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Brian “realized that he was not always right, was indeed, often not right, and at the same time he found that others were not always wrong.” –The River
Brian's Saga #2
by Gary Paulsen
Two years after Brian Robeson survived fifty-four days alone in the Canadian wilderness, the government wants him to head back so they can learn what he did to stay alive. This time Derek Holtzer, a government psychologist, will accompany him. But a freak accident leaves Derek unconscious. Brian’s only hope is to transport Derek a hundred miles down the river to a trading post. He’s survived with only a hatchet before—now can Brian build a raft and navigate an unknown river? For the first time it’s not only Brian’s survival that’s at stake.
As Brian embarks on his journey, he realizes that being in the wilderness with another person isn’t the same as crash landing. There is no danger. No tension. And then Derek is injured, and Brian must make a life or death decision. However, the situation still has little suspense or action. Even when Brian is rafting down the river, there is little excitement, and Brian’s hallucinations are confusing. However, when Brian becomes exhausted, he thinks, “It would be better if Derek were gone. What was the differences? He was dumb enough to rise up and get hit by the lightning, and he should be gone.” Brian doesn’t give into this momentary weakness and ends up saving Derek.
Even though The River follows Brian on another adventure, Brian’s character does not grow. Much of the plot focuses on Brian’s thoughts and emotions, which slows down the pace. The conclusion is abrupt and the secret that plagued him in Hatchet is never resolved; however, it no longer bothers Brian. The River has few intense moments and the plot and characters are underdeveloped, which makes it hard for readers to connect with the characters.
Readers who enjoyed Hatchet will find Brian’s journey interesting. However, if the slow pace of Hatchet made finishing the story difficult, you will want to avoid picking up The River. Brian’s next adventure, Brian’s Winter, takes the reader back in time and shows what would have happened if Brian wasn’t rescued after his plane crash. Readers who enjoy understanding character’s thoughts and emotions will find The River satisfying. However, if you’re looking for a more fast-paced survival story, Adrift by Paul Griffin would be a better choice.
- Derek is hit by lightning. “Some thing, some blueness of heat and light and raw power seemed to jump from the tree to the briefcase and radio and enter Derek’s hand. All the same part of a second it hit him and his back arched, snapped him erect, and then it seemed to fill the whole shelter and slammed into Brian as well.” After being hit, Derek is in a coma.
- Brian falls into the river and is swept along with the current. “. . .he was down again, mashed down and tumbled by the pressure wave, smashed into the rocks on the bottom, and all he could think was that he had to stay alive. . . He fought and clawed against the rock, broke his face free, then was driven down again, hammered into the bottom.” Brian finally finds the raft and is able to get on it.
Drugs and Alcohol
- God is used as an exclamation four times.
- When Derek is injured, Brian thinks, “The woods. The damn woods.”
- When Brian decides to build a raft and travel down the river, he thinks, “Oh, hell, we just have to do this. . .”
- Brian was trying to make a difficult decision. “Please, God, he thought—and did not finish it. Just that—please, God.”
- When the raft is near huge rocks in the river, Brian whispers, “God. . . “