Surveyor

G. W. Hawkes, Author
G. W. Hawkes, Author MacAdam/Cage Publishing $20 (250p) ISBN 978-1-878448-81-1
Reviewed on: 06/29/1998
Release date: 07/01/1998
Paperback - 250 pages - 978-1-878448-95-8
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The close friendship of surveyors Paul Suope and John Merline and their lifetime project surveying desolate Horse Gap, New Mexico, come to an end in Hawkes's haunting first novel (another novel, Semaphore, will appear in August). The two met during the Korean War. Paul, an engineer, drove an ambulance and aided John, a history major with an interest in painting and sculpture, after he lost a leg. After the war, they were hired together by a mysterious foundation to chart the landscape of New Mexico--an arrangement that has lasted for more than 30 years. They live a reclusive life, obsessed with their mission until various outsiders invade their turf: a beautiful Ph.D. film student, Caliope Jones, wants to build a scale-model town and flood it on film; and several Dinosaur Men, archeologists, hired by the same foundation to document old bones. Suope and Merline find themselves in conflict with the scientists over how to handle several buried Indian skeletons, and this is the beginning of their drift apart. In the meantime, the novel chronicles the men's great exploit, the exploration of the underground river that they name the Surveyor. Hawkes burnishes the narrative with metaphorical experiences, including rides down hidden rivers in secret caves, hallucinatory visions after a scorpion's bite and one of John's art pieces, which may include sky debris from UFOs. This elegiac evocation of an unearthly landscape and the two aging men who call it home intimates that some of life's mysteries can never be solved. (July)
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