The Hike
 
by Drew Magary
 
Reviewed by Adam Armstrong
 

There are moments in our life where we just want to get away from it all, if only for a little bit. Whether it be work getting us down because the boss overlooks our potential because of a tiny mistake, or because of a family life where everyone seems to be demanding our attention to address ten things at once, sometimes we just want to get a few moments alone in silence, maybe go for a walk, or a hike. A hike would be great, unless you get trapped in it forever.
 
Ben is the typical family man. He goes on largely uneventful business trips a few times a year as a large portion of us all do. He has a wife and kids he loves and the usual problems we all face: bills, the kids' health, stress from work and the like. The only thing that really sets Ben apart is a large scar that runs down the side of his face from a dog attack when he was a child. Getting away from everything in life sounds good at first, but after a flight, Ben finds himself in a strange hotel room with the sights and sounds he's grown accustomed to missing. Ben could hit the gym, or the mini bar, but instead he has picked up the habit of taking walks. Since there is a path through the woods he decides on a nice hike before getting down to business.
 
The hike starts off normal enough. Ben takes in the different scenery and smoothly moves along until he comes across what appears to be a gristly murder still in progress. The men carrying out the murder are wearing the cut-off faces of dogs like masks. Worse yet, they see Ben and begin to chase him. Ben barely makes it away from them before coming onto something much stranger: a little old woman that promises to help him if he does chores around her house. From this point on Ben finds himself on a strange journey where he must stay on a path that leads to something that could very well be his death. Along the way he encounters a sarcastic and curmudgeonly talking crab, a man eating giant, a series of strange demon monsters wanting him to do their bidding, as well as a fourteenth century Spanish explorer.
 
The author Drew Magary walks a fine line with this book. He lets the reader put their toes in the water of fantasy while managing to keep the rest of them planted in more realistic fiction, a higher level of absurdness with a foundation grounded in reality. Ben's journey at times can be heart wrenching and even suffocating, then Magary injects the book with enough humor and silliness to raise the spirits of the reader while keeping Ben out of sorts and confused.  Another gamble I saw here was centering a book on a lone character for the majority versus having some fort of foil present. I felt the sole man on a quest worked well in The Hike, as we are presented with a few companions and adversaries throughout as well as the setting being in a constant state of flux.
 
While a broad audience can enjoy this book with its strong writing, humor, character development, and enough zaniness to keep just about anyone entertained, I think there is a subset of readers that will particularly find The Hike appealing. I was reading The Hike on a business trip in China where a short walk turned into a 4-hour trek that almost got me hit by a bus and a near miss of either getting beat-up by, or arrested by, a cop. Several other business travelers have told me similar stories of being a bit bored or adventurous, and having a small side trip take on a radically different feel faster than they expected.
 
The Hike will keep you reading, make you laugh, and make you sad to see it come to an end. Magary does a good job of going in multiple directions that all seem correct and then pulling it all together for an extremely satisfying ending. Buy a copy for yourself and then a copy for anyone you know that is about to go on a boring, standard business trip.