The Signal: A Novel

The Signal: A Novel

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by Ron Carlson
     
 

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"The Signal accelerates like an avalanche...If men can't be brought back to fiction by books as fine as this one, it's their own damn fault."
-The Washington Post


Ron Carlson, author of the critically acclaimed Five Skies, is an award-winning writer beloved by booksellers, reviewers, and readers alike. His most thrilling bookSee more details below

Overview

"The Signal accelerates like an avalanche...If men can't be brought back to fiction by books as fine as this one, it's their own damn fault."
-The Washington Post


Ron Carlson, author of the critically acclaimed Five Skies, is an award-winning writer beloved by booksellers, reviewers, and readers alike. His most thrilling book to date, The Signal follows the story of Mack and Vonnie, a married couple who, after ten years together, are taking their last hike in the mountains of Wyoming to say goodbye to their relationship and to each other. As the troubled and tragic elements of their past gradually come to light over the course of their journey, Mack keeps a secret: he is tracking a signal, sent via a beacon that has fallen from the sky, that will lead them both into a wood far darker than they have ever imagined.

Editorial Reviews

Ron Charles
Ron Carlson…writes like Hemingway without the misogyny and self-parody. If there's a smart man in your life who might still be tempted into the pleasures of contemporary literary fiction, The Signal could be just the gateway drug you're after…Carlson never drops an extra word or a false phrase, even as The Signal accelerates like an avalanche, suspicion rolling into fear and then roaring down with a conclusion that shakes the ground. If men can't be brought back to fiction by books as fine as this one, it's their own damn fault.
—The Washington Post
Jennifer Gilmore
In The Signal, the visceral beauty of the land sustains the reader, as it has so clearly sustained Mack and Vonnie. Like Rick Bass and Jim Harrison, Carlson writes about the natural world with convincing authority. And Mack's love and admiration for the West, his familiarity with its seasons and changes, its weaknesses and strengths, illuminate, by contrast, just how limited his understanding of people can be, even his understanding of the woman he loves. The Signal takes us into terrain that's stunning and terrible. In doing so, it becomes both an elegy to a broken marriage and a heart-stopping, suspenseful thriller. It's a difficult journey, but relax: with Ron Carlson, you really are in expert hands.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

The dense Wind River Mountains of western Wyoming is where Carlson (Five Skies) sets his brooding latest, a tale of expired love and desperate measures. Mack, son of a longtime rancher, has made many missteps in life, culminating in a recent stint in jail where "he'd rusted like an old post when the weather turned." While he's in jail, his recently ex-wife Vonnie agrees to join him one last time on their annual ritual of backpacking through the Wyoming wilderness to fish, camp and rediscover each other. Mack, though, has a hidden motive: a friend/technical genius has hired him to retrieve a valuable drone that's crash-landed in the forest. Carlson describes the couple's six days wandering the wooded terrain in delicate, measured prose, careful to miss neither the lush scenery nor the incrementally amplified tension as Mack edges closer to his prize and shady characters from the past appear. Carlson has produced a work of masterful fiction, combining the sad inevitability of a doomed relationship with sheer nail-biting suspense. (June)

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Library Journal

As in his wonderful Five Skies, Carlson again offers readers a broken man endeavoring to heal himself through nature. Following his dad's sudden death, Mack, who comes from a long line of Wyoming ranchers, takes to muling drugs to raise fast cash to save the family homestead. Add months of constant drinking and a fling with an even more damaged woman, and Mack finds himself despondent, divorced, and jailed. Free again, he convinces ex-wife Vonnie to come on one final fishing trip high in the mountains they both love. For him, it's both an attempt to win her back and a secret, high-paying job to locate a classified government object that fell from a military plane. Vonnie simply wants closure and a last good-bye. Their plans evaporate when they encounter something more nefarious in the deep, silent, engulfing forest than anything they'd faced before. VERDICT This character-driven story unfurls slowly through dialog, exposition, and flashbacks. Simple, taut, and elegant, it's a beautifully told tale of love and redemption that all readers will appreciate.—Mike Rogers, LJX/LJ


