Monday, December 10, 2012
DoG by Matt Hlinak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Book Info: Genre: Bizarro
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Those interested in seeing traditional myths used in modern settings
Trigger Warnings: A lot of death, people and animals
Disclosure: I received an e-book copy in PDF format from Etienne DeForest in exchange for an honest review. Etienne DeForest was one of the editors of this book. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis: Culann Riordan was a high school English teacher with poor impulse control and a taste for liquor. He fled to Alaska before the state could yank his teaching certificate and possibly toss him in jail. He hires on as a commercial fisherman aboard the Orthrus, a dingy vessel crewed by a colorful assortment of outcasts seeking their fortune beyond the reaches of civilization. As he struggles to learn how to survive the rigors of life at sea and the abuses of the crew, he fishes a mysterious orbout of the depths of the ocean and comes into conflict with the diabolical captain of the Orthrus.
If he is to live long enough to see the sunset, Culann must escape from the Captain, survive on an island in the Bering Sea populated only by a pack of feral dogs, find out how to control the orb’s destructive power, and come to grips with his sizable character flaws.
My Thoughts: Etienne DeForest contacted me to review this book after he saw one of my rare one-star reviews. I’m not certain if he was hoping I would love this book or hate it, but it sounded interesting to me, so I agreed to give it a shot.
Overall, I really liked this book. The only reason I didn’t read it straight through and have a review on the same day as I started it was because I developed a number of migraines and therefore lost almost a day while I kept my head hidden under blankets and did my best to sleep through the whole thing. Even then, I read until the pain became completely unbearable, because I just didn’t want to stop.
Lest this review be overly gushing, there were a couple little nitpicky things, because that’s what I do: I see nitpicky things. The captain stops the fishing after 2 and a half weeks – this is said over and over by people complaining that it had been only two and a half weeks, which is approximately 17 days. Then they take at least two days on their return trip, as far as I’m able to ascertain, plus there is the day and a half they spend “bobbing” just off the shore when there are problems with the boat. Yet, when they finally are on the ferry hearing back to the island, someone says it’s been 17 days since they left. That isn’t right – by my count it’s been at least 20 or 21 days. I also find it very hard to believe that Culann would have toughed up so much in just over two weeks, especially when he spent a couple of those days with a fever, which should have significantly set him back. Finally, I am curious as to why the orb did not kill any fish. I can’t mention anything more than that so as to avoid further spoilers, but … why no fish? Weird.
But these were not enough to lessen my enjoyment of this story, which I have been told is based at least in part upon the legends of the Irish hero and demi-god Cuchulain. I have a book of Celtic myths and legends here, and Cuchulain is a huge part of the Irish cycle of myths, included in every since Irish story in this book, as well as one of the Scots’ legends, so Hlinak had a lot of material from which to choose. Interestingly enough, however, the mythology mentioned in the book, and that only near the end, was not Celtic at all. The Egyptians were mentioned, as were the Aztecs. At any rate, I think folks who are interested in seeing the traditional mythology and legends being used in a modern context – which I heartily count myself among – will find this a fascinating story just on that account. As a story where a person overcomes adversity, especially that of his own baser nature, this story succeeds on many levels. Culann is not a particularly likeable man on many levels, but his growth through this story is nothing less than astounding. I can honestly say I highly recommend this book to anyone who might be interested in reading it. Check it out – this is really good stuff!
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