Cover copy: Rage Winnoway’s closest friends have always been her four dogs: Bear, Billy Thunder, Elle, and Mr. Walker. When Rage sets off for the hospital where her mother lies in a coma, the dogs and the neighbor’s goat tag along. On the way, they run into the firecat, who talks them into going through a magical gate. And something wonderful happens! Each of Rage’s friends is transformed. Bear becomes a real bear; Billy Thunder, a teenage boy; Elle, a warrior woman; Mr. Walker, a small, large-eared gentleman; and the goat, a satyr with an inferiority complex. Together, Rage and her companions embark on a quest to save the world of Valley, a journey that is somehow tied to Rage’s family.

I love this premise. I am a total sucker for any sort of "let's establish these characters; now let's see what happens if you make a huge change to something very basic about them." I also really like shapeshifters other than cliche versions of werewolves. So the dogs-become-humans thing? All over it.

The execution is sort of there and sort of not. We get just enough of the animals as animals to see how their altered versions match their animal personalities. But it's a comparatively short children's book with a comparatively large cast, so no one gets as much development as they needed for the whole thing to be amazing. And the plot is very standard old-fashioned quest fantasy in which the heroine gets directed to gather plot coupons.

In between plot points, Carmody was doing some quite ambitious things, such as paralleling the broken relationship between the mother and son dogs (now a bear and a boy) with Rage's relationship with her mother, AND her mother's relationship with her family. Lots of deep issues of love, trust, attachment, and abandonment... but not dealt with in a very deep way. The age level and genre tropes fought the more sophisticated and interesting elements, and what was left was a book that promised more than it delivered.

(Rage, by the way, is short for "Rebecca Jane." I would find this more convincing if a) she had chosen it herself, b) she had any rage.)

The part that fascinated me the most was the incipient sexual tension between Rage and Billy Thunder, her beloved dog who is now a boy her own age, who loves her unconditionally and will say so. He's also described in a quite sensual manner. AND HE'S A DOG. None of this is ever explicitly thought of by Rage, but it is written in a way which I am pretty sure is meant to make the reader think it. But nothing comes of it.

SPOILERS answer your burning questions: does Billy Thunder go back to being a dog? Do any dogs die?


Billy Thunder loves Rage so much that he becomes a dog again, because it's the only way they can stay together when she must return to her own world. And yes. One dog dies. The mama dog, as a willing sacrifice to save the world. But she was dying of old age anyway.



There is a sequel and a promised third, which may or may not materialize. Has anyone read any of Carmody's other books? I feel like she'd probably be more successful writing to an even slightly older audience, like at a YA level.

Night Gate: The Gateway Trilogy Book One
rhivolution: David Tennant does the Thinker (Default)

From: [personal profile] rhivolution


I read a couple of the Obernewtyn books, but those are about the same level age-wise. Good, though I agree that...I don't know, I wanted something a bit edgier, somehow.
17catherines: Amor Vincit Omnia (Default)

From: [personal profile] 17catherines


I've read quite a few of Carmody's books, because she is a Melbourne author and used to come to book fairs when I was at school and tell us all about what she was writing. I do think she writes well, but I eventually gave up on her books because she was driving me demented with the Obernewtyn series which kept on having cliff-hangers and five year gaps between books (during which time she would start another series - I have no idea if she finished any of those). I read the first book when I was eleven, and loved it. When I was 14, she told me it would be a trilogy. The fourth book ended in a cliff-hanger and then she didn't write another one for nine years.

I'm 36 now, and the series still isn't finished. This still fills me with unreasonable levels of ire, possibly because my teenage self was so excited about those books and that story and kept waiting to find out what happened and how it all resolved... and then it didn't.

In short, while I'd recommend her standalone books and I'd certainly read a series of hers that was finished, I'm not starting any more series(es) of hers until I know she has finished them. They are excellent books, but I like my stories to have endings.
matt_doyle: (Default)

From: [personal profile] matt_doyle


She wrote a rather dark YA book back in the 90s called The Gathering, which was one of my favorites as a teenager. I haven't read it in a decade so I have no idea how it would hold up now, but at the time I appreciated that it had damaged heroes and didn't sugarcoat the suffering they went through.

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com


The part that fascinated me the most was the incipient sexual tension between Rage and Billy Thunder, her beloved dog who is now a boy her own age, who loves her unconditionally and will say so. He's also described in a quite sensual manner. AND HE'S A DOG. None of this is ever explicitly thought of by Rage, but it is written in a way which I am pretty sure is meant to make the reader think it.

