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Book Review

Book Cover

The Ridgewalkers
When Legend Becomes an Encounter


Author: Greg Walter
Publisher: Open Books Press
178 pages
RRP: £13.95
ISBN: 10 1941799817
ISBN: 13 978-4294333723
Publication Date: 15 September 2020

Greg Walter is a real life adventurer. His appetite for adventure takes him from autobiography to exploration of legend, mythos and lore as old as our collective consciousness. There is an account of his hero, Alex Boldway (well named both consciously and unconsciously) in his merchant marine days, realizing The Reaper has followed him down into the hold of the fishing trawler he’s working on. The icy seas are reeling the ship a kilter with full nets, ready to flip the whole vessel - and the hatch overhead is open. Ice clogged sea will gush in and bottle Alex alive with all the cold fish. Industrial death at the hands of an indiscriminate Reaper. Boldway lives by lucky generosity of the waves, bobbing the ship aright like a cork. Then and there the Coast Guard veteran decides it’s time to get a job back on land. He’s always been a worshipper of nature and it’s to the beloved mountain trails of the northwest Pacific coastal range to which he returns.

Boldway loves the majesty of the ridge trails, delights in mapping them, de-trashing them and beholding the awesomeness of it all. But there is more. He hears emanations from the woods. He encounters Bigfoot before he knows what the species is. Native Tribals educate him. Bits and pieces of lessons adhere to his modern sensibility. Formative experience underlying the cosmos becomes actualized into his drama of daily life.

Alex’s cousin, Curt, is his shadow opposite. Curt was a killer in the military and now lives to hunt and bag anything nature has to offer. Their separate life paths connect with the Bigfoot. The legendary giant furry beast, glimpsed as long as people have been here, is better seen askance than engaged full on. Curt wants to bring one back. Dead or alive.

Alex honours the tradition from his own intimations and glimpses. Curt wants to take it as a trophy. Hired by Lazarus, billionaire trophy collector and maestro of gene splice research with lucrative military application, Curt and a crack mercenary team he assembles, come hunting Bigfoot with state of the art oil war tech. Destiny has placed Alex in their way.

The world of Bigfoot is in another dimensional fold. Walter hikes us into that realm with the assuredness of a galactic cartographer. This otherworldly breed is called to protect the earth, to prevent its permanent destruction by blind greed and short sighted exploitation. To the exploiters, Alex (and Walter) is just another tree hugger to be clear cut away like so many indigenous populations who have lived with nature for millennia. To the Manhattan minions of finance (we go there too) death is part of life. Their life and profit.

The Ridgewalkers follows the three paths, Alex, Curt and earth’s Bigfoot visitors. Seemingly unrelated chapters suddenly merge. The last third of Walter’s tale is unmitigated adventure, cliffhanger and haemorrhagic action, some of the most novel gore this reader has seen. Delightful.

The joker in the deck is “The Little People.” Writing this in Ireland where The Little People are generally accepted is an easy sell. Accounts of these beings are literally and literarily ubiquitous in world writing and oral history. I know a hard headed broker-appraiser, proudly lapsed Christian, nobody’s fool in the chambers of British and American banking, who readily admits to believing in The Little People. The written and oral history of this anthropological trope has been anthologized by such researchers as Jacques Vallee in his seminal survey, Dimensions. I found it ironic that neither this well-read banker or Walter had heard of the book. Their individual take on the subject has thrived without it. The Little People are that venerable. In Walter’s world, they are dedicated to the race we know as Bigfoot. They are scary, hideously funny and the butts of their jokes never laugh.

If this sounds impossible to suspend disbelief, oh reader, you err. Walter’s art is making the unbelievable more than believable but tactilely understandable. His illustrations of Bigfoot and environs are impossible not to love. Pogo on steroids via Weird Tales Comics. The mix of gore and tragedy with gallows humour is… well, exhilarating.

Walter makes us care about Alex and in that we come to care about ourselves and the nature we’re a part of. Aberrant cells are cancerous. Either they are ejected or the whole organism dies. Harmony is the crisis here and Walter weaves a story that threads into our identification. This book cries for a sequel, no, a series. You heard it here first. Bet me.

The last third of The Ridgewalkers is impossible to stop reading. It’s no small gymnastic trick to delight one with action and at the same time take you by the hand through Philosophy 101 questions: who are we, what are we and why are we here? Is the failure of human imagination a destiny-flaw of failed hermeneutic toward world ecology? Does our whole contribution to human wisdom come down to forgetting it’s a sad bird that craps in its own nest? Blinded by greed, pride and adrenochrome lust for killing, is humanity just too malignant to survive? Walter asks these questions and dares give us hope.

In this day of dystopian daydreaming selling at a dime a bag, hope is almost a thought crime. Walter is in the queue for following Winston Smith into Room 101. How dare he be hopeful and give it to us in an adventure yarn: one part monster story, one part fairy tale, one part cliffhanger, one part multi-verse (not universe) saga in the tradition of our best fantasy and sci-fi novelists? But that’s what he does. Hype? No. He crosses this slack wire high above our heads and we can’t stop watching. Renowned atheist Sam Harris says there is a place for the mythopoeic because it literarily provokes thought for our concrete necessity of living in nature -- the importance of balanced dialogue to enable us to flourish in this life without slavery, exploitation or dung heaping our earth.


John Huff

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