Author: Drew Magary
Published: August 2016
In the mood for something trippy? Then “The Hike” is for you. Ben is on a work trip when he decides to take a short hike while waiting for a meeting. When he sees two men wearing the skinned-off faces of Rottweilers dragging a dead body in the woods, he makes a run for it. Pursued by the killers, Ben quickly finds himself stumbling down an unfamiliar path where things like talking crabs, cannibalistic giants and a humongous cricket wait for him.
The best way to describe “The Hike” is as a series of crazy nonsensical events. While the constant barrage of weirdness coming at Ben was exactly what I had been looking for, it stopped working for me around the mid-point. Mostly because “The Hike” seems to be trying to make a point about anger or depression through an “Alice in Wonderland” style story, which doesn’t come across very well.
There’s a lot of emphasis placed on Ben’s history with depression and hints that his repressed anger is causing damage. Throughout the story we get glimpses of his past as Ben relives traumatizing moments but with the things that went wrong fixed. Without giving too much away, the concept behind what is causing these moments is interesting. However, that idea gets a little buried in what felt like moments of oddness that were just filler. It still could’ve worked if Ben’s character had experienced some growth from his experiences.
Ben goes through some traumatic stuff, with many of the situations targeting his specific fears. A lot of time passes and, for a short while, he seems to evolve from a person who throws hissy fits to a calmer “takes things in stride” person. Toward the climax this vanishes and he reverts back to the impulsive person he was in the beginning. What further spoils his character development is the climax. Ben is presented with a final choice before he can obtain what he’s been struggling so hard for the entire story. Both options have their appeal and selecting either one requires a sacrifice. Instead of making a decision, Ben is allowed to essentially get both choices. For me, this solution cheapened Ben’s journey and his end choice.
Despite my issues with the story, this was an ok read. If you like “John Dies at the End” but want to read something that takes itself a little more seriously, you might find something to like here.