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Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
Welcome John, Hazirah, Violet, Sylvia and Samantha. Please post your review on Dog Pound here.


message 2: by Samantha (last edited Jun 06, 2018 05:23AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Samantha Tan (samanthatan0710) | 8 comments "Dog Pound" by Mamu Vies was a very average novel and was definitely not one that would leave a lasting impression on me. Being one of my first Malaysian-written novels, I was really hoping to like it a lot more. I wanted to vouch for the book in hopes of showing my support for local authors, but unfortunately, I was disappointed. Honestly, I found Vies' writing to be cringe-worthy at the start, with its incessant usage of 'lah's, unnecessary insertions of 'also's and choppy dialogues between characters. I understand that the novel is written by a Malaysian author who does all this to ensure authenticity with the Malaysian slang and all, but it was still something I had to try my best to overlook. That being said, it was refreshing to see descriptions of the familiar environment I grew up in - mamaks, familiar road names, national cars and motorcycle brands, and whatnot.

In terms of characters, none of them really stood out to me as they all seem to be 2D characters lacking complexity. I was mostly annoyed at the protagonist, Roy, with his defensive nature, tendency towards violence, and racist statement/generalization's. I was particularly taken aback by his thoughts about immigrants - a direct quote from the novel: "the fact that these immigrants have gotten too comfortable here - or at least too comfortable to not act like immigrants, didn't sit well with him". I wasn't sure if this is Vies' attempt to make Roy an unlikeable character or just a direct reflection of Vies' values. (there was another event where Afiq, a policeman, made an observation of a Chinese uncle's pants being too short on him and bluntly stated, "Cheapskate. Typical Chinese." so it seems that the racist-like trait is not limited to only Roy.) Roy's decision to re-join the fighting circle in the end (*while in prison*) also bugged me - you'd think that after everything he's been through, he'd be smart enough to make better decisions, stay out of trouble? This didn't help with my lack of respect for his character and it just showed me how little character development Roy has undergone.

The only character I liked was Han, who seems to be the only one with the right moral compass, stating that Rusdi had to be stopped so the vicious cycle of blackmailings and threats can end. Thus, I felt that Vies' decision to keep Han's death *very* vague (only allowing readers to make assumptions based on the gunshots fired) was a great injustice to his character. If not for Han's persistence and admirable determination, the second half of "Dog Pound" would not have been possible, in my opinion. Vies' inclusion of the Penrose Stairs part was also one of my favorite things about Han, who so greatly believed in taking control of his own life, playing by his own rules. He was the only character with that kind of courage, and I loved that about him.

As mentioned earlier, throughout the novel, there was a prominent theme of 'chain reactions'. What characters like Jocelyn, Bone and Rusdi all have in common are that they are being held against their wills and being blackmailed into breaking the law. All were vulnerable and had things that they could be threatened with. With Jocelyn, it's her mother's life; Bone, his wife's and children's; Rusdi, his reputation. As a result of their agreements to the jobs requested of them, they have put others at risk. (Murshid --> Rusdi --> Bone // Rusdi--> Jocelyn --> Roy) (Though I am in no way justifying their selfish attempts to protect what is precious to them, I can empathize.) I also thought this was Vies' clever way of depicting reality - our actions almost always have a domino effect.

The organization of the novel is mostly linear though we do get two or three flashbacks, in which we come to understand the birth of young Roy's love for boxing. These flashbacks introduce some sentimentality to the novel as we come to see that his grandfather plays an integral role in Roy's love for boxing plus, he is mentioned in high regards throughout the novel. In fact, it is the only bit of attachment we see Roy showing as there was little to no mention of any other close family members or friends. This sentimentality is one of the only things I appreciated about Roy.

Overall, "Dog Pound" was very easy to get through and fast-paced enough to finish in two to three sittings. I did, however, wish that I was proud enough of this local work to be able to recommend to other people.


message 3: by Silvia (last edited Jun 07, 2018 04:52PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Silvia Teow (silviateow) | 8 comments DOG POUND
This book was one of the least challenging books I've ever had to read which was both a good and bad thing. I feel like the things that I liked about the book, were also the same things that I didn't like about the book.
Firstly, to acknowledge my own personal bias before I properly start giving my opinions on this book, I don't normally enjoy reading crime novels hence this book wasn't the most enjoyable for me to read.

Things I liked about the book:
1. How easy it was to read
The simplicity of the language used by the author made it very easy for me to just read the book on end! Even when the characters spoke in different languages (like BM) or broken English (as part of the Malaysian slang), I felt like it was very accurate to the actual stereotype of how Malaysians speak and it felt very native in the character's speech so all-in-all, the dialogue and the flow in terms of language made reading the book much easier. The chronological structure of events in the book also add to this.
2. The presence of Malaysia
This was definitely written by a Malaysian author alright! I think representation is really important and I found it a bit of a shock to read about an entire world unfolding in a book with the setting being in Malaysia. Even little things like Jocelyn's mother being in an "old folks' home", you rarely ever see that term used in international books, they're typically called care homes/retirement homes and this happens with almost everything in the book, so you can see that the entire book is truly enveloped in the presence of Malaysia.

Unfortunately, that's all I can say for what I *really liked* about the book because other than that, I found the book rather boring. Although, I really liked that the book was easy to read, it was to the point that complexities of situations were very pretentious to me. I felt like throughout the entire book, unnecessary plot twists and characters kept getting added to the mix of chaos already occurring in the book and it became too messy; almost "incohesive"?
Also, a really huge part for me when it comes to liking a book that I read is loving the characters but I actually felt like I didn't like *any* of the characters. It's not that I disliked them, or liked them and that was exactly the problem.
I felt like Vies' did a bad job on character development for all his characters as they were very dull. It was very obvious that they all had black-and-white personalities. Hans was clearly portrayed to be the good guy with positive value judgments, calm speech and sort-of sensitive person which I believe is supposed to be a stark contrast to Roy's impulsive nature and temperament. Personally, I just feel that humans don't really work that way in real life and everyone always has a good and bad side to them which made the portrayal of the characters in this book really unrealistic and my biggest turn-off from liking this book.

