Sunday, March 18, 2012

Review: Saluki Marooned

Title: Saluki Marooned
Author: Robert P. Rickman
Genre: Literary fiction
Price: $3.99 (ebook) $11.95 (paperback)
Publisher: Saluki Publishing
ISBN: 978-1466368163
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

A Saluki, for those not in the know, is a kind of dog popular in Egypt and used for rabbit hunting. It’s very similar in appearance to a greyhound. It’s also the mascot of Southern Illinois University (SIU), situated in the “Little Egypt” section of far Southern Illinois. The "Marooned" of the title is a play on the gray-and-maroon colors of SIU. I know all of this because, like Robert Rickman, author of Saluki Marooned, I attended SIU. The campus of SIU and the education provided therein are critical parts of this book.

The story is told from the point of view of Peter Federson. When the novel starts, he’s a 58-year old man, divorced and working an exceptionally-dead end job that barely covers his drug habit and single-wide trailer home. After a couple of (frankly depressing) chapters of Peter’s life, he ends up at the campus of SIU in the small town of Carbondale, Illinois. Via some vague and ill-defined effect, he ends up taking over the body of his 20-year-old self in the spring of 1971.

As it happens, this is the spring that Federson flunks out of SIU, thus getting drafted, shipped off to Vietnam, and the point at which his life starts the spiral down the toilet. The old man Peter, slowly realizing his opportunity, attempts to change history and prevent the collapse. He’s assisted by Marta, a hippie with a genius-level understanding of physics, and hampered by both his own problems and the two women of his life in that era, Tammy and Catherine.

Although as stated I found the first three chapters somewhat tedious, once we get to the meat of the story in Chapter 4 things really started to cook. Peter’s struggles to get out of the very deep hole he’s dug for himself are interesting and realistic. The characters around him are well-drawn, and act plausibly. I really found myself rooting for Peter, which is critical if you’re going to enjoy a first-person narration.

Literary fiction, going back to Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, has a long tradition of characters suddenly cast back in time. So, although Saluki Marooned waves a hand at the science of time travel, I’m classifying this novel as literary and not science fiction. Wherever you put it on the bookshelf, Saluki Marooned is an enjoyable read. Although it would help to have attended SIU, I don’t think that’s truly necessary to make this book a worthwhile read.


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