My reading priority has been revolutionized since my hardcover copy of “Disciple of the Dog”, by Scott Bakker, has arrived. Almost no one is talking about this book, so I thought this flimsy and whimsy blog can serve better its purpose if I give this the priority over “The Way of Kings” (that, btw, gets much better and I’d say it’s good and very readable) and also-Bakker “The Darkness that Comes Before” (that forced me to read one battle twice because it wasn’t exactly clearly described, but the book is great).
The fact with “Disciple of the Dog” is that the book looks relatively plain. Being out of the fantasy genre, Bakker can’t rely on his fans publicizing the book, and so the hardest part is finding an audience, gain a reputation. I would almost suggest to write some kind of introduction that would make readers consider what the book IS. Why reading this instead of a million of other books? Why now? Why this relatively unknown writer? As I said the book looks quite plain, and the cover blurb isn’t particularly compelling or revealing. Basing my impressions solely on the presentation I can say that I would have never ordered this book. It just doesn’t show anything “necessary” to me. If I bought it is entirely because I’m now reading the fantasy side of Bakker, loving it deeply for the style and, especially, for the intent. For the nails and teeth.
But this book doesn’t need any introduction to fire the reader’s interest, because the first three pages are already a wonderful manifesto of intentions. I think those three pages are enough to express the “necessity” of such a book and give the reader a motivation for reading it. I’m also surprised because it’s several degrees more brilliant than what I read of the fantasy series.
Which leads me to agree with Bakker when he says he’s surprised that no one seems to review the book and all promotional copies sent being completely ignored. This book can’t leave one indifferent. Nor it takes a full read to deliver its punch. I think the first two chapters show polish to the extreme. Written very tightly and so that the novel gets you in just one or two pages. He knows that if he wastes time he’ll lose readers, so he goes straight to the point. The first three pages are about that manifesto I’ve described. The second chapter gives you already plenty of clever characterization and plot that grips.
With only 25 pages read I have no idea if it works or not as a whole, but more than Disciple’s voice it’s Bakker’s voice that one has to appreciate.
I have a similar approach to this as The Red Tree by Kiernan. I see the character as someone the writer is strongly, personally involved in. Something like autobiographical voice even if the plot isn’t. Everything he says rings so true, little things he observes I also noticed, nothing directly trite or conformed.
I also moved smoothly from Disciple’s voice to plot. I was in for what he was saying and the way he was saying it. Every line makes a wonderful quote for eternity. Then the plot about the missing girl came up and I was interested in it more than Disciple’s own quibbles. I know from reading a bunch of review of “Neuropath” (the other non-fantasy Bakker book) that the main criticism was that the “Argument” was too detached from the level of story and character, and so that the book came out way too unbalanced. In this case Bakker’s unique ideas and approach are still his trademark, but it’s all functional to characters and story.
The humor is also another high point, something also immediately noticeable and working greatly. Humor that not only works spectacularly and serves the purpose when it happens (it’s not just a joke thrown at random), but it’s also quite pulpy and abrasive. It sets the mood really well.
Since I’m not an expert of the genre I can only draw parallels to the very few things I know. In this case Chandler and “Pulp” written by Charles Bukowski. But this comparison works surprisingly well, especially if you consider that kind of humor and the fact that this investigator writes in first person.
Pulpy, reckless and littered with epiphanic Truths.
And I love the quotes.
For some mysterious reason, maybe genetic, maybe environmental, maybe some combination of the two, I am doubtful and irreverent through and through.
A true-blue individual – that’s what I am.
You would think that would make me popular, you know, home of the brave, land of the free, all that crap. But such is not the case, alas. Truth is, the only kind of individualism Americans believe in is the one that numbs the sting of name tags, or that makes a trip to the mall an exercise in self-creation. The consumer kind.
The false kind.
And who knows? Maybe that’s the way it should be.
Ignore the Merge sign long enough, and sooner or later somebody gets killed.
I am what you would call a cynic.
This isn’t to be confused with a skeptic. Skeptics don’t believe in anything because they care too much. For them the dignity of truth is perpetually beyond the slovenly reach of humankind. We’re just not qualified.
A cynic, on the other hand, doesn’t believe in anything because he doesn’t care enough. I mean, really, who gives a fuck?
My name is Disciple Manning.
She thinks hammering my more toxic memories into narrative form will give them some kind of psychologically redemptive meaning.
Sounds foofy, I know. I’ve always thought writing is just what happens when we pursue our genius for justifying our scams for its own sake.
The ad hoc decisions piled up and up and up, until I found myself stranded on a mountain not of my own making.
It’s these kinds of decisions that define who we are, by and large. The small kind. The lazy kind.
And then one day you wake up, and the distance between your youthful hope and your middle-aged actuality yawns like a tiger on the wrong side of the cage. What happened?
I could tell that he recognized something in my eyes as well. Weird, all these little moments that pass between people. For most everybody, they slip into oblivion, but me, I catch them like flies.
The story they told me sounded like something cribbed from the Biography Channel. Flattering and negativity-free. You see, people always make cases. Always. Rather than simply describe things, they pitch them this way and that. So when the Bonjours said that Jennifer was a curious girl, an overachiever, and so on, they were literally offering evidence of the adequacy of their parenting skills, while at the same time saying, “She wasn’t the kind of girl who …” They wanted me to know that whatever it was that had happened to their precious daughter had precious little to do with them.
Life has a nasty habit of dishing up calamity at the punchline of a joke as well
They both looked at me in expectation – funny how some couples turn every third party into a marriage counsellor – so I held them in suspense for a thoughtful moment.
After the Bonjours left, I had sex with Kimberly in the copy room – or, as I had devilishly dubbed it, the copy-feely room.
Kimberly, you should know, had long ceased taking me seriously. One more happy consequence of banging your employees: they know what you look like naked. For whatever reason, it’s hard to take naked men seriously. Personally, I blame the balls.