Another thing I'd like to add is the way Vies' describes the "action-packed" scenes in the book in such great detail – although this is rather impressive in some points of the book, I feel that it's overdone and sometimes unnecessary to pour so much detail into the actions of the characters in some of the fight scenes/run-away scenes and to focus more on perhaps their emotions/thoughts at the time and developing that which may have added more essence to the character. Just my two cents though! ^_^

Although I wouldn't say that the book was so bad that it was impossible to read, I don't think I would recommend it to anyone and I probably wouldn't want to read it again HAHA.
Also! Another thing that I disliked which I think isn't an objective critique but more of a personal preference is that just because the book was set in Malaysia doesn't mean that the characters have to be dumbed down. There was barely any substance to their personalities with constant bad decisions and (sometimes, quite forced) bad English! (I guess I understand that it's also due to the setting of the whole boxing scene, etc)
I guess that part was also just unrealistic to me in the sense that if they weren't good in speaking English, why would they be speaking it majority of the time instead of BM which they seemed to be more proficient in? (That would have made it a Malay book though, which is in favour of my point that the characters could have been written to have better English)
But again, personal preference and I do understand where the author's coming from
SORRY MAMUVIES T_T


message 4: by John (last edited Jun 08, 2018 12:16PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

John Chen | 8 comments In my honest opinion, Dog Pound is a book riddled with poor story-telling, mediocre writing, and a number of other flaws made by an author who obviously has a lot more to learn about professional writing.

This review discusses different aspects of the book: the characters, the quality of writing, the author’s choice of the story’s setting, and more.

To jump right into it, Mamü Vies did a bad job of creating meaningful, layered characters; the motivations of literally every single character in the book (the protagonist, the supporting characters, and even the antagonist) can be summed up with just “I did it because I had no choice.” This made for very forgettable two-dimensional, black-and-white characters that lacked the depth needed to make readers care much about them. I believe the greatest characters are the ones who are driven and have their own personal, meaningful goals which they set out through struggles and tribulations to accomplish. And, unfortunately, this quality can be seen in none of the characters, not even the protagonist, which is disappointing because what is a story if you can’t even care about the protagonist?

On that note, I want to talk a little more about the protagonist. Now, I don’t expect all protagonists to be likeable; that’s not the point of one. But at the least, a protagonist should have some redeeming qualities that make us want to root for him or her. Instead, what we got was Roy who was, at least to an extent, racist (inferred from this line in the book: “the fact that these immigrants have gotten too comfortable here — or at least too comfortable to not act like immigrants, didn't sit well with him”), a character who seemed to sexualise every minor and supporting female character he came across, and was often unnecessarily rude and violent to the people surrounding him. So, not only do we have a racist, sexist, violent protagonist that’s not likeable but also not one we can empathise with beyond a superficial level. Furthermore, we also never see Roy's growth and development as the protagonist; he's the same impulsive fighter by the end of the book as he was at the start. It's like he never learned anything from his experience. When you have a protagonist as a static character, major reevaluation of that character is needed. Overall, he’s a disappointing protagonist.

Other aspects that made Dog Pound unenjoyable was 1) the poorly written dialogue and 2) overall lack of proficiency in creative writing.

1) While I wouldn’t say it was bad throughout, there definitely were moments where the dialogue felt unnatural with Malaysian slangs needlessly slid into the exchanges between the characters, which irked me as I’m personally something of a Grammar Nazi and don’t appreciate when writers (especially professional ones like Vies) ruin the authenticity of a language. I get that Vies was trying to capture the Malaysian tone and make local readers feel more comfortable reading the book, but that brings me to this question: what impact did the setting of the story have on it? How does the story taking place in Malaysia influence the protagonist, or progress the plot? How was it at all significant and how did it add value to the reading experience? The story could’ve taken place in, say, New York, USA and it would’ve made little difference to the story if any. So, what was the reason for this choice? And leaving these questions aside, even if I just went along with it, why was it necessary to dumb down the language with the use of broken english? It’s almost like Vies assumed that local readers aren’t sophisticated enough to keep up with the story without compromising the quality of the language, but if anything, it only makes the book harder to read.

2) A cardinal rule of writing is “Show, not tell”. To very simply demonstrate it by example, a writer tells readers a character is in love by merely stating so: “He’s in love.” Very direct. Very boring. To show it, however, is the mark of a more experienced writer who’d describe it maybe something like this: “His heart raced, his palms were sweating, and his eyes glimmered as he beheld her.” This (showing instead of telling) forces readers to think, to imagine, to read in between the lines and actually pay attention, to slow down and savour the reading experience. The best books I’ve read do this breath-stoppingly well. Showing, not telling, gives books life. In my experience with Dog Pound however, it failed in this and was thus easy to speed through within a few hours because of how simplistic the language was. While simplicity isn’t inherently a bad thing, Vies didn’t do a good job of making his writing stand out, and the simplicity in this case made the storytelling dull and drab. Hardly any creative writing, and certainly nothing impressive. There were no immersive visuals, and there were at times awkwardly drawn-out descriptions of unimportant things, people, or events, but yet there wasn’t enough emphasis on trying to depict and elaborate on the underground world of illegal boxing; there was a lot of unused potential here for Vies to really build on the world and culture in the context of the story, to immerse readers and paint a more vivid picture in our heads, but alas, this wasn’t done well. Too much focus was placed on the irrelevant while there wasn’t enough on the aspects that are actually significant. While some scenes were written better (such as the fight scenes), this was sadly not the case for the majority of the book.

