a cult novel that would challenge me like few others.

There's three interwoven stories, each in the same location. The first and central story is a romance between two teenagers in 1973 England, with one going off to college. The kids are wistful, honest, confused, very intelligent, and trying to hold onto the one thing they know is sure in the world.

They stood in the shelter of the tower, holding each other, rocking with gentleness.
"I love you," said Jan.
"I'm coming to terms with it."
" - love you."
"But there's a gap."
"I know things, and feeling things, but the wrong way round. That's me: all the right answers at none of the right times. I see and can't understand. I need to adjust my spectrum, pull myself away from the blue end. I could do with a red shift."

The second story focuses on a small band of the lost Roman Ninth Legion trying to blend in with the first century tribes of Britain. Religion, subversion, and revelation rise among the brutality of war. One of them, Macey, is prone to berserker-like fits. Anyone who likes military fiction, or gritty fantasy, will appreciate the realistic depictions of their battles, all laced in Vietnam-like delirium.

"You and Magoo stand sentry," said Logan, "but listen. All of you get this, and get it good. The guards have been taken out, maybe not by Cats. The Mothers have come south.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A Puzzle of a Novel
I had never heard of Red Shift before last week, though I had long wanted to read something by Alan Garner. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Oddsfish
2.0 out of 5 stars Tough and Unrewarding
This is one of those books that I found to be a great idea, but poorly executed. The dialogue is jerky and hard to follow as are the time shifts. Read more
Published 15 months ago by J. Smallridge
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my all-time favourite books
This is a beautiful and evocative story that really stays with you. Definitely one of my all-time favourite books. Garner is a real master!
Published 16 months ago by Maria Haskins
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful.
Awful, confusing, boring; A classic Disappointment. Don't borther with this book mistaken for "Classic Literature" It's NOT!
It Will be offered up for sale. Read more
Published on January 19, 2013 by Mel Wittenstein
2.0 out of 5 stars An ambitious failure
"Red Shift", by Alan Garner, is a good try that fails. The novel weaves three separate stories separated by centuries, sharing only a mysterious location ("Mow Cop", in western... Read more
Published on November 13, 2011 by Robert H. Stine Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars intense!
I first read this around the age of 15, and it left a deep impression. I came back to it recently when picking out books for the next generation, and read it again. Wow. Read more
Published on December 13, 2010 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars An encounter with Mow Cop
It was dark and I was lost driving home. I tried to take a shortcut across the Staffordshire Moorlands. Something said I should turn left to cross the ridge to the next valley. Read more
Published on September 27, 2001 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Ursula Le Guin described this as: "a bitter, complex, brilliant book".
I've nothing to add to that. Except this: try to find a copy at all costs. Read more
Published on May 2, 2000 by A. C. H. Bergh
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