Saturday, May 06, 2017

“A Climbing Stock” by Andrew Hiller – A Deal with the Green Devil

A Climbing Stock by Andrew Hiller (book cover)

The Power of Desperation

Most of us like to believe that we have enough integrity not to make any deals with the devil should the opportunity present itself, no matter what offers may be put on the table. Desperation, however, has the power to drastically change our minds and priorities, and it is quite likely that there is a right set of circumstances in which every single person on Earth would sell their soul to the devil. As a matter of fact, making dubious deals with strange and otherworldly creatures is a concept that comes much easier to some than it does to others, as is the case in Andrew Hiller's A Climbing Stock.

In this fantasy tale we are presented with John, a man living with Mother and deeply struggling to keep his family business afloat and under pressure to sell it. John wants nothing more than to keep what his father built and left him, while Mother thinks they are both idiots and the company needs to be sold so that they don't end up penniless on the mean streets of the city. She arranges for an offer from a wealthy client and sends John to close down the deal. However, at the last moment things take a turn for the strange as John makes the acquaintance of a leprechaun who makes him an unusual offer: 3000 shares in a thing called BEAN in exchange for the production of plastic bottles designed for its packaging. Not long after accepting the deal, the BEAN stock begins to skyrocket with no intention of ever stopping or dropping down, essentially making John and Mother “multi-multimillionaires” overnight. While Mother has many dreams and plans on how to spend her fortune, John finds himself struggling with the concept of being rich... and soon after, he learns that he made the kind of deal where he gets much more than he bargained for, no matter how he looks at it.

A Cast with Spunk

A Climbing Stock is a solid and successful novel on many fronts, starting with the drastically-varied cast of characters populating its pages. None of them ever feel boring or cookie-cutter, with each distinct personality having some kind of flair and distinction that will more often than not make you laugh out loud. They all have markedly different ways of communicating and perceiving the world, ultimately ingratiating themselves into our care. The way most of them jumble and contrast pronounced flaws with their shining qualities will almost certainly remind you of some people in your own life. The cast feels real, palpable and alive, making you easily forget that you're reading a piece of fiction.

I feel the need to draw special attention to the dialogues as they are some of the best I've had the pleasure of reading in recent memory. Without exaggerating, every single word feels one hundred percent natural and befits the character speaking it. The conversations flow with unparalleled ease and smoothness even when the characters themselves lack in expressive abilities... in other words, they feel very realistic and require zero suspension of disbelief. Writing proper dialogue is a much more difficult task than it seems, which is why I believe Hiller deserves a special commendation on this one.

As far as the protagonist himself goes, John is often interesting and always easy to follow. He's not an overly complicated character with obsessive philosophical tendencies, but rather just a man with a funny outlook on the world trying his best to navigate the headache of a madness he managed to get himself into. His thoughts and actions seldom feel unnatural or leave us puzzled, and when they do it's all for the sake of a good laugh, which is perfectly acceptable in my book.

Andrew Hiller's Fantasy World

With this being a fantasy story geared towards adults, you're no doubt expecting to visit some mystifying locales and experience unnatural encounters, and you would certainly be correct to do so. Hiller has an uncanny knack for setting descriptions and atmosphere building, taking us to the dizzying heights of a surrealistic experience that just keeps on upping the ante page after page. Considering the amount of detail he put into building this world and populating it with the beings he chose, I certainly wouldn't mind seeing some addition novels in the same mythos.

It is true that many of the concepts and fantasy character archetypes used by Hiller feel somewhat common, but that's only true on the surface. He always tries his best to put a new (and if possible, comedic) spin on all the old tricks we've grown accustomed to, and in my opinion he succeeds quite prominently, offering many surprises on that front.

The Final Verdict

All things considered, Andrew Hiller's first novel was about as good a debut as any author could ask for. The world and the lore behind it certainly draw our attention, the story is captivating, engaging and takes many surprising directions, thanks in no small part to the fact that it's populated by such a radiant and distinct cast of characters. It's a novel I highly recommend to anyone looking for a fantasy story geared towards adults with some truly inspiring humour to it.

Andrew Hiller

Andrew Hiller

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Andrew Hiller is an American writer born in Washington DC whose works of writing have so far stayed in the domain of fantasy. His first novel, A Climbing Stock, became a bestseller on Amazon and his second one, Halo of Mushrooms, has garnered a fair amount of praise in its literary circles.

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