The first time I read this I was probably in grade school, and I was captured by the spirit of Buck, the dog who survived being kidnapped, beaten, andThe first time I read this I was probably in grade school, and I was captured by the spirit of Buck, the dog who survived being kidnapped, beaten, and abused to eventually break free and "run with the wolves" in Alaska. I was aware of the abuse by men but somehow all I focused on was Buck and his ability to survive. (And it was MEN who abused him - the only woman in the book was a sniveling spoiled brat, typical of London's idea of women.) Reading this as an adult, all I could see was the cruelty of almost every man Buck encounters. It was terribly hard to read, at times, because of the severe abuse. I just kept picturing one of our dogs in the same situation, and nearly wept with the thought of it.
The main theme of the book is the inherent wild nature of dogs (and man) and we see Buck transformed from a pampered house pet to the ruler of the wild as leader of a wolf pack. It is through the privations and abuse that Buck learns who he really is (a wolf in dog's clothing, as it were) and we are led to believe that Buck is finally fulfilling his destiny, once he breaks free of men and becomes the leader of a wolf pack. Clearly, this is London's view of what it means to be a "real man" as well: breaking free of the pampering and strictures of city life and conquering one's fears and one's enemies. It is a very "alpha wolf" view of life; to succeed, one must subdue all adversaries - there is no compromise. I found it very tiresome, and almost comical, if it weren't for the horrible cruelty. Only one man, his last owner, treats Buck with kindness, and their relationship is nicely portrayed. But still, Buck heeds "the call of the wild" and leaves his loving master to be killed. (Of course, Buck takes vengeance on those who killed him, like any "real man" would!)
I suppose this book is worth reading as an example of the "macho" literature of the era. At least it's short, and London does write well. But I don't know if I'd even recommend it to children anymore, given the extreme abuse of dogs it portrays.
VERY good book! Russell is a superb story-teller, and makes characters and places seem so real. This book is part historical fiction, part travelogueVERY good book! Russell is a superb story-teller, and makes characters and places seem so real. This book is part historical fiction, part travelogue (Middle East) and part story of one woman's journey of self-discovery. The narrator, Agnes, is a middle-aged 'spinster' school teacher who finds herself in Cairo at a pivotal point in history: the divvying up of the Middle East by colonial powers, the disastrous results of which are felt even now. This book explains why, and does so in an entertaining and interesting way. I shall be thinking of this book for a long time, I am sure. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
A good story, with only a little plot hole in the end. Good characters and pacing. I really would have LOVED this had I read it as a young girl! The hA good story, with only a little plot hole in the end. Good characters and pacing. I really would have LOVED this had I read it as a young girl! The heroine is quite resourceful, yet very believable. Definitely recommend for YA readers!!...more
**spoiler alert** This book was a huge surprise for me. A friend had loaned it to me, along with several other books, and I was looking for books to r**spoiler alert** This book was a huge surprise for me. A friend had loaned it to me, along with several other books, and I was looking for books to read on my annual go-to-a-cabin-on-the-beach-and-read-and-sleep vacation, so I threw this one into my bag. The premise sounds intriguing - first contact of humans with an alien species, and the team sent to the planet is comprised of 4 Jesuit priests, a doctor, an engineer, an astronomer and an AI specialist. It was the Jesuit priest idea that piqued my interest - and I'm a sucker for "first contact" books, too.
So, I started reading, expecting an interesting, but normal, such story. Imagine my surprise and delight when I got that plus a whole lot more! This is not just a first contact sci-fi story - it's an exploration of God, faith, prayer, predistination and the problem of pain (as CS Lewis deals with in The Problem of Pain) disguised as science fiction.
The story is told in alternating chapters of the present (2059) and the past (several years earlier). We first meet the only surviving member of the team, Emilio Sandoz, who is emotionallly and physically broken. Between chapters of the Jesuits trying to help (and debrief) him, we get chapters introducing the characters and how the first contact happened and how the mission came about. So, you're immediately set to wondering about what happened, and how did Emilio get in such a state? As you read further and further, the feeling of dread really starts hanging over you. This is not necessarily an easy book to read, because of the story and the themes - it's not a "they lived happily ever after" kind of book! But, it has jumped to my list of top 10 books I've ever read!
I was utterly captivated by the book - the style of the writing, the construction of the book, and, of course, the overall theme: if God is a loving God, and we are "doing his will" why do HORRIBLE things happen to us? Did God allow it? Did God send it? Does God not care about the pain? These are questions I have struggled with my whole life. This book doesn't answer any questions, but it certainly presents the problem in a very powerful way. Don't get me wrong - this isn't some boring theological treatise - this is a rip-roaring sci-fi tale, with a VERY interesting and original alien planet, and can be enjoyed just for that. But, I think most readers will also be touched by the theme of the book, and will be left pondering some very heavy ideas......more