If I had to highlight one good thing about the book, it’s that it at least had an interesting plot. Whether or not the concept of Dog Pound is an original idea, I can’t say for sure since I’m personally more of an avid reader of fantasies and enjoy the romance genre, a far cry from crime stories such as Dog Pound. But, at least to me, the plot was something new and perhaps even refreshing. It’s a shame that the other aspects of the book spoils itself for me.

This is my final verdict: there is so much room for improvement in the way of character development, world-building, storytelling, and more. As a reader, I’m left with few good things to say about Dog Pound (and a multitude of the bad). Overall, I felt that this book was not an enjoyable 5 hours for me, and it serves as a good example of what amateur writing looks like.


message 5: by Hazirah (new)

Hazirah | 9 comments I was drawn into Dog Pound at first glance by its setting, as it was set in my own personal hometown. The many references made to the familiar landmarks around our town made it so much easier for me to visualize the type of setting that the author was trying to portray and gave me a better feel for the scenarios that would unfold at times. From the get-go as well, I could pick up a strong sense of Malaysian culture embedded within the setting of the story through the occasional use of Malay language slipped in between the English dialogues- a rather prominent trait of Malaysians, if I may say so myself. Speaking of the Malaysian culture, I think the story as a whole did a fairly good job at representing the the diversity of the Malaysian society by including a good share of each of the major cultures here without having that awkward racial divide by for example making all the good guys from Race A and all the bad guys from Race B. This way, readers could focus better on the plot that is unfolding since the social as well as cultural setting was smoothly and thoughtfully defined.

As for the story itself, I was not expecting much from the action part- that is all the boxing and gang fights, as it has always been a personal opinion of mine that action is more of a visual indulgence rather than a literary one. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself getting really into all the fight scenes despite my limited knowledge in boxing and fighting in general. So, in that sense I think the author really did a good job with combining technicalities in terms of boxing terms with literary flair so that even if reader’s don’t fully understand the terms they can still feel the flow of the fight through the language used.

Although I feel that the main protagonist plays an important role in the development of the story as he is the one caught in the web of deceit and whatnot, I personally wished that he experienced more of a character development (besides of course, Spoiler Alert, the part where he threw an evil villain out a window) and contributed more towards the story’s progression. Throughout the story, despite being present in a large majority of the scene, Roy played very little importance in driving the story and more of just being pushed around by all the other characters. If anything, his aid, Han, who only appeared halfway through the movie played a much more active role in pushing the story forward with his ideas and intel. However, despite the lack of character development, I feel that Roy’s role in this story ties in beautifully with the idea of the ‘penrose steps to salvation, or damnation’, which was (again) introduced by Han, and that his ending was a perfect representation of breaking free of a system that seemed to give him no room escape.

Lastly, in terms of story progression, I thought that in the opening, the author really took their time to introduce readers to the elements of the story which I liked as it enabled a smooth transition into the more dramatic events that would unfold. However, as it neared the climax, the author starts implementing different perspectives from that of Roy by giving us insight, although veiled, to Rusdi plan’s and to my personal favourite, the way Han was introduced which built up tension as I couldn’t figure out at first whether he was going to be a friend or a foe to Roy.

To conclude, although I found some elements of the story such as the mafia facade a tad bit cliche, I still think the author did a fairly good job with the story as it explored a thrilling possibility of society's hidden side.


message 6: by Violet (new)

Violet Ke | 7 comments I was initially very excited about the book as it was my first book written by a Malaysian Author, so i expected something very relatable to myself. However, the book did not meet my expectations mainly due to the cliche narration techniques and predictable plot. I have to admit, I only read about 80% of the book as I was kinda struggling to finish it :/

Let me first start of with the things I did not like about the book:

1. Title
- I was not interested in the title of the book. Though there’s a saying “don’t judge the book by its cover”, it really affects my first impression of the book. The title “Dog Pound” leaves the reader hanging without knowing what it actually means, but at the same time I don’t think the title is appealing enough to keep the readers wondering, which I think is a failure of the author. Maybe something more impactful would have been better, like “The Darkness of the Ring” as in the fighting ring(?idk?).

2. The Plot.
- The story was really predictable and although the thrill was there for me as a reader, I felt like I was not introduced to any specific event in the book that was not expected. An example would be Jocelyn, who was in fact related to Roy’s terrible situation. At the beginning when we were told that Jocelyn had “errands”, the author narrated it in a slightly dodgy(?) way which actually exposed quite a bit about what was gonna happen later in the story. Well it could be a form of foreshadowing, but I honestly don’t think the author put that together nicely.
- I also couldn’t really identify the climax? Perhaps it was supposed to be the scene where Roy “killed” his opponent during the fight, but it didn’t impact me as a reader as much as it should have. In fact, again, it was predictable due to the author’s general narration technique of revealing pretty much everything.
- Furthermore, I personally would be a lot more interested in the plot if it was about Roy trying to gathering evidence to prove his innocence instead of going against Rusdi and destroying his business. This would have added a lot more value to the plot as justice would be portrayed, which reflects Malaysians’ unity (especially after GE14). The author actually has Han, the perfect character to bring out this aspect, but instead he portrays his naivety… hmm.. disappointed. I expected more from Han’s character though..

3. Summary
- The summary at the book is definitely misleading. It is stated the opponent of Roy is now the law, but it’s not the case in the plot because his opponent is in fact the underground society which goes against the law. Again, if he put in more aspects on justice and law, I’d enjoy it much more. I would definitely have finished the book lol.

