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BookRatMisty

BookRatMisty

The Dust of 100 Dogs

The Dust of 100 Dogs - A.S. King There are a lot of things I could say about the writing and the structure of the book, and the alternating viewpoints, and the interestingness of it all, but what I really want to talk about is this:I'm kind of amazed at how dark this book is.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I sort of loved it, but my god...this is a dark book.  That description up ↑there↑ makes it sound sort of campy and quirky - a fun pirate romp.  Not so much.  Emer was a pirate in the full sense of the word: she stole and swahsbuckled with the best of them, sure, but more importantly, she was bloodthirsty and had nothing to lose (until suddenly, she had everything to lose).  In the course of her brief time as a pirate, she kills countless men and meditates on her piratical "trademark" - should she carve her name into her victims backs? Been done.  Maybe amputate limbs or keelhaul them? Gets old.  Nope, Emer is an eye-gouger.  In fact, the book opens with it.What I'm saying is, she's dark.So when she's cursed to live 100 lives as a dog (many of them brief and brutal), and is then reborn in the form of Saffron Adams, the darkness doesn't just go away.  Though she never acts on her darker desires, she routinely pictures herself scalping, skewering and otherwise inconveniencing people who make life difficult for her.  It's funny, but it's also scary, and above all, it's true to her character.  She's had 300 years to learn and grow and let go of some grudges, maybe - but she's also had 300 years to stew and fixate, and you can't let something like that go.  Not to mention that being a teen in the 80s/90s and having your parents breathing down your neck about college, when in your heart you know you're a mothereffing pirate -- well, that would do things to a person.  There have to be times she questions  her sanity, and there have to be times that she wants to be able to exercise the, um, freedom of a pirate in dealing with her enemies.  King realizes this and stays true to who Emer was, while allowing Saffron (and 100 dogs) to bring new own experiences to the mix.  And bloodthirsty pirate that she is, you kind of can't help but love her.But the darkness doesn't just lie within Emer/Saffron.  There is a pervasive dark streak throughout nearly ever aspect of the book, and no act of human cruelty is shied away from.  The things that are done to Emer, the things that she does to other people, the things that other people do to other people, and say and think and want - they're more often than not harsh and raw and selfish, and unflinching in it.  King doesn't tiptoe around the negatives and the brutal realities of piracy, history and human nature in general, and the steady stream of (yes, dark) humor throughout the book just plays counterpoint to all the really messed up things that are going on.I'd say it's a tale of obsession more than anything, but for all that, it is equally a story about love.  Told through alternating timelines and viewpoints, as the reader you're stuck watching as things move inexorably towards each other, heading for a crash, and when you think it couldn't possibly end well for anyone involved, it somehow manages to be redemptive.  It's full of contradictions, a simple tale full of complexities, and as hard as it is to read, it's harder yet to put down.  By no means is it a story for everyone, and many many people will be turned off by the casual violence and general bleakness.  But the rest of us will fall in love with Emer/Saffron, and cringe along through the good and the bad, right until the end.