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Review by
Mike Oliveri
Hunger and Thirst
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HUNGER AND THIRST - 2000
Richard Matheson
Gauntlet Press

This story of a man lying paralyzed in his bed, and slowly dying of hunger and thirst, was Matheson's first attempt at an epic novel, as well as his first written novel. Fifty years after shelving it based on criticism from his agent at the time, Richard finally turned HUNGER AND THIRST over to Barry Hoffman's Gauntlet Press for publication, largely at the advice of Richard's son, Richard Christian Matheson (Gauntlet also released RC Matheson's short story collection DYSTOPIA).

Matheson shows amazing patience with the development and narrative of this long (600+ pages worth!) novel, especially considering he was 23 years old when he wrote it. The plot is simple enough that it can almost be non-existent. We simply witness the protagonist, Erick Linstrom, wasting away, with the exception of several flashbacks in which he reflects upon his childhood, his time in the war, and his past romances.

The strength of the narrative lies in Matheson's meticulous attention to detail. He utilizes all five of Erick's senses to convey the pain and frustration Erick endures through his ordeal. Especially interesting is the stream-of-consciousness portions of the narratives, in which Matheson records Erick's thoughts so well it's as if they were transcribed directly from the character's mind. In simplest terms, the book is a massive character study. We spend a lot of time in Erick's head, and we witness the events that shaped him as a person.

But that same strength is also the book's only shortcoming. While the narrative does not quite belabor the experiences, it leaves little opportunity for any real action until the flashback sequences occur. In fact, it's nearly seventy pages before we really learn how Erick found himself in his predicament.

I give HUNGER AND THIRST three bookwyrms with the caveat that this book is not for everyone. While it is extremely well-written and the narrative is outstanding, there is little action and the sheer length prevents any real buildup of suspense. Those hoping to get a glimpse at Matheson's first work, looking to complete a full Matheson collection, or simply looking for a solid literary work will get the most out of this book.

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This review copyright 2000 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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