4. Characters
- I expected more from Han (as mentioned) and Jocelyn. Come on Jocelyn, show your girl power. I was disappointed by the fact that Jocelyn succumbed to Rusdi’d blackmail, which could have been extended a lot more! There are 2 possibilities i thought would have been better. 1) The author portrayed Jocelyn as a rather vulnerable character, which closes many doors. Yet if he demonstrates more on how Jocelyn is in fact working against Rusdi behind his back so she could let law punish him, this character would have been a lot more memorable to me. 2) Show more on the familial attachment Jocelyn has for her mother. The author doesn’t elaborate enough on the relationship of Jocelyn and her mother, which again could have been another valuable take away for the readers. Instead, the author only narrated the situation in a very superficial level, keep the story very shallow. He could have used Jocelyn’s thoughts or flashback to the time with her mother or anything emotional that can really let the readers empathise.

5. Narration Technique
- The author’s way of writing the story is seriously mundane. The overuse of dialogues in fact keeps the plot and the overall quality of the book at a superficial level. Moreover, the use of short phrases in the conversations between the characters keeps the pace of the story really slow, which really bores the readers! The plot just doesn’t seem to go anywhere, which is probably why i lost my interest in finishing it..
- The author could have used the characters’ stream of consciousness to throw in more emotions of the characters as well as revealing the difficulties they are actually facing, so the readers can be able to relate and expect more from the plot. Though the book is written in third person’s perspective, it is still possible for this to be brought up (just like Katherine Mansfield’s short stories, she uses stream of consciousness as a very common technique to capture the readers’ attention in just a very short storyline).

What i liked about the book:
1. Setting
- I enjoyed the fact that the descriptions of the setting is very accurate of Malaysia as the author pays attention to the details such as the spits on the pavement Jocelyn tries to get rid of the shoes. Although this looks like the ugly side of Malaysia, i appreciate the fact that the author tries to include this small details to keep the readers related. Furthermore, the author also illustrates the scene by mentioning the Gardenia bread Jocelyn and Roy were eating when they first met, which shows the simplicity and the common lifestyle of Malaysians. As a person who appreciates culture, I enjoyed these little details that really represented Malaysia in the subtlest ways!
- The author also includes the characters of all three main races of Malaysia. Roy being Malay; Jocelyn and Han being Chinese; Xaviour being Indian. Again, this represents the multicultural aspects of Malaysia.

However, these were the only things I actually enjoyed about the book, which is rather disappointing. The amateur narration as well as the unrealistic, predictable and cliche plot really put me off so I can’t say it was a good book…


message 7: by John (new) - rated it 1 star

John Chen | 8 comments Hazirah wrote: "I was drawn into Dog Pound at first glance by its setting, as it was set in my own personal hometown. The many references made to the familiar landmarks around our town made it so much easier for m..."

Hiya Haz!

I gotta say that I agree with some of the points you mentioned in your review, though there are other points that I disagree with.

It’s nice to hear that you liked the use of familiar Malaysian terms which helped you relate better to the story, but I gotta ask if you’d have enjoyed Dog Pound any less if it were written so as to accommodate for a readership outside of Malaysia (for example, by making the dialogue mimic less of how Malaysians speak, or by using made-up places/locations that anyone in the world can relate to rather than specific locations in Malaysia as was done in the book). Did you feel the story’s Malaysian setting added anything to the storyline or plot, or impacted the character significantly? Because I personally felt that it didn’t do much to augment the quality of the reading experience. Though, I do have to agree with you that I like how the characters were racially diverse so as not to create any divide or tension between races. At least readers can take away a good message from this: your allies and friends can come from any race.

I also agree that the fight scenes were written well. It allowed me to visualise and immerse myself in the scenes. It could’ve definitely been better, but I think Vies did a good enough job, so I agree with you here. And I also agree that the protagonist underwent little to no character development throughout the story. It’s a shame that the supporting character did more to advance the plot than the protagonist did, like you said. I do however think it’s ironic that you say the ending depicted Roy “breaking free of a system that seemed to give him no room escape,” considering he ends up in prison and goes back to his old fighting roots anyway by the end of the book; in the end, nothing has changed! Roy started out as an unlikeable character and ended just the same. So, when you mentioned that tension was built up because you at first weren’t sure if Han would be Roy’s friend or foe, I can’t say that I feel the same way since I couldn’t really care much for what happens to Roy in the first place. Vies truly succeeded in making me apathetic towards his protagonist. With all this being said, I thus have to disagree with you here too. Sorry Haz!

You also said that Vies “explored a thrilling possibility of society's hidden side.” I don’t agree with this too… In fact, the lack of world-building was one of my criticisms of Dog Pound in my review. Honestly, I believe Vies only scratched the surface of what the underground world of boxing is like. There was so much more Vies could’ve shown us to understand the intricacies of the world the story takes place in and how it adds to Roy’s struggle for survival, to help us readers appreciate the story more.

I think you make some good points, though I can’t vouch for some of the other good things you had to say about the book. To each his/her own though! :)


message 8: by Hazirah (new)

Hazirah | 9 comments Samantha wrote: ""Dog Pound" by Mamu Vies was a very average novel and was definitely not one that would leave a lasting impression on me. Being one of my first Malaysian-written novels, I was really hoping to like..."

Hi Sam! I really appreciate how your review helped me see some aspects of the books from angles I would not have considered before.

To start off, I can totally see what you mean when you were put off by the abundance of Malaysian slang used throughout the entire story. Language plays an important role in ensuring that an author's message can be carried through to the readers and in this case the influx of slangs may have not only put off some readers who are not used to them in the first place and even come off as forced among readers who use them on a daily basis. Reading this section of your review also got me thinking of whether this kind of slang, although it gives me, as a Malaysian, a sense of pride when I read it, would have the same effect on people who are completely new to our culture and whether it would have impacted their experience of the novel. However, I can't help but still appreciate the author's effort in trying to implement the Malaysian culture within the story although I do agree that it could use some work so as to not come across almost pretentious.

