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A topnotch thriller

The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge - Michael Punke

Title:

 

The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge

 

Who wrote it:

 

Michael Punke, who also authored Fire and Brimstone: The North Butte Mining Disaster of 1917.

 

Plot in a Box:

 

An experienced trapper for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company has the misfortune of encountering a grizzly while scouting a campsite for his party. Mauled within an inch of his life and abandoned, the story that follows is one of survival and vengeance.

 

Invent a new title for this book:

 

The Plainsman

 

Read this if you liked:

 

Little Big Man by Thomas Berger, True Grit by Charles Portis

 

Meet the book's lead:

 

Hugh Glass, a quiet but competent trapper who is based on a historical counterpart.

 

Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:

 

The Revenant is already being adapted to film, with Leonardo DiCaprio tapped to play Glass. Tom Hardy was selected for the villainous John Fitzgerald. After reading the book, I'd say I approve of those casting choices.

 

Setting: Would you want to live there?

 

It's a hard call. The Rocky Mountains are described here as a beautiful and pristine but very harsh place in the early nineteenth-century.

 

What was your favorite sentence?

The crimson glow of fire cast Campeche's last night in apocalyptic splendor.

The Verdict:

 

Imagine being attacked by a bear in the wilderness and left with a number of seemingly fatal injuries. Now consider the fact that it’s 1823 and there is no access to any kind of medical attention whatsoever. War parties of enemy tribes are patrolling nearby, your own companions have abandoned you, and the nearest civilization is hundreds of miles away. Oh, and some asshole stole your gun and all of your supplies. This is the impossible situation that Hugh Glass is immediately faced with in The Revenant.

 

The first book of the year tends to leave an impression, and The Revenant has definitely done that for me. It’s the kind of mesmerizing survival story that sticks to your fingers when you try to put it down, because the obstacles the character faces seem so insurmountable. The first page throws the reader straight into the thick of the plot, leaving no space for slow beginnings. As Glass claws his way towards revenge against those who left him for dead in the wilderness, Punke spins a colorful past for the trapper and provides motivation for those who betrayed him. Without a doubt, character is the nucleus of this story, driving the protagonist through a gauntlet of painful tests.

 

The Revenant won’t draw readers looking for complex prose, but it successfully engages the audience in some intriguing moral mind games. Yes, some of the actions of Glass’ companions were clearly reprehensible, but the situation is an extremely difficult one from almost all sides. At what point must a dying man be abandoned to preserve the lives of others? Is survival always the favorable option? It’s a topnotch thriller, made all the more fascinating by its basis in real events. Compelling historical background gives flesh and blood to a dangerous yet vibrant time when a web of soldiers, tribes, and competing fur trade companies roamed the plains around the Upper Missouri.

 

First published in 2003, The Revenant is being rereleased for the movie that is expected to reach theaters on Jan. 8, 2016. Happy New Year's everyone, and stay away from grizzly bears.

 

Bookshots review written for LitReactor.com by Leah Dearborn