Friday, December 21, 2012

REVIEW: Dog by Matt Hlinak


Culann Riordan was a high school English teacher with poor impulse control and a taste for liquor. He fled to Alaska before the state could yank his teaching certificate and possibly toss him in jail. He hires on as a commercial fisherman aboard the Orthrus, a dingy vessel crewed by a colorful assortment of outcasts seeking their fortune beyond the reaches of civilization. As he struggles to learn how to survive the rigors of life at sea and the abuses of the crew, he fishes a mysterious orbout of the depths of the ocean and comes into conflict with the diabolical captain of the Orthrus.

If he is to live long enough to see the sunset, Culann must escape from the Captain, survive on an island in the Bering Sea populated only by a pack of feral dogs, find out how to control the orb’s destructive power, and come to grips with his sizable character flaws.

Paperback, 200 pages
Published October 2012 by Bizarro Press
ISBN 0615700217 (ISBN13: 9780615700212)

About the Author

Matt Hlinak is an administrator at Dominican University, just outside of Chicago. He teaches courses in English and legal studies. 'DoG' (Bizarro Press 2012) is his debut novel. His short stories have appeared in 'Sudden Flash Youth' (Persea Books 2011) and several literary magazines. He holds an MFA from Northwestern University and a JD from the University of Illinois. He lives with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Madeleine, in River Forest, Illinois.

My Thoughts
I don't know what day it is or how long I've been out here or how long it's been since I found it, so I'm just going to have to call this Day 1. 
Culann has gotten himself into a little bit of trouble, and as many have done before him, he absconds to the rugged life found in Alaska to avoid prosecution. His cousin Frank has fixed him up with a job on a fishing trawler, and a couch to sleep on. On his first trip out, he learns the captain has a habit of fishing the same area year after year, never branching out to seek out larger yields of fish. Then the crew hauls in a strange object, and everything just gets weirder from there.

Having spent his last few years as a school teacher, Culann is worked harder than ever before as a deckhand, and takes some abuse as a greenhorn who needs to prove himself.
The work was exotic, grueling and fraught with peril. It was like he was being punished and rewarded at the same time. If he could hack it, he would emerge stronger, wiser and cleansed of his sins.
I really enjoyed the first half of this relatively short story (I think the e-book that I received was only about 118 pages). However once Culann came back to port and everything started getting really weird, I started to find it less enjoyable. I mean, fantastical plotline aside, I found the way that people responded to be too unrealistic. People were too quick to just accept what Culann said at face value and resign themselves to their doom. ("Oh well. I'm going to mysteriously drop dead in the upcoming hours, because this criminal on the run says so. Guess I'll just resign myself to it and get drunk.")

And then in the end Culann begins to reflect on his crime and almost seems to justify his actions. In the beginning I liked him, but by the end I was pretty much over him and finding him a little repulsive.

One thing of note is that the font in my ARC made reading very difficult. I hope that this may be improved in the printed copy, or even the purchased e-book/Kindle edition, but the font was erratic, varying from small to large to bold. It was supposed to have been done to indicate the state the writer was in, as it is a diary of what's happened to him in the previous days and weeks.

Also, sometimes the "i" looked like an "l" (causing "Alistair" to look like "Allstar"), and "f" looked like "r". Very confusing.

My final word: While I wound up not being enamored by Culann or the story in general in the end (as I was in the beginning), it was still a "good" story, and exhibited some solid writing. I would recommend it if you are looking for a fast escape.

Buy Now:

Amazon (only $2.99 for the Kindle edition!)

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ in the actual published version.

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