As for the characters I too share your frustration towards Roy's lack of development throughout the entire story despite holding the crucial role as the main protagonist. A lot of the time, I felt like he was just a pawn that observed what others did and waited to be pushed around by the other characters in order to get things going. I felt like since his character was already equipped with the skills of a talented fighter, he could have used that to his advantage to take control of his situation but most of the time he just came of all damsel-in-distress-ish.

I kinda disagree however, when you say that Roy's decision to return to Dog Pound at the ending was just him walking straight into another trap because I see it as his way of trying to pursue his passion one more time without having to be caught in the conflict of others. Throughout the story, especially during the flashbacks that you mentioned of Roy's childhood, we're exposed to his emotional attachment towards boxing as it is a precious memory that he shared with his granddad. From here, it can be seen that Roy was never in it for the money or fame, as he had mentioned himself. Therefore, I think that Roy's call to join the Dog Pound was a nice way to tie-up the story where he was no longer trapped in a mess that was never his to begin with and can now simply do what he enjoys doing- box.

I also liked how you described the relationships between the characters as 'chain reactions' as it was an element that I did not pick up on earlier. When I read the story, I simply took the characters' individual conflicts as a result of poor-decision making and mingling with the wrong type of people. Now however, I can see that on top of what I mentioned earlier, their conflicts were never exclusive in nature and that each of their actions were capable of inflicting trouble onto other characters as well and I thought that that was pretty important to note as it helped me realise another factor that drove the story's progression.

All in all, I really liked how I was able to see the story in a different light through your review but I guess there's just some things that we can't help but see differently :)


message 9: by Violet (new)

Violet Ke | 7 comments John wrote: "In my honest opinion, Dog Pound is a book riddled with poor story-telling, mediocre writing, and a number of other flaws made by an author who obviously has a lot more to learn about professional w..."

Hey John!

I'm just gonna try and make this as brief as possible! First of all, I really liked your review because it basically further emphasized my view on the book. One point i really agree with you is the unnatural use of Malaysian slang. Although i appreciate Malaysia's unique way of communication in multiple languages, i do realise the author overdid this and instead of portraying the country's multicultural setting, it confuses the reader. There are even points where I couldn't even understnd the particular slang he uses, which put me off a little as i couldn't really relate to the characters. If me being a Malaysian does not help me understand the context properly, let alone readers from other background.
Moreover, I also agree with you that the author fails in the basic technique of show not tell, which is due to his overuse of dialogue throughout the book. The readers cannot seem to be able to have a deep connection with the characters enough to be engaged with the story. Although the fight scenes are slightly better, i still think they could be a lot more impactful in terms of the characters' rationale during the fight, which could have made the plot more realistic in general.
A point i didn't realise until i read your review was the racist and sexist aspects of the protagonist. An example would be the author's introduction of the "announcer girl", who basically serves no purpose to the plot apart from Roy's fantasies or attraction to her. Furthermore, I also strongly agree with the fact that the protagonist has little to no development throughout the book, which is definitely disappointing.
Yet, I disagree with your point that the plot is new, perhaps because I have always been watching Hong Kong dramas, and many of these dramas revolve around the same theme. In fact, i think Dog Pound is basically a compilation of all the most cliche and overused plots of the dramas i have watched.


Samantha Tan (samanthatan0710) | 8 comments Silvia wrote: "DOG POUND
This book was one of the least challenging books I've ever had to read which was both a good and bad thing. I feel like the things that I liked about the book, were also t..."


Hey Sil, I think that we both share the same sentiment on most aspects of "Dog Pound"! I agree with you that the language Vies used was simple and direct thus allowing readers to follow the flow of the story very easily. I also saw how little character development there was, especially with Roy and that bothered me.

Though I do agree with you that the characters were dull and mostly black-and-white, I still appreciated Hans being portrayed as (purely?) the good guy, with good intentions otherwise the story couldn't have developed the way it did, imo. If it was up to characters like Roy, Rusdi definitely wouldn't have been faced the necessary consequences of his terrible actions. That said, I do think that Han's character could have been more complex - perhaps Vies could have emphasized on Han's need to seek revenge after Rusdi ruined his life.

Your review also reminded me of some things I felt while reading "Dog Pound" but never discussed in my review which was the characters being "dumbed down". I think this was one of my main issues reading Vies' writing, alongside the heavy Malaysian slang included. You also made a really good point with the fact that they'd be speaking BM instead of English if they weren't comfortable/fluent enough with the language, especially given the setting and the group of people that was involved.


Silvia Teow (silviateow) | 8 comments Violet wrote: "I was initially very excited about the book as it was my first book written by a Malaysian Author, so i expected something very relatable to myself. However, the book did not meet my expectations m..."

sup vi
can i comment on ur review first its so organised god bless
1. Title
- good point! i agree with you but tbh, titles don't really make much of a difference to me since i think every author has their own personal reason for titling the book the way they did so i just appreciate it for the way they did it! ^_^

2. The Plot
- omg yes i agree!! it was way too shady and if the foreshadowing was more subtle, i would definitely have been more surprised and ofc if the author managed to evoke those emotions in me, i may have enjoyed the book more too!
- about the climax, i agree too! personally, not all books have climaxes and i am perfectly fine with that but i felt like Vies tried to implement a climax in this book yet I still couldn't locate it so it felt very unsatisfying (just like what you said about the scene where Roy kills his opponent). also, i think generally as i don't enjoy reading action books, i'm not very exposed to this genre so my general idea of action books come from action movies where there is *always* a climax so this may influence my bias in this. (WOW, TOK)

3. Summary
i didn't read the summary oops HAHAHA SRY MISS i was scared it'd have spoilers

4. Characters
"Come on Jocelyn, show your girl power." HAHA, although this would have been great to see, I do think that the subtlety of Jocelyn's character was necessary to the plot and also possibly relevant to the portrayal of women in Malaysian society (which the author was clearly going for) thus I disagree for this point as I personally preferred that she didn't show her 'girl power' with the way the book was going.

