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Red Shift (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – October 25, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


Red Shift, with its passionately bickering adolescent lovers and its vertiginous plunges through the wormhole of time, shook me to the core every time I read it, and still does. . . . More than any orthodox work of historical fiction, it was this weird fantasy novel which taught me to look beyond the walls of my own era, my own reality. Garner makes the past numinous, terrifyingly real: anything but passed.”
—Emma Donoghue

“Garner squeezes language into depth charges which will detonate emotions at a level where words cannot reach.”
The Listener

“A bitter, complex, brilliant book.” —Ursula Le Guin

“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)

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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (October 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590174437
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590174432
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #896,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 20, 1999
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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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By John Bonavia VINE VOICE on 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 By The Chalcenteric Kid on 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 By A Customer on July 9, 1999
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Maine Character on February 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
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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