Margaret Jull Costa’s pitch-perfect translation evokes the textures and urgency of Carrasco’s prose ... Festering wounds, slaughtered goats, the rasp of breath, body stench: all bring us fully into Carrasco’s fictional world. There’s a David Lynchian quality to the characters as well, among them the legless owner of a village commissary and the chain-smoking bailiff, whose lusts and crimes drive him to his own doom. Perhaps Jull Costa’s brightest accomplishment here is her skill in conjuring Carrasco’s mood and pacing, the taut suspense of withholding information that eventually trails back to the doors of the very institution that glues the culture together.
Carrasco’s style is terse and direct, and he omits all but the most necessary of details. As a result, the novel reads more like a parable or a fable, replete with iconic locations like a medieval castle, a vast desert, a sparse forest, and an abandoned village ... Carrasco’s combination of direct, declarative prose, violent imagery, and archetypal characters has led to comparisons with Cormac McCarthy, though this doesn’t quite do justice to the particularities of Carrasco’s style. Whereas McCarthy’s prose is lucid and breathless—polysyndeton after polysyndeton—Carrasco’s stiffens up...Rather than reading as clunky, this telegraphic style adds to its mythic milieu, as though Out In The Open were a story that may only be read obliquely, a testament to the quality of Margaret Jull Costa’s translation. This haziness contributes to the overall atmosphere that makes Out In The Open such a joy to read, and it lays the groundwork for the confined, dystopic world of the story.
Spare in dialogue but lush in cinematic description, Carrasco’s novel draws on old archetypes of journey and mentorship, depicting beauty in the gaunt, nameless landscape as well as the relationship between the man and the boy ... In this tale about becoming a man, it is clear that confronting one’s own demons is as important as outwitting the danger that lurks in the dark. Harshly and elegantly told; a quest that feels both old and new.
Carrasco’s story leaves its reader intentionally in the dark for a long time: Just what was the incident that turned the boy’s family against him? Was his crime so terrible that he should die in a drought-plagued landscape? What are the motives of the goatherd? … Carrasco’s stark prose (translated from Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa) and the austere wisdom of the goatherd evoke the writing of Cormac McCarthy. Out in the Open relies on the best elements of classic westerns to pull its readers through a bitter landscape; Carrasco’s take is darker than you’d imagine, and full of surprise.
Violence and gore abound; men and animals are shot and burned. The bond between the boy and the man strengthens near the story's end. But it isn't until near the end, despite some previous hints, that Carrasco reveals why the boy has run away and why the bailiff and his deputies pursue him. It is apparent, though, that hell will soon be opening its doors to the bailiff and his cohorts.
Carrasco’s debut novel offers a vague, terrifying, and violent tale told in sparse, taut prose reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy ... The boy’s traumatic history appears as rapid, disconnected flashes, blunting the emotional impact. The violence will make some readers balk, but passages of lovely writing coupled with the jaw-clenching tension and moments of hope make this a welcome introduction a new voice.