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Red Shift (1973)

by Alan Garner

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8431726,405 (3.79)68
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 they love so intensely keep them clinging to reality? Or is the future evermore destined to reflect the past?… (more)
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» See also 68 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Most folk, I suspect will read Red Shift as the story of Tom, Thomas, and Macey rather than Jan, Margery, and the unnamed girl. The men are certainly the link between the the arcs, but the story? Familiarly with Garner, place is a major character, and it is so here more accessibly and transparently than the books that follow. Yet relationships overflow in Red Shift along with their consequences. The balance between the two is perhaps the best of his here; more so because it doesn't rely on myth. It's an outstanding novel.

( )
  ortgard | Sep 22, 2022 |
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?" ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
For a book aimed at children or young adults this is very challenging - I found it challenging. There is little explanation of what is going on, the 3 stories seem linked but it's never made explicit why. Much of the story is told through conversations where you have to pick up clues as to when and where the action is taking place. It's eerie and disorienting, but also touching, sad and intense. ( )
1 vote AlisonSakai | Jan 2, 2020 |
I read this novel as a teenager about the same age as Tom and Jan and have always said this is my favourite Alan Garner novel as the story has stayed with me but I wondered if I would still enjoy it as much now that I am older. In fact I think I enjoyed it more. Tom and Jan's love story is still as moving and emotional as I found it then and I feel for them as they try to maintain a long-distance relationship, meeting only every eight weeks by the end I was heart-broken once again. Woven around this story of 1970s Britain are two other stories, one set in Roman times and one in the Civil War and linking them all is a stone. Alan Garner places all this in Cheshire around Mow Cop on the border with Staffordshire and his sense of place is second to none. His ability to tell historical tales with folk tales and a contemporary love story is a feat he pulls off very well. I love the dialogue and the beautiful poetry he gives the conversations too. ( )
1 vote CarolKub | Oct 24, 2017 |
I first read this book as a teenager and found it haunting and moving. I come to reread it 30 odd years later and still find it a powerful book. Alan Garner is one of our finest writers and here he concocts a story made up of three interlinking strands. All feature a troubled boy protagonist and a 5000 year old stone axe. The present day story features two teenage lovers, Jan and Tom. Tom lives with his parents in a caravan, fighting his inner demons while trying to cope with his feelings for Jan. Another story features Roman legionnaires, survivors of the massacred Ninth legion who seek sanctuary on Mow Cop hill. The final strand is set in the Civil War and tells of the massacre at Barthomley, near Mow Cop.

Mow Cop, it's castle and folly tower, it's church and the surrounding landscape all loom large in the story. The three protagonists are linked by visions all seemingly connected to the stone axe.

Garner roots his tales in the landscape and Red Shift is no exception. It's a short novel, less than 200 pages long. But he packs a powerful emotional punch into those pages, as the tragedy and mystery unfold in each strand. There are no easy resolutions here and the book is all the more affecting for that.

A fine read. ( )
  David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alan Garnerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Schwinger, LaurenceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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FOR BILLY
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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 they love so intensely keep them clinging to reality? Or is the future evermore destined to reflect the past?

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In a superb fusion of fantasy and reality, this compelling novel moves back and forth among three young men of three different periods of history — Tom in the twentieth-century world of trailer parks and high-speed motorways, blue and silver trains and telephone answering machines; Macey in the second-century Britain of warring tribes and Roman legions; and Thomas, caught up in the seventeenth-century civil war between King and Parliament.

Each faces a critical moment of choice, when fundamental decisions must be made about love, responsibility and faith. Each influences the destiny of the others as the barriers of time dissolve through the agency of an ancient stone axe.

The eternal truths of passion and terror, tenderness and betrayal, courage and despair are laid bare in a brilliant narrative that is stunning in its impact. Red Shift is a milestone in the work of one of the most exciting authors of our time.

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