Haint - A Tale of Extraterrestrial Intervention and Love Across Time and Space is the debut novel by Joy Ward. The premise is simple - Dogs are extraterrestrials, and have spent the last few million years on Earth breeding humans. If this notion sounds plausible to you, then you won’t have any problems with the rest of the book…
The story plays in a post-ecological-apocalypse world. Global warming, the (now global) ozone hole, and general ecological degradation have ravaged earth and the human population. The seas have risen, cancer and new plagues are rampant, and humanity has shrunken. No one knows how many people are left, but it’s a fraction of the masses that used to inhabit (and poison) the earth. The survivors have reverted to a tribal life style, living in small groups, or ‘breeds’, each of them centred around a dog breed, which has been elevated to local totem and spiritual guide status. And for better reason than the humans ever guessed – because the dogs are extraterrestrials, here to help humanity develop and guide us to achieve our final stage of development. It’s all a big experiment, which started millions of years ago.
The breed themselves specialize, some focus on herb lore, some on crafts, some on working with the old technology to maintain scientific knowledge, some (special) ones focus on herding – animals and humans, at times. This leads to a lot of trade, a lot of friction, and the occasional war between breeds.
The story arc follows a human female, Amanda, and her ‘fams’ (short for familiars, these days we’d say pet dogs…), as they try to work out why the water level in the local well is dropping. To do so they have to travel through the territory of several other breeds to the Airdales, who maintain technical and scientific knowledge, and might be able to help.
The entire story is told in the first person by the two main characters – Amanda, and her Weimeraner ‘Haint’, one of the leaders of the earth experiment.
The main characters are the dogs, specifically Haint. Now, I’m not that much of a dog person, and decidedly have no experience of extraterrestrial dogs, so can’t tell you anything about how realistic the depiction is. All I can say is that he sounds very human…
Amanda is a ‘listener’, a specially bred post-human who starts to understand her dogs (who have followed her though thousands of her lives. yup, reincarnation is real.), one of the more advanced humans. Again, I have little experience on being post-human and able to converse with dogs, but she appears plausible (and yes, I know a number of dog fanatics ;-)
Out of the support cast it’s mainly Kern, Amanda’s love interest (himself a post-human, who starts to remember parts of his existence between lives) is quite well developed, the rest is the usual 2D support cast, serving specific functions in the story. Nothing wrong with this, I guess, although some more depth (or less cliché) would sometimes help to engage more with the story and its environment.
The concepts used in the story are not all that new – neither a future after ecological collapse, nor the fall-back onto tribal structures are new settings. Dogs clearly are not of this world, and the idea of one of our animals being our progenitor or development guide is one I’ve seen much better executed before, I have to say.
Still the story is entertaining, and moderately engaging; it’s an easy read with a good drive it, so it won’t keep you long (as it’s also not a very big book to begin with).
Why should you read this? Have a go if you always wanted to know why your dogs are the way they are, or what they are trying to tell you, and all will become clear. For the rest of us I’d say if you don’t have a problem with the notion that dogs are ETs and breed us then have a go, too, it’s an enjoyable and well-paced easy read.
Subtitle: A Tale of Extraterrestrial Intervention and Love Across Time and Space
Author: Joy Ward
Reviewer URL: http://www.skating.thierstein.net
Publication Date: 2005
Review Date: Dec 14 2005
Topic: Animal Stories
Book received as review copy.