Also, expanding on Jocelyn and her mother's relationship could have been a good way to evoke emotions from the reader but again, this would probably not be in favour of the plot as it might be seen as unnecessary/irrelevant which could disrupt the smooth flow of the novel OR it would have to involve Jocelyn's mother as one of the side antagonists/protagonists too but imo, that would be adding too much complications to the mix!

I definitely agree about the shallowness of the book though and I think all of us found issues with that :)

5. Narration Technique
I actually found the use of short phrases in the conversations between characters by the author made the book much more fast-paced and was not 'bored' by this! Your claim about the overuse of dialogues definitely does maintain the book at a superficial level since it does not show us much of an omniscient perspective and also lacks engagement with the reader but personally, I appreciated this as a way of making the book fast-paced for an action book.

I'm a literature n00b so I had no idea what technique the 'stream of consciousness' thingy was but I searched it up and it seems pretty interesting! I think one thing we both (or we all) definitely agree on is the lack of emotions and complexity in this book and your suggestion of this technique is actually pretty cool and could have added to the story!

6. Setting
HAHA pretty self-explanatory, I think all of us Malaysians can appreciate reading/seeing our culture in an established and published work of art!

Overall, we definitely agreed and disagreed on many things in our perspectives but I think this has to do with my habit of just personally trying to appreciate and accept the techniques and styles the author has used to create his/her novel whilst you are able to identify certain flaws and think of suggestions in attempts to make it better and more fun to read – both very cool imo heh

okie bye vi!


Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
Samantha wrote: ""Dog Pound" by Mamu Vies was a very average novel and was definitely not one that would leave a lasting impression on me. Being one of my first Malaysian-written novels, I was really hoping to like..."

Hey Sam...so the book did not quite reach the mark for you, huh? Ok. Let me ask you something. By what standards are we judging and evaluating Vies' work here-- by British and American literary standards?
There seems to be a mould that we are expecting Vies to fit into in terms of characterisation, style etc. And then when he fails to fit in, his work is deemed good or bad writing.
What if, just what if Vies is not trying to purposefully craft anything but just saying it as it is? What would then motivate this form of storytelling?Perhaps what we should be asking ourselves is, why does he tell his story this way? What circumstances would activate this sort of writing?


Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
Silvia wrote: "DOG POUND
This book was one of the least challenging books I've ever had to read which was both a good and bad thing. I feel like the things that I liked about the book, were also t..."


I like how you admit that you don't know where the writer is coming from.. meaning you are aware there must be something that motivates this form of writing. Think about this for a moment, Silvia:
By what standards are we judging and evaluating Vies' work here-- by British and American literary standards?
There seems to be a mould that we are expecting Vies to fit into in terms of characterisation, style etc. And then when he fails to fit in, his work is deemed good or bad writing.

What if, just what if Vies is not trying to purposefully craft anything but just saying it as it is? What would then motivate this form of storytelling?Perhaps what we should be asking ourselves is, why does he tell his story this way? What circumstances would activate this sort of writing?


Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
John wrote: "In my honest opinion, Dog Pound is a book riddled with poor story-telling, mediocre writing, and a number of other flaws made by an author who obviously has a lot more to learn about professional w..."

A very passionate response to Vies' work, John! But here is something to think about:

By what standards are we judging and evaluating Vies' work here-- by British and American literary standards?
There seems to be a mould that we are expecting Vies to fit into in terms of characterisation, style etc. And then when he fails to fit in, his work is deemed good or bad writing.

What if, just what if Vies is not trying to purposefully craft anything but just saying it as it is? What would then motivate this form of storytelling?Perhaps what we should be asking ourselves is, why does he tell his story this way? What circumstances would activate this sort of writing?


Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
Hazirah wrote: "I was drawn into Dog Pound at first glance by its setting, as it was set in my own personal hometown. The many references made to the familiar landmarks around our town made it so much easier for m..."

Hi Hazirah...I don't know if you have read some of the other reviews given by your mates, but did you notice that in your review you demonstrate way more acceptance of Vies' work? Why do you think that is? Of course you too have your dissatisfaction with how certain parts played out. Here is something to think about:

By what standards are we judging and evaluating Vies' work here-- by British and American literary standards?
There seems to be a mould that we are expecting Vies to fit into in terms of characterisation, style etc. And then when he fails to fit in, his work is deemed good or bad writing.

What if, just what if Vies is not trying to purposefully craft anything but just saying it as it is? What would then motivate this form of storytelling?Perhaps what we should be asking ourselves is, why does he tell his story this way? What circumstances would activate this sort of writing?


Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
Violet wrote: "I was initially very excited about the book as it was my first book written by a Malaysian Author, so i expected something very relatable to myself. However, the book did not meet my expectations m..."

Violet...so much hate!! Love it. Allow me to pick your brain for a moment.
By what standards are we judging and evaluating Vies' work here-- by British and American literary standards?
There seems to be a mould that we are expecting Vies to fit into in terms of characterisation, style etc. And then when he fails to fit in, his work is deemed good or bad writing.

What if, just what if Vies is not trying to purposefully craft anything but just saying it as it is? What would then motivate this form of storytelling?Perhaps what we should be asking ourselves is, why does he tell his story this way? What circumstances would activate this sort of writing?


Silvia Teow (silviateow) | 8 comments Kalai wrote: "Silvia wrote: "DOG POUND
This book was one of the least challenging books I've ever had to read which was both a good and bad thing. I feel like the things that I liked about the bo..."


Hi miss, cool questions!
1. "By what standards are we judging and evaluating Vies' work here-- by British and American literary standards?"

