Cemetery Dance (1998)
The Wilds was the first of Cemetery Dance’s popular novella series. The book is extremely rare and quite collectible.
Ned Champion had just been dumped by his girlfriend, Cora, but that's no reason to cancel his backpacking trip into the Lost River Wilderness Area.
He'll just go without her.
And he'll keep a journal of his adventures.
He's bound to have a fine time.
Alone in the wilds.
Completely on his own.
Absolutely free to do whatever he wishes.
Anything at all.
With nobody there to watch him or criticize him or hold him back -- or arrest him.
It'll just be Ned in the wilds.
And the Wilds in Ned.
Laymon takes a very unique approach with this novella and chooses to tell Ned’s story in diary form. This gives the reader a front row seat as we see the Wilds take over Ned’s mind. The Wilds begin to creep into Ned’s thoughts and they slowly begin to influence Ned’s actions. He becomes one with the Wilds as he makes the transformation from dumped college student to lone hunter. The first person perspective allows the unimaginable change to become quite believable and justified.
Ultimately, the The Wilds is a story about a young man coming to grips with the opposite sex. He is very inexperienced in every way possible. His frustrations and confusion manifest themselves in a way that is comfortable to Ned. See, Ned is an experienced outdoorsman so instead of sitting in his dorm room wallowing in self-pity over his most recent failure, he chooses to put himself in familiar surroundings. Unfortunately for his fellow hikers, Ned is still a little curious about women and he feels like he may be ready to indulge in that curiosity.
The Wilds is a strange trip. It is scary and brutal but, in some bizarre way, at its core it is a love story. A love story between man and nature, but also a love story between man and woman- two beings finding their perfect mate despite being insanely flawed.
I loved this book and feel lucky to have read it. It is a very quick but highly satisfying read. I encourage you to seek out the beautiful Cemetery Dance edition (or at least find a generous friend who is willing to lend it to you).