Deliverance

by James Dickey

“I’ll take what I’ve got. I don’t read books and I don’t have theories. What’d be the use? What you’ve got is a fantasy life.”
“That’s all anybody has got.”

Four city boys, bored with mundane suburban lives and office jobs, take canoes to a nearby river to get away for a few days and find out something of themselves. The patch of river Lewis, their de facto leader, identifies for the journey is nearly inaccessible, but with the help of some backwoods locals they’re on their way. But the river turns out to be far more than they bargained for, as does the local population, and the four find themselves battling for their lives.

A legendary novel, due in no small part to the feature film, Deliverance is a number of elements bundled into one: action, adventure, thriller and crime novel. A little horror had been expected, but very little actually came through, instead showing determinism in place of raw fear.

Much of this is survivalist, with new obstacles mounting every curve, and since it’s all told in the first-person the pain of every failure is clear, while each triumph brings only the promise of another problem, carrying all the way through the end.

With its blinding pace, relatable characters and sense of danger saturating the page, not to mention the story’s standing in popular culture, this one really shouldn’t be missed.

That was all the blood I planned to leave in the woods; the rest would have to be somebody else’s.

4+

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