That could get... messy. If Billy still has the mind of a dog in a human body, I would say that Rage having sex with him is unethical (and possibly squicky). However, it doesn't sound as if that is the case. So, Billy has a human mind but still has his dog memories and emotions, translated into human terms. One could still argue that taking advantage of his feelings is unethical since as a dog he did not have conscious control over them, and it's not clear how much control he has over continuing to feel the same way as a human (particularly if he's only been a human for a short time).

On the other hand, one could argue that, as a human old enough to consent to sex (I assume), he can decide whether or not he wants to have sex with Rage, and can ignore his old doggy feelings if he chooses. Not to mention that normal humans (where by "normal" I mean "not previously a dog") have all sorts of weird reasons for wanting to have sex with particular people, and for the most part we would not consider it unethical for the other parties to consent. (I am now imagining having to challenge anyone making a pass at you with "prove that your desire for me is rational.")

Boy, was that overthinking things. I will lower the tone by noting that

But nothing comes of it.

could just as well have used "nobody." :)

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


So, Billy has a human mind but still has his dog memories and emotions, translated into human terms.

Basically this, and it was quite well-done.

The parts I got stuck on were, "But he is a DOG," and "He loves you because he was your beloved PET," and "the fact that he loves you absolutely unconditionally is proof that his feelings are essentially DOG FEELINGS." (Okay, I'm cynical.)

Actual sex got dodged by both of them being so young - Rage was twelve and Billy Thunder was teenage, but a young teen. Still, there was definitely age-appropriate sexual chemistry.

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com


The parts I got stuck on were, "But he is a DOG," and "He loves you because he was your beloved PET," and "the fact that he loves you absolutely unconditionally is proof that his feelings are essentially DOG FEELINGS." (Okay, I'm cynical.)

Yeah, I think in the end that would be my take on it.

It would be interesting - in some entirely different novel - to explore this sort of thing further. Regular people might be convinced that the transformed person's feelings are animal holdovers, but what does the transformed person do with themselves then? Would they develop real human emotions and temper their old feelings given enough time, the way (most) people grow out of their childhood emotional states?


From: [identity profile] marzipan-pig.livejournal.com


The whole pet/dog thing is an interesting intellectual exercise. There ARE people I've sort of imprinted on though, like, we're mammals too, we're wired to get intense attachments to other mammals even when some of us have more intense wiring than others.

Hmm, would HORSE be creepier or less creepy? RAT? CAT?

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


In ascending order of creepiness: CAT, HORSE, RAT, DOG.

Cats seem most human and most able to make decisions of their own free will. Then horses. Then rats. Then dogs. Maybe I'm just not a dog person.

From: [identity profile] poilass.livejournal.com


Carmody is quite a famous author in Australia, so I read a lot of her books when I was a kid. I completely loved the Obernewytn series at the time though I never finished it (I think there's still one more book forthcoming). I recently started re-reading the first book, but got distracted a few chapters in so I cannot give an adult report. I must admit it does not start very promisingly - there's an Introduction filled with exposition about how the world came to be as it is now - nuclear war leading to mutations, powerful and ultra conservative faction leading the survivors, creation of a horrible new mutant-hating religion etc etc, several hundred years later: story begins! I find this sort of thing very tiresome. It's also unnecessary as it's all perfectly obvious from first few chapters. However I believe this was her first book, and I'm hopeful it will get better.

I also remember reading another of her books, Greylands, which I think was a allegory about depression or grief or something. I did not think much of it at the time.

From: [identity profile] glitter-n-gore.livejournal.com


This sounds amazing--I love that premise. (And thanks for answering the "Do any dogs die?" question--that's always very important to me. The way it's handled here sounds like something I could be okay with.)

From: [identity profile] asakiyume.livejournal.com


It does sound like a *very* fun premise in terms of the types of people the animals turn into. Too bad that it wasn't quite the story it could have been.
ext_6284: Estara Swanberg, made by Thao (Default)

From: [identity profile] estara.livejournal.com


Isn't she the Obernewtwyn writer? Those were fairly well reviewed I think (- I mostly loved some of the covers). At seven/eight books it must have been
http://www.goodreads.com/series/45610-the-obernewtyn-chronicles-north-american-editions
.

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