[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
I got a bit lax about posting here over the Christmas break. The long, extended, almost still-going-on Christmas break. Ahem.

Just before New Year, I finished reading Dogs by Nancy Kress. Sadly, I was disappointed in this book. It's not the first time writing by this author has disappointed, but I've also read many stories by her that have really made me think. So I'm not going to give up on her.

I think my major problem was that Dogs had nothing stellar in it to overcome the well-worn nature of its structure and denouement. The premise showed promise (sorry!)--a virus is spreading among the dogs in a small town making them turn vicious. Bitten people who survive then become infected in turn, and nobody knows what the consequences will be. There's a hint that the man who's deliberately spreading the virus has been infected himself, and this has affected his behaviour. As if the virus has turned him into not just a Typhoid Mary, but one who's driven by it to ensure it spreads. I've read some speculation about parasites influencing human beings to take greater risks, and I wonder if that is where the idea came from. Perhaps it would have been better to have used a parasite rather than a virus.

Outside of its Science Fictional premise, this book has nothing much to distinguish it from a run-of-the-mill Horror novel. There's a madman, a plague, lots of characters who either survive or don't, and just when you think it's all over you find it isn't. Something more exceptional was needed to lift this book out of that groove.

I've also read another Winifred Holtby novel: Anderby Wold. I ran across it on my dad's bookshelves while trying to find a book he wanted to lend to someone; my hand fell on it and I tossed it into my room for later perusal. A short novel, it focuses on the tensions that arise within a small agricultural community when a couple of socialists try to reform the time-worn patronage system there. Political turmoil is echoed by emotional turmoil: dissatisfied with her phlegmatic-to-the-point-of-imbecility husband, childless farm-owner Mary Robson dithers on the edge of beginning an affair with one of the socialists.

It's a slight novel and often lacks subtlety, but its characters are sympathetically and convincingly drawn. Mary Robson's yearning for the young redheaded socialist is particularly well-evoked, arising as it does from her frustration, her need for approval, and the fact that she's somewhat adrift after completing a ten-year project to clear her farm's mortgage.

Worth a read if only for its value as a portrait of a way of life that's mostly gone now.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
After a bit of poking around the piles of books hoping to be read, I settled on Nancy Kress's Dogs.

The writing is perhaps a bit mechanical, utilitarian maybe, with no concessions to literary flourishes. But it gets the job done. My major problem so far is the difficulty of keeping so many characters straight. A bit like a Horror novel, Dogs jumps from one character to another and sometimes I'm halfway through a character's narrative before I've remembered which one they are. A little more distinction for the characters--or simply fewer narrators--might have helped here.

The premise is deceptively simple: the dogs in the small town of Tyler have suddenly started turning vicious. Children are being killed. FEMA, the CDC, the local animal control and Tessa, a former FBI agent, are all trying to find out why this has suddenly happened. Tyler is under quarantine and all dogs are being rounded up. Some owners are co-operative. Some are not. And you never know which dog is going to turn next....

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