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Haint, by Joy Ward Book Review | SFReader.com
Haint, by Joy Ward Genre: Science Fiction Publisher: Trafford Publishing Published: 2005 Review Posted: 10/31/2006 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 8 out of 10
Haint, by Joy Ward
Book Review by C. Dennis Moore
Have you read this book?
In some unspecified year in the future, mankind has been nearly wiped out by global warming. Those remaining have joined others with similar interests, forming tribes based on their common bonds. Throughout North America and Europe, people found themselves coming together over their love of dogs, building societies named after their chosen breed and using these animals as their familiars.
They trade with other breed tribes, they hold annual Best Of contests, and they try to survive this harsh world. In the Weim tribe, fashioned around its love of weimaraners, Amanda is the tribe Listener. I think this means she gets psychic impressions from those around her, but what this means for her place in the tribe I don't know, because while it's made known what she can do, we never get to see her do it within her world, it's only when she and two of her friends journey to another tribe's territory do we get to see Amanda's abilities in action, and even then I'm still cloudy on just exactly what purpose her powers serve.
This trip she makes is because her tribe has noticed their water levels are going down a lot quicker than they should be and they want to consult with the techies of the other tribe to see if their readings can be accurate and, if so, is there anything they can do about it. Unfortunately, the news is not good and Amanda and company learn the planet is dying and mankind has only another couple years at most. The end.
But there's still the dogs. The point of view in this novel is from two different characters, there's first person from Amanda, but there's also a first person perspective from her dog, Haint. Haint has another story to tell.
He and, apparently, every other dog on the planet, are million-year-old aliens who've come to earth in order to find a race with potential and then help in that race's evolution so they could be on a similar level with these aliens. Because these aliens are lonely in the universe and they want some company. In order to better assist this race--they've chosen man--these beings of light use matter from the planet to form bodies for themselves, spending hundreds of years evolving from their simple, frightening form, to a form man will be more likely to befriend. Dogs. Yes, you heard right, all dogs are from an ancient alien race. And since their bodies are only matter and their souls are eternal, they just recycle themselves over and over, inhabiting hundreds of thousands of different bodies throughout their time on earth.
I have NO idea how these two stories fit together. In the end, when they realize the earth is dying, a ship comes to take away all the dog spirits back to their homeworld. Turns out, though, that the dogs send only a few from each breed back in order to explain that, due to their love of the humans they've guided throughout the centuries, they've decided to stay and, probably, die with mankind.
There IS the hope, however, that they're wrong and the earth isn't dying and maybe they'll find a way to survive. But it's just a hope and is never explored because, well, the dogs love us so much they'd rather stay and die with us so the novel ends on that note and we don't know what ever happens to them.
Personally, I don't much care, either. I'm just trying to figure out what the point of it all was.
I tried like hell to read Haint with an eye toward the journey, and not the alien dogs, but when Ward opened with Haint's recitation of his origins, it was kind of too late on page one. Then I tried to read Haint without letting my personal feelings interfere with the story--I'm NOT a dog person, don't care for dogs, or pets in general, and have kind of a problem with those people who treat their pets like their children--but honestly the writing just wasn't enough to keep my attention on the story. Nor was the journey to the neighboring tribe's land all that exciting. Luckily it's a short book.
I found the writing clumsy, plain and simple. There were passages here and there I stopped and read again because they were pretty good, but I didn't mark any of them for future reference, like in a review, so I guess they weren't THAT special. The bulk of the prose was just . . . I'll let it speak for itself:
"The North American population dropped to maybe a couple of hundred thousand people. I'm guessing at that number because, with much of that age's communication technology destroyed or rendered useless, we really had no way to count noses. I'm guessing from the number of breeds that grew up after that time and their villages.
"Those people started starving because they couldn't grow enough food to eat and well, you can guess the rest. Ethnic cleansing, race wars, religious wars, humans couldn't kill each other fast enough. I guess they thought if they killed enough people, the Warming would stop. Bad assumption. Between the natural disasters and the human bloodshed, our ancestors just about wiped out our species."
Okay, I have to stop here and point out that sentence. "I guess they thought if they killed enough people, the Warning would stop." Why, exactly? Is it me or does that make no sense at all? Anyway:
"When people began dying faster than they could be mourned, whole cities became ghost towns. Individuals found themselves with no one and nothing.
"For safety and comfort, the humans that were left began forming themselves into new types of tribes based on the things that gave them comfort and meaning and defined their lives. They felt that if they could find other humans that cared about the things they cared about, then they could trust these other humans. And for the most part, it worked."
MY tribe would be based on anti-social bookworms who want to sit around reading all day and not talk to other people. I'm just saying.
"Many people, mainly North Americans and Europeans, found that after the Warming took everything else, the one thing left to them was their dogs. These people, our humans, formed tribes which they called Breeds. They based their new tribes on their totem breeds of dogs, such as Rottweilers or Collies. These Breeds became their families and their lives."
Lemme tell you something, when the food supply starts to drop and the people of earth are dying off because of it, when there are no more pigs or cows or chickens or fish to eat, dogs are next. It's not a pretty thought, but once the people start to vanish, the Kibbles N' Bits factory's gonna close anyway, so it's us or them really, isn't it? But, like I said, I'm not a dog person.
Later, we get this gem:
"Our spirits could probably return to our world unaided after death. But even if they could find their way home, what would those spirits be once they had witnessed the extinction of the very species with which we had become so entwined? Our love for our humans goes far beyond what most humans understand. We allow ourselves to be beaten, starved, sacrificed, abused in ways too terrible to mention, all because we love humans and want desperately to show them the way to their own evolution. We have given our own essence to try to avert what we know is inevitable now, human extinction."
I have to call bull**** on this, too. A couple months ago there was a story on the news about a 3-year-old boy who'd had his face attacked by a dog. When he was found, the boy was dead, so don't give me that "we allow ourselves to be beaten and abused" line, okay? When I first discovered the premise of Haint, I decided to keep an eye out for mention of this, some explanation as to why, if dogs are such intelligent and noble creatures, they can do something like this to a child, and you know what? It's never mentioned. I didn't figure it would be.
But, to be fair, that's not the reason I didn't care for Haint. The writing was sloppy, the plot was old hat, and the premise with the dogs and whatnot was just plain goofy. Haint is billed as "A tale of extraterrestrial intervention and love across time and space". I should have known right then what I was getting into. But to NOT read it would have gone against the rules of my antisocial bookworm tribemates, and if I'd not finished it I'd have been shunned and sent to live with the dog people.