Thursday, September 25, 2014

Finished: "The Revenant" by Michael Punke

Finished: The Revenant by Michael Punke, 2002, 9780786710270.

A local guy said this was the best book he ever read. He described the plot as "bear attack" but that is misleading.  I thought it would be a "man against wilderness" story.  Well, it is a man against the wilderness but that is misleading as well. More of a man against bear, against, wilderness, against Indians, after revenge. A good but not great story but still an interesting tale.

Set in the U.S. frontier of 1823 in present day MO, NE, CO, OK, TX, WY.  Period detail and a look at the interaction among the different traders and Indian tribes of the areas.  How commerce expanded and grew west.

Hugh Glass is an adventurer.  He's joined an expedition by the Rocky Mountain Fur Company to head west from St. Louis and trap beaver in the Rockies. His expedition of about 30 men runs into trouble right away with several Indian battles. The group fairs poorly in those battles and works their way up the Missouri River on foot, evading Indians, and hunting their food. Glass is attacked and mauled by a grizzly while scouting ahead. The deep claw cuts and a bite leave Glass near death.  A couple expedition members are left to care for Glass until he dies. But, Glass won't die, he keeps hanging on.  The rest of the expedition has left and is traveling at a rate of 30 miles a day through extremely hostile territory.  The men tasked to stay with Glass are antsy pantsy and one the two is a murderous sociopath.  When a mounted group of Indian warriors comes near the camp the two men take Glass's rifle, knife and scant gear and leave him for dead.  Glass is angry.  Glass crawls away from the campsite.

Glass crawls his way along the river drinking the water and eating plants and trapping small animals.  Glass slowly recovers and reaches a Frenchman's trading post.  Glass continues on after the two men who left him for dead.

More things happen and Punke fills in Glass's fascinating history and travels. Ship captain in the Atlantic, captured and pressed ganged by pirates, surviving an attack on the pirate's Galveston Bay island, walking across TX, captured by Indians and almost killed but adopted into the tribe, meeting white men traders and going to St. Louis.

Meanwhile, the expedition travels down the Missouri and finds few beavers to trap.  No beavers means no money.  Their horses are stolen by the Indians.  Their leader suffers depression and bad fortune. Men desert the expedition. 

Glass survives a few fights, more injuries and bad weather.

1. A good story.  I had not read anything like this in quite a while. The last frontier book I recall reading was some Louis L'Amour novel almost 20 years ago.
2. The section about Glass capture by pirates was interesting. He was caught by Lafitte and almost all the passengers murdered except those, like Glass, who could show they had sailing skills.
3. I checked to see if Punke has any more novels. Nope.  He has a couple NF titles.  He's a trade rep. at the WTO in Geneva, Switzerland so maybe his spare time is scant.
4. Punke has a bib. in the back on the resources he used.  He based the novel off real people and events.
5. When I lived in Marysville, KS I was fascinated when I found out how widely the Indian Wars ranged around the immediate area.

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