Yes and no, I feel. Generally, I think I've read a fair amount of books to be able to develop my own personal taste as to what kind of writing I enjoy the most and enjoy the least and I think British and American literary standards have had a lot of influence on this since they made up the majority of books I read. Yet, still there were plenty of British and American books I did not enjoy and also many other international books that I did enjoy reading such as Khaled Hosseini's works, Jean Sasson's works, and even Malaysian books such as The Garden of Evening Mist by Tan Twan Eng.
So, although there is definitely some influence of the British and American literary standards that affect my opinion of what I think of the book, I've also read plenty of other books to be able to evaluate the book more simply as a book rather than specifically comparing it with predominantly 'white' books. I hope this makes sense and answers the question!! Let me know if I went off tangent, miss ^_^

2. What if, just what if Vies is not trying to purposefully craft anything but just saying it as it is?

I don't think it's a matter of purposeful crafting or saying as it is because there can be some books with terrible 'purposeful crafting' and also some books with very impressive and enjoyable writing that simply 'tells it as it is' so despite which writing style he chose, I don't think I would have enjoyed the book either way because personally, I didn't like both the characters and the plot either.

3. What would then motivate this form of storytelling? Perhaps what we should be asking ourselves is, why does he tell his story this way?
I'm not sure if I'm misinterpreting the question but when you say 'this way' you mean 'telling it as it is' right? HAHA
I think that writing style was the most suitable for the direction of his plot especially with the amount of characters coming and going and how the plot develops and gets more chaotic – trying to purposefully craft it may either make it seem really pretentious and unfitting for the plot or it could also make it seem extremely messy and leave plenty of room for plot holes. Telling it as it is allows for a more direct approach, and allows the momentum of reading to be fast-paced which I think was intentional :)

4. What circumstances would activate this sort of writing?

I think generally action novels would require this form of writing especially when it isn't like action mystery so there's no particular need for building up of climax or to make readers feel suspicious or any careful foreshadowing (although there was some in this book, it was very minor). Telling it as it is helps to cut to the chase and focus on the details of the 'action', in my opinion thus more suitable for that specific genre (although, I'm not saying that no action novel can be written in a more 'crafted' manner)
Other than that, I can't say any other specific circumstance warrants for this style of writing because I think it really depends on how the author wants to carry the plot and the characters. For example, if the book was written in first person narrative and was made out to be a very honest person/being, then telling it as it is would only make more sense.

I hope you get me, miss! I don't mind explaining further if I'm unclear about something :)


message 18: by Hazirah (new)

Hazirah | 9 comments Kalai wrote: "Hazirah wrote: "I was drawn into Dog Pound at first glance by its setting, as it was set in my own personal hometown. The many references made to the familiar landmarks around our town made it so m..."

Hi Ms Kalai! I actually did read my friends' reviews & tbh it kinda intimidated me quite a bit because as much as I almost felt like I was reading the book wrong haha.

The reason why my response might have come across a bit more lenient(?) I guess is because my approach to reading has always been to expose myself to thoughts and ideas from the author be it in their language or their style. So I guess you can say that unless I've been reading multiple works from the same author then I won't really have a specific standard to hold the work against. I think this should answer your question about the standards to which I hold this work to.

However, I do still draw the line between the quality of one's work but instead of basing it off characteristics or elements of the work, I measure the effectiveness in which the author has conveyed his/her message to me as a reader which although is still influenced to a certain extent by the characteristics as well as elements, is more dependent on the intentions and ideas of the author.

Lastly, to answer your question regarding Vies' particular method of storytelling, I must admit that it is something that I failed to consider as I attributed his/her shortcomings in the more technical area of writing. However, now that you mention it, I think that this form of storytelling could actually effective, maybe given a different storyline? I feel that the straightforward method would have worked if the main point of the story was just convey or describe one thing because it can keep the reader's focus on the topic their talking about. However, in the case of Dog Pound, yes, he was describing the underground fighting scene up till a certain point but after that there was a lot more action which could have used more flair in order to really captivate the readers so that they can feel the change in intensity of the story's development. With that being said, Vies' method of saying things as it is may have been effective in keeping his representations closer to reality (or the reality that he is trying to portray) but it could use some tweaking in areas where impact was trying to be delivered.

I hope I answered your questions & I'm sorry if I was talking in circles and got you confused in the process uhh hehe ?? :D


Samantha Tan (samanthatan0710) | 8 comments Kalai wrote: "Samantha wrote: ""Dog Pound" by Mamu Vies was a very average novel and was definitely not one that would leave a lasting impression on me. Being one of my first Malaysian-written novels, I was real..."

Hi Ms, I don't think I was basing my opinion/review based off the American or the British literary standards per se, but seeing that I have read more American novels, maybe I subconsciously compared it to that. And because the American style of writing is also more lax and casual, perhaps it would have been a better comparison for "Dog Pound" as opposed to the British one? What I'm essentially saying is that informal and bad writing are not synonymous. I've read pretty informal writing that still managed to make the "good novel" category. (I really hope you get me, Ms hahahahaha) Like mentioned earlier, I think all my years of reading have subconsciously formed a 'criteria' for good/interesting writing and I don't think that's necessarily a biased thing. Maybe Vies' style just doesn't suit my liking as it would others, as I've seen reviews praising the book!

I do like the way you see the novel, Ms - that he is simply trying to portray the truth without the all the crafty, flowery bits. I like the message and the plot of Dog Pound, and so perhaps if we were forgoing the writing style and language used, my review would have been more positive. Unfortunately, those elements are a huge part of why I enjoy reading thus it was difficult to compartmentalize and say ''ok if the writing was better, it'd have been an excellent read for me". To answer the question "Perhaps what we should be asking ourselves is, why does he tell his story this way?" I think Vies just prioritized revealing the dark side of Malaysia, with all its illegal fighting and gangsterism, instead of focusing on the writing. Maybe he felt that the message would not have been delivered as well, or lost if people had focused on the language used?

