Current reviews
  Reviews by title
  Reviews by author

  Contact Onyx

  Discussion forum


Onyx reviews: Hunted Past Reason by Richard Matheson

Two men set out for a three-day hike through the California national forest. Bob is a successful novelist and screenwriter. He has asked Doug, an actor and survival expert, to take him on this trek as research for a book he intends to write. Doug's acting career is on the slide, consisting mostly of TV commercials and bit parts. He and his model wife have divorced, their teenage son a victim of drug addiction.

From the very beginning, Doug is less than gracious toward Bob. His voice drips with sarcasm as he surveys what Bob has brought for the trip. Though coached by Doug on what to get, Bob suspects that his friend has been deliberately vague in some areas. Doug calls him "Bobby," which Bob hates, and the two argue about virtually everything they discuss.

After the first day, they turn off the trail and head across country. Already far out of his comfort zone, Bob is now completely in Doug's hands. His life depends on Doug getting them to the cabin where Bob's wife waits. Every muscle in his body aches. He has blisters, abrasions and cuts from several minor mishaps in the early going. It seems that Doug is trying to make this as difficult and miserable as possible.

At this point, Matheson takes an uncomfortable walk through the woods and turns it into The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon crossed with Deliverance. Doug's carefully worn mask slips further and further until he no longer needs to hide his hatred of Bob and his successes. The hike becomes a game of survival. After a particularly unpleasant argument, Doug gives Bob a three-hour head start. If Bob can make it to the cabin ahead of Doug, he'll let him live. Otherwise he intends to catch Bob, kill him, scatter his body for the wild animals to destroy and then show up at the cabin, distraught, anguished to console and seduce his widow.

For good measure, Doug assaults Bob brutally before casting him adrift in the endless forest. It's a game for Doug—he provides Bob with whatever he wants to take with him for provisions. He even gives Bob their only compass and directions on how to get to the cabin. He's seen Bob's performance over the past two days. He knows how much of an advantage he has over his helpless companion.

Matheson has written such diverse stories as A Stir of Echoes, What Dreams May Come, I Am Legend (filmed as Omega Man), and the memorable TV movie Duel. His stories tend to be claustrophobic and insular. One man against the elements or another man. In Hunted Past Reason (a line from King Lear), Bob must fight both nature and an insane man determined to kill him. His frenzied flight through the woods brings him face to face with mountain lions, scorpions, rattlesnakes and bears, but none of these are as potentially lethal as Doug. The difference is: the wild animals bear Bob no ill will.

Matheson is a grand master of suspense, characterization and prolonged passages of terror. Many younger writers count him among their strongest influences. While Hunted is perhaps not destined to be a classic on the order of The Incredible Shrinking Man, it is a gripping, relentless narrative in which Bob's philosophical view of the universe is tested time and time again. It is virtually impossible to put down because no sooner does Bob survive one obstacle then Matheson thrusts him into another.

Though the basic premise is familiar, what sets this "man vs. man in the wild" thriller apart is Matheson's deep insight into the psyche of both men.

Web site and all contents © Copyright Bev Vincent 2007. All rights reserved.