Disciple of the Dog

I've been extremely curious about this book ever since it was announced that Bakker, writing as Scott Bakker, had another thriller in the pipeline. I'm a big fan of the author's fantasy novels and I was impressed with his first thriller, Neuropath. Hence, I felt that the premise of this work promised Bakker's most accessible book to date.

Here's the blurb:

“And you wonder why I’m cynical. I’ve literally ‘seen it all before.’ The truth is we all have, every single one of us past the age of, say, twenty-five. The only difference is that I remember.”

No matter how hard he drinks, gambles, or womanizes, Disciple Manning simply cannot forget: not a word spoken, not an image glimpsed, not a pain suffered. Disciple Manning has total recall. Whatever he hears, he can remember with 100% accuracy. He can play it back in his head for an infinite number of times without a single change. This ability makes him a dangerously unorthodox private investigator.

When a New Jersey couple hires Manning to find their daughter, who joined a religious cult before vanishing in a small rust-belt town called Ruddick, he finds himself embroiled in a mystery that will pit his unnatural ability to remember against his desperate desire to forget.

I am aware that Bakker's thrillers are meant for a more mainstream crowd, and this one fits the bill rather perfectly. Neuropath was a little too "over the top" to be considered accessible. Not so with Disciple of the Dog, however. Rough around the edges yet at time more cerebral than meets the eye, Disciple of the Dog should satisfy Bakker fans waiting for The White-Luck Warrior and introduce the author to a new audience.

The novel features a first-person narrative, that of main protagonist Disciple Manning. As you know, first-person POV are tricky things. You witness events through the eyes of a single character, with a single narrative voice to convey what is taking place. Hence, if you don't like that particular protagonist, it's pretty much game over. It's no secret that Bakker's characterization has always been divisive among readers and has been a bone of contention on several message boards over the years. Disciple Manning won't buck that trend.

Bakker describes Disciple Manning as a put-upon, down-on-his-luck investigator who tries to get his own back by continually ducking sideways. He takes the back way home. As a private investigator, having the ability to recall with precision every single detail he has ever seen, heard, or felt should be a boon. Indeed, being able to pull conversations and scenes from the recesses of his brain at night, re-enacting them with clarity to analyze them and unearth nuances he may have overlooked, should be a veritable blessing considering the man's line of work. And it is that. On a more personal level, however, this neurological gift has left Disciple Manning so cynical that he often appears unable to feel or care about anything. And though you can't help but root for the guy, regardless of the fact that he can be an unfeeling dick at times, it is obvious that some readers will find him to be totally off-putting. I have a feeling that readers will be a love/hate relationship with Disciple Manning. As for me, though he'll never be the most likeable character or the sharpest tool in the shed, I found the guy quite endearing. Here's a quote from the book to give you an idea:

Even so, Nolen had this sour look on his face as I took the seat opposite his desk, as if I were the druggie cousin who kept hitting Grandma up for money. That was when I realized I was wearing my I WOULD RATHER BE MASTURBATING T-shirt.


I glanced at my chest then looked up at him helplessly. "Um. . . Shit. . ."

No wonder the desk sergeant couldn't stop staring. When you remember as
much as I do, you end up overlooking more than a few crucial details.

"Pretty funny," Nolen said, grinning. "Actually. . ."

A wave of relief washed over me. Nolen was good people, I realized. Anyone who would rather be masturbating is good people. Self-reliance is what makes this country great.

So yes, Disciple Manning can be a prick. But a more entertaining fellow, I'd be hard-pressed to name! His narrative is full of insightful and witty gems, and it's sometimes downright laugh-out-loud funny.

Weighing in at about 250 pages, this is a very slim novel. And I felt that it could have used more "meat." There are a lot of interesting concepts on which Bakker could have elaborated a bit more. I feel that the manuscript was trimmed down to ensure a fast-moving pace. But in the end I think it may have been to the detriment of the overall reading experience. Ruddick is full of religious crazies, I feel that not enough was explained about the Framers. Still, a thriller is meant to be a page-turner and it is certainly the case with Disciple of the Dog.

By the same token, I felt that the ending was a bit rushed. But Bakker closes the show in a way that was completely unexpected. And even though Disciple of the Dog wasn't everything it could have been, I will be lining up to read the sequel, no question.

The final verdict: 7.75/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

3 commentaires:

Larry Nolen said...

Wait a minute...Scott gave a character the same last name as me? :O Maybe I'll read this book sooner rather than later after all! :P

ssgorik said...

Just finished this. Loved it.

Anonymous said...

This book is the worst sort of drivel. Bakker doesn't trust the reader to make any connections or opinions on his or her own.

So much potential with the idea and so much useless chatter by the narrator. Disciple would be such a better character if Bakker could show the reader instead of telling. And the author seems to be expounding his own warped view on women through Dieciple.

An editor would have been nice. Or Fiction Writing 101.