Thursday, June 25, 2009

The River - Gary Paulsen

The River
Gary Paulsen
Yearling Books
Copyright Date: 1991

According to the cover of The River:
Two years ago, Brian Robeson was stranded alone in the wilderness for fifty-four days with nothing but a small hatchet. He survived. Now the government wants him to do it again - to go back into the wildrness so that astronauts and the military can learn the survival techniques that kept him alive.

This time Brian won't be alone: Derek Holtzer, a government psychologist, will accompany him. But during a freak storm, Derek is hit by lightning and falls into a coma. Their radio transmitter is dead. Brian's only hope is to build a raft and try to transport Derek a hundred miles down the river to a trading post - if the map he has is accurate.

The River is the sequel to the Newberry Honor book Hatchet. In this one, Brian, who has made it home safely after surviving nearly two months alone in the wilderness after the plane crash, has agreed to go out again and repeat the feat in order to help increase the odds for others in similar situations.

However, things, of course, go wrong, and he ends up in almost a worse situation. His companion, Derek ends up in a coma from a lightning strike, so, not only is Brian alone again, he's got to somehow keep Derek alive while getting them home safely.

As the series progresses, it becomes clear that although the language of the books is suitable for everyone from the nine to twelve age group, on up, some of the concepts are better suited to slightly older folks, say, early teens. However, there's no upper limit. I definitely enjoyed reading this book last night.

The whole thing is so vividly written, that I could see almost everything as it happened. Gary Paulsen has a real talent for writing nature in both it's beauty and it's viciousness, ranging from a sunset to the need to hunt for food.

I like the way the author has chosen to get into Brian's head, showing his thought processes, and how easy he found it to get back into the mindset he had during his first experience in the wilderness. This time though, he's also exploring (unintentionally) the effects of an extended period without sleep, which are very vividly described.

This is definitely a shorter book than Hatchet, but it's just as good a read, taking only a couple of hours or less.

Other books in the series:
Brian's Hunt
Brian's Winter
Brian's Return

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