One of M. John Harrison's most acclaimed novels in a career of near universal acclaim, CLIMBERS is, perhaps, the least fantastical of his novels. Yet it carries life-changing moments, descriptions of landscape bordering on the hallucinogenic and flights of pure fictive power that leave any notion of the divide between realistic and unrealistic fiction far behind. First published in 1989, CLIMBERS has remained a strong favourite with fans and reviewers alike.
A young man seeks to get a grip on his life by taking up rock-climbing. He hopes that by engaging with the hard realities of the rock and the fall he can grasp what is important about life. But as he is drawn into the obsessive world of climbing he learns that taking things to the edge comes with its own price.
Retreating from his failed marriage to Pauline, Mike leaves London for the Yorkshire moors, where he meets Normal and his entourage, busy pursuing their own dreams of escape. Travelling from crag to crag throughout the country, they are searching for the unattainable: the perfect climb. Through rock-climbing, Mike discovers an intensity of experience - a wash of pain, fear and excitement - that obliterates the rest of his world. Increasingly addicted to the adrenaline, folklore and camaraderie of the sport, he finds, for a time, a genuine escape. But it is gained at a price...
This dark, witty and poetic novel is full of the rugged beauty of nature, of the human drive to test oneself against extremes, and of the elation such escape can bring.
CLIMBERS was featured on BBC Radio 4's A GOOD READ in February 2021. Poet Helen Mort called it "a poetic portrait of the strange and fascinating, very niche world of rock climbing" and Harriett Gilbert called the writing "like prose poetry, it's beautiful."