Customer Review

51 of 69 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More like dogs than stars., July 7, 2012
This review is from: The Dog Stars (Hardcover)
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To start with, the writing in "The Dog Stars" is experimental. It is written in first person past tense, but the sentence structure is often broken and disjointed. Thoughts will sometimes stop without logical completion. There are also no quotation marks around dialog sentences. (The only other book I can compare the style to is "The Sound and the Fury" by Faulkner.) The style is partially explained as being because the protagonist had a disease that may have damaged his brain. I have nothing against experimental writing; I've done a bit of it as an author myself. But to be honest, even though I frequently write in first person, this book took me awhile to adjust to. It is just that different. So be warned.

The jacket cover describes the book as "spine-tingling". I'm not sure to what extent that is true. The first third of the book moves at a fairly slow pace. The context was interesting enough to me, not being either a pilot or a hunter/camper/fisherman, that I kept going just to enjoy, at least, the glimpse into those worlds. The action speeds up as the novel progresses, of course, but I don't think it ever reached the point of "spine-tingling".

Aside from writing style, and the protagonist bent for the outdoors, there wasn't a terrible lot that was original here, either. Yes, at times the writing was poetic. But the text also essentially used the f-word as punctuation. Seriously, I don't think I've read a sci-fi novel, or even a post-apocalyptic novel, that used profanity so liberally. Again, maybe that's the protagonist's brain damage, but my gut feeling is it the writer trying to make the work feel "gritty" and "real." (I read an Advance Reader's Edition so maybe that will be toned down some.)

There's a lot of violence here too. The world of "Dog Stars" is strictly one of shoot first and ask questions later, regardless of the age or sex of the assumed perpetrators. Yes, the protagonist feels some remorse, but he still kills a lot of people. And it isn't just in self-defense. Everyone is a threat, regardless. (Except a group of Mennonites that I'm still unsure plot-wise what the significance was.)

There is some sexual activity depicted. I don't know if I would call it graphic, but the description is fairly clear. Essentially, it is world devoid of any morality, aside from what feels right at the time. There is only a passing reference to a Christian in the book. (Aside from the Mennonites, I assume.) And that one allusion paints Christians merely as "simple".

So what am I left with here? "The Dog Stars" kept my attention through the end, and there were some redemptive and moving moments in it. I credit the author for being experimental, and for crafting a believable, yet vile, world. But I can't recommend it. I don't know that the ending was big enough, or bold enough, to justify the journey.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 20 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 22, 2012 6:45:40 PM PDT
aaa-Pam says:
Great review. My spine hasn't tingled yet, but there's still time I suppose, as I'm about 5/6 done.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2012 7:02:57 PM PDT
Kerry Nietz says:
Thanks, Pam. I appreciate you letting me know! Glad to know I'm not alone.

Posted on Aug 13, 2012 3:46:17 PM PDT
Paul D says:
I think criticising the lack of Christians in the book colors your review. Sorry, I am a Christian and I thought this book said beautiful things about the innate goodness of some people, even in dire circumstances.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 14, 2012 4:44:23 AM PDT
Kerry Nietz says:
Glad you found things you like about the book, Paul.

As someone who has read speculative fiction for long time, I guess I've grown a little worn on the whole Christians are stupid, out-of-touch, or irrelevant meme.

With Dog Stars we have an America that has degraded to the point of being amoral. (Unless you think shooting someone over warm pop is moral behavior.) Yet, today there is a fair share of America for which faith and/or Christianity play an important role, and genuinely work to curb amoral behavior. (In fact, there are many Christian organizations headquartered in Colorado, where the book is supposed to take place) But there is little mention of faith at all here. Or discussion on how today's America became the amoral one.

Yes, there were some glimpses of hope here, but you have to stretch to find them.

The author has a right to say or write whatever he wants, and I certainly don't want to stifle that. He can paint the future however he wants.

But I also have the right to my experience of what he has written. Mine is just an opinion, Paul. :) I'm just writing what I thought too.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 14, 2012 2:16:51 PM PDT
Paul D says:
I did not realize that criticism of religion is a common dystopian theme. Thank you for the insight!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 14, 2012 2:28:22 PM PDT
Kerry Nietz says:
Not sure if I would call it a theme, but it certainly is something I see alot in sci-fi these days.

In the masters, you didn't see it as much. Bradbury, for instance, often wrote of faith in a positive light.

Posted on Sep 5, 2012 6:09:16 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 5, 2012 6:11:43 PM PDT
David M says:
Hey Kerry, I thought your review was spot-on. I had a problem with superficial character structure of Bangley.. just enough to go on but you wanted more.. like many other themes in this book? And the whole Grand Mesa airport episode left me wondering why he would waste the time on that. Just to be tricked. Made little sense in the scheme of things.

What was his point about mentioning the Arabs, that their `tribe' could be immune to the disease process? O.K.?? And ......?
For me, I felt Keller was more inclined to write poetry than to thread a neat, suspenseful plot. The book did work for me, and am glad to have read it, but not sure of his message and like you said; "don't know if the ending was big enough to justify the journey." However, I always support authors who try to be creative and go outside the box, so to speak....

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 5, 2012 6:57:28 PM PDT
Kerry Nietz says:
Thanks, David. Yes, I forgot about the Arab reference! I think that's something that should've been delved into a bit further. Makes me wonder if the author had more in mind there, and just didn't fill it in, or what. Hmm...

And I'm with you on supporting the "outside the box-ness" of it. I applaud that, actually.

Posted on Oct 25, 2012 6:34:47 AM PDT
Sara says:
I agree. that. the. stop and start. writing was very difficult to digest.

But I had a thought midway through the book, it was actually something written around the time Hig first spotted Cima and a lightbulb went off in my head. --> Hig said, "What a fool." referring to himself..."In Purgatory, there is really nothing else to be."

I then remembered that he said only bad people were left (after the flu). And literally every person he met was indeed a bad person, including himself. Sure, he was fighting an inward battle of good vs evil within himself (I kill, but I don't like to kill, but I must kill etc)
When he met Cima and her father, I'm not sure they were considered 'bad' but they did shoot at him, tie him up. They were probably, like Hig, fighting the battle of good vs. evil within themselves.

So with all of this, and as you said, no real mention of prayer or any religion left, almost like the Christians had disappeared...along with many other good religious folk ...maybe this was some sort of Purgatory? Some last chance place for some, mixed among the evil leftovers of the human race.

Even it's end, with the threat of the tribe who may be immune--coming to kill whomever was left--yet another sign that it would be the end.

The only group who didn't fit the evil or almost evil group were the Mennonites. They were seemingly innocent. I thought they were used to show his internal battle of good vs. evil (he'd kill people and then help the 'families')

Again, I think the writing style was odd, it would have been better if it weren't so experimental. But it was a creative story and a fast read.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2012 4:03:24 AM PDT
Kerry Nietz says:
Hmm...the idea of it all being purgatory is certainly something I hadn't thought of. Nice catch on that line. An interesting theory. Maybe!

Not the most original idea, though, if that was the intent. I've seen that premise a couple times before in films.

And I thought the people at the end who were immune were Arabic?
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