Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Review #16: Survivors

This month's Animal Fantasy Book Review features the first novel in Erin Hunter's brand new series, Survivors.  Subtitled The Empty City, it leaves the realms of cats and bears to focus on everyone's favorite pet: dogs!  (Can you guess I'm a dog person?)  Now, don't get me wrong.  I like cats and I like bears, but I love canines!  Here's the book blurb from the official Survivors website:

Lucky is a golden-haired mutt with a nose for survival.  He has always been a loner—roaming the streets of the busy city and relying on his instincts to get by.  Other dogs have Packs, but Lucky stands alone.
Then the Big Growl strikes.  Suddenly the ground is split wide open.  The Trap House is destroyed.  And all the longpaws have disappeared.

Now Lucky is trapped in a strange and desolate new world with no food, foul water, and enemies at every turn.  He falls in with others left behind, including his littermate Bella, a Leashed dog. Relying on other dogs—and having them depend on him—brings new dangers that Lucky isn’t prepared for, but he may not be able to survive on his own.  Can Lucky ever be a true Pack Dog?

If you write or read animal fantasy, then the name "Erin Hunter" should definitely be familiar to you.  (You also probably already know that it's a pseudonym for several writers, but for the sake of this review, I'm going to reference them by their collaborative pen name.)  Further, I'm guessing you're rather familiar with the ginormous displays of Warriors and Seekers books found in stores.  As a writer of animal fantasy, I was so happy to discover Survivors in my library.  Hunter's two sprawling series--and the addition of this third series--are proof that kids love animal fantasies and want to keep reading them.  (Seriously, go take a look at the extensive list of books on the Warriors website:  That is a LOT of books!)  Hunter keeps kids coming back for more with her great characters and unique stories.  Survivors is no exception, and I was particularly impressed by Hunter's set up for the series as well as her canine-view of the world she created.

Survivors is a perfect example of a "What if..." scenario expanded into a great story.  In this case, the question is, "What if dogs survived doomsday and were forced to live without their owners?"  It's a fascinating story premise, and not that far-fetched with natural disasters like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy fresh in our minds.  What if you had to evacuate your home so quickly that you couldn't even take your beloved pets with you?  What would happen to them?  Could they find food and water?  Would they move on and forget you ever existed?  Or would they loyally wait for you on the front doorstep until you returned?  The questions just raise more questions, and the outcomes are limitless, creating a fantasy world that Hunter can do so much with over the course of a series.  It just goes to show that inspiration for a good animal fantasy story can come from anywhere--even that weather report on TV and the tail-wagging buddy sitting next to you on the couch.

This post-apocalyptic scenario becomes even more interesting when Hunter shows us the world from two different viewpoints: canines who are accustomed to eating out of silver bowls, and others who have gone dumpster-diving their entire lives.  The story is told from Lucky's point of view.  He's a tough pup who grew up on the streets and graduated from the obedience school of hard knocks.  He scoffs at "Leashed Dogs," pitying their dependency on "Longpaws" (humans) and deeming them crazy for trusting the kicking, yelling, abandoning species.  (Yeah, he has just a few gripes about humans.)  Of course, Lucky finds himself stuck with a pack of pampered pooches who need him to show them the ways of the worldBut, they quickly prove they aren't as soft and helpless as they seemHe teaches them how to hunt; they show him how car doors open.  He saves them from drinking poisoned water; they rig up a makeshift refrigerator.  Together, their combined skills enable the survival of a pack in the dangerous, desolate world where "Big Growls" (earthquakes) can strike at any moment and "Shapclaws" (cats) lurk in the shadows.  (Did I mention Hunter is awesome at coming up with canine-isms, too?)  The contrasting views of the world add so much humor and drama to the story, resulting in a much deeper tale than if Lucky had found himself in a pack with other same-minded, street-wise dogs.  Hunter can definitely teach you a thing or two about incorporating different viewpoints in your own animal fantasy story.    

If you're a fan of doggy stories, then Survivors is a great choice for you.  If you enjoyed Hunter's other series, then you will certainly be a fan of this canine-world, too.  (That is, unless you're a stalwart cat person!)  And of course, if you write animal fantasies, you should read this book for all the reasons I discussed above--and more!  You should then pick up any of Hunter's other numerous novels, too, so you can uncover the secrets that make kids collect her books like Beanie Babies.

You can find out more about Erin Hunter and Survivors on the book's website here:  

And if you read this book, do let me know!  I'd love to hear what you think.

Happy reading!

Note: Cover art and summary blurb are both from the Survivors official website, listed above.        

No comments:

Post a Comment