The Pequod Review:
Narrated in the first person, Deliverance is the story of four middle-aged men from suburban Atlanta who embark on a weekend canoe trip in rural North Georgia. The outing is intended to be a cheery diversion from their middle-class professional lives, but instead it becomes a travelogue of hell, as they run into a gang of savage, sadistic mountain men who inflict unspeakable physical and psychological violence on the four of them. By the end of their trip, there have been murders, a rape, and (for the survivors) an uneasy return to suburban life.
Deliverance is an impressive achievement. It is a well-crafted novel, with good plotting and exceptional writing that lift it far above more simplistic or sensational fare. It has an intensity and authenticity that brings to mind Conrad or Melville, as it shows us how our comfortable modern lives are merely one step removed from barbaric Darwinian struggles. And Dickey’s prose has moments of poetic beauty:
What a view, I said again. The river was blank and mindless with beauty. It was the most glorious thing I have ever seen. But it was not seeing, really. For once it was not just seeing. It was beholding. I beheld the river in its icy pit of brightness, in its far-below sound and indifference, in its large coil and tiny points and flashes of the moon, in its long sinuous form, in its uncomprehending consequence.
Everyone remembers the film, but the novel on which it is based is a considerably underrated book. Highly recommended.