—Mike Rogers
Kirkus Reviews
Energetic depiction of a rocky mountain romance that sputters along for an eventful decade. Carlson (The Speed of Light, 2003, etc.) takes as his setting the formidably gorgeous terrain in and around Wyoming's Wind River Mountains, where protagonist Mack grows up on his widowed father's dude ranch, accommodating and charming tenderfoot tourists in pursuit of controlled adventure and spectacle. One such is Vonnie, a headstrong educated Easterner with a musical gift. The expanse of their relationship is slowly revealed from the vantage point of Vonnie's return to Wyoming for a tenth annual backpacking mountain trip, by which time her attraction to Mack has grown cold. Lengthy flashbacks focus mostly on Mack, a bright but wayward youngster whose stamina and stoicism endear him to the mercurial Vonnie. At 17, she wanders away from the ranch and is rescued by the taciturn but already smitten Mack. Vonnie goes back East; Mack's dad dies; and the young man begins to drift: "Without his father's expectations, he found himself without a rudder." Mack attends college and learns skills that get him work as a computer consultant for some very shady clients. Soon he's entrenched in a life of crime and exposure to lethal violence. His impulsive marriage to Vonnie quickly unravels; she's ever hopeful, but, unlike Mack, nobody's fool. There's too much repetition in otherwise superbly managed wilderness scenes, but the novel simmers with a strongly constructed impression of trouble perpetually lurking nearby, nicely captured in the local tall tale of Hiram, a lovelorn recluse and stalker. These strengths, along with the vivid figures of Vonnie and Mack, will keep most readers turning the pages. A bit of acomedown from the bracing high of Five Skies (2007), Carlson's best novel to date, but an eye-opening trip well worth taking nevertheless.
From the Publisher
"The Signal takes us into terrain that's stunning and terrible. In doing so, it becomes both an elegy to a broken marriage and a heart- stopping, suspenseful thriller. It's a difficult journey, but relax: with Ron Carlson, you really are in expert hands."
-New York Times Book Review

"Carlson never drops an extra word or a false phrase, even as "The Signal" accelerates like an avalanche, suspicion rolling into fear and then roaring down with a conclusion that shakes the ground. If men can't be brought back to fiction by books as fine as this one, it's their own damn fault."
-Washington Post

"Ron Carlson's new novel is a love story and a wilderness adventure that mounts to a climax of shocking, and satisfying, violence...Carlson paces his tale with craft and care, never hurrying. "The Signal" is about broken innocence and how, for the individual at least, balance might be found again. Carlson's a romantic —- even when he's writing about failings, folly and violence. This novel...has a lingering elegance and power. Lives go wrong, "The Signal" says, but they can be repaired too, if we find our centers and attend to what's around us."
-Los Angeles Times

"Read Ron Carlson's latest THE SIGNAL and you'll be convinced that the answer to your worries resides in the woods, in getting back to the basics... It's a sweet, tidy little book about a broken rancher. And yet it won't just help you pass the time, it will help you out."
-Esquire

"Long revered as a master of the short story, Carlson has a talent for describing landscape (both internal and external), and that translates here intact. At fewer than 200 pages, its beach ready, too."
-GQ

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101052686
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/28/2009
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
801,619
File size:
0 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"The Signal takes us into terrain that's stunning and terrible. In doing so, it becomes both an elegy to a broken marriage and a heart- stopping, suspenseful thriller. It's a difficult journey, but relax: with Ron Carlson, you really are in expert hands."
-New York Times Book Review

"Carlson never drops an extra word or a false phrase, even as "The Signal" accelerates like an avalanche, suspicion rolling into fear and then roaring down with a conclusion that shakes the ground. If men can't be brought back to fiction by books as fine as this one, it's their own damn fault."
-Washington Post

"Ron Carlson's new novel is a love story and a wilderness adventure that mounts to a climax of shocking, and satisfying, violence...Carlson paces his tale with craft and care, never hurrying. "The Signal" is about broken innocence and how, for the individual at least, balance might be found again. Carlson's a romantic —- even when he's writing about failings, folly and violence. This novel...has a lingering elegance and power. Lives go wrong, "The Signal" says, but they can be repaired too, if we find our centers and attend to what's around us."
-Los Angeles Times

"Read Ron Carlson's latest THE SIGNAL and you'll be convinced that the answer to your worries resides in the woods, in getting back to the basics... It's a sweet, tidy little book about a broken rancher. And yet it won't just help you pass the time, it will help you out."
-Esquire

"Long revered as a master of the short story, Carlson has a talent for describing landscape (both internal and external), and that translates here intact. At fewer than 200 pages, its beach ready, too."
-GQ

Read More

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