Anyways, I hope you understand where I'm coming from! Would be more than happy to answer further questions as I don't think my answer is very coherent.. 😅


message 20: by Violet (new)

Violet Ke | 7 comments Kalai wrote: "Violet wrote: "I was initially very excited about the book as it was my first book written by a Malaysian Author, so i expected something very relatable to myself. However, the book did not meet my..."

Hey ms!

I don't think there is a particular literary standard I am basing off, but I guess I put a lot more emphasis on what I can take away from the piece of work, such as moral values or appreciation of culture. Though the plot of the story is also important, I think I am more influenced by the specific values and lessons of the story. However, due to the lack of this aspect in Dog Pound, I tend to shift my focus to the plot of the story, subconsciously expecting more that what I would expect from other books that have more indirect messages to the reader.
I understand "saying as it is" can also be a very impactful technique of narration, but I think it would have been more suitable for a story of another plot as I believe it is the nature of the plot of Dog Pound that requires more elaboration. Yet, I think Vies chooses to narrate the story in this way to try to remain a neutral voice and allow the readers to judge the situation for themselves, which to a certain extent, is working. Though slightly dissatisfying, I did manage to try and analyse the characters in my own way resulting in my personal view on the characters.
As mentioned before, there are other stories that are more suitable for this style of writing. One of them on my mind would be a bildungsroman which solely emphasises the growth of the protagonist. The focus on the one character does not divert attention, so this way of writing can actually paint a clearer picture of the protagonist, making it more impactful to the readers.
I hope I made my points clear! Do ask me more questions if i have to clarify what I said haha <3


message 21: by John (last edited Jun 11, 2018 12:30PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

John Chen | 8 comments Kalai wrote: "John wrote: "In my honest opinion, Dog Pound is a book riddled with poor story-telling, mediocre writing, and a number of other flaws made by an author who obviously has a lot more to learn about p..."

Hi Ms Kalai! I think you’ve raised some interesting questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

I believe that the standards by which I measured the quality of Dog Pound are universal and not inherently British or American. It just so happens that the majority of books that meet these standards and are successful are also predominantly by British and American authors. But the standard itself is universal. To put it in another way, perhaps Western writers are just generally better than Asian writers at writing books that meet these standards, but that doesn’t mean the standards they are judged by are themselves Western. At least this is what I believe. I hope my point is being conveyed well. With that said, I admit that I could be wrong since most books I’ve read are by Western writers, so it’s hard for me to compare them to any other standards. But still… it’s inconceivable to me that a book can defy all conventional standards and still be called a story, let alone an enjoyable and appreciable one.

There definitely is a mould we expect the works of writers to fit into, but I don’t believe it’s because someone arbitrarily set those rules and we’re simply conforming to them just because. Instead, I think that it’s a mould that stems from decades of trials and errors in telling stories, and it’s from past examples that people learn what works and what doesn’t, and thus a standard is gradually created: a standard that everyone can agree on to judge and evaluate fictional works — standards pertaining to characterisation, style, and more, because who can honestly say they enjoy reading about a character who never changes from start to finish? Or who can say they enjoy a dull, unimaginative, and uninspiring ‘style’ of writing that never strikes a chord? These are standards that generations of fiction readers have created for themselves to judge books, and writers are simply trying to create something that can hold up to those standards.

In the case of Dog Pound, Vies failed to meet most conventional standards. Whether it was intentional or simply because Vies is an incompetent writer is unknown, but all I can say is that he failed to create something that resonates with me. You ask what might motivate this form of storytelling. To tell you the truth, I don’t know. I don’t know because I can’t imagine anyone who would think that it’s a good idea to tell a story this way and be motivated to write a whole book in this manner. I mean, is it not possible to both tell it as it is while simultaneously creating something meaningful and enjoyable? If you don’t do this, then it’s just lazy and deserving of little to no praise because if you’re just going to write a fictional narrative without adding to it any literary value, how is that any different from writing a news report for fictional events? No writer can do this and expect his or her work to be regarded as an outstanding piece of storytelling.

I really don’t think it was Vies’ intention to write something so devoid of creativity. I think the reason he told his story the way he did was because he just wasn’t good enough to do better. Plain and simple. There are no “circumstances” besides a lack of experience with creative writing. To try to look for some obscure and meaningful explanation for why Vies wrote Dog Pound as he did is probably a pointless endeavour.

I might seem closed-minded right now, but to appreciate and enjoy a story, we need characters we can relate to because we share their visions and their pain. We need masterful writing that absorbs us into the world of our protagonist. We need a message that we can take away from the events that unfold. We need an emotional connection, because at the heart of every story is a conflict that we can connect with powerfully. And all these elements are impossible to fulfil if a writer chooses only to “tell it as it is” and nothing more. If a writer disagrees, they may do so, but they best be prepared for a lot disappointment when their works are criticised.

I hope I’ve been able to answer your questions. Please, if you have any clarifying questions, Ms Kalai, do feel free to ask. :)


message 22: by Kalai (last edited Jun 11, 2018 06:42PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
Silvia wrote: "Kalai wrote: "Silvia wrote: "DOG POUND
This book was one of the least challenging books I've ever had to read which was both a good and bad thing. I feel like the things that I like..."


Fair Enough... Silvia. A reader's response always trumps the writer's intentions anyways...but there's this theory by Gubrium and Holstein (2009) that states what happens outside the story is as important as what happens inside the story. They say that stories could either be a social product or told for a social cause...it is influenced by the narrative environment of the writer at the point of writing. And therefore, certain pressures, policies/societal conditions/ economic situations/their daily lived lives can be learnt from these sort of storytelling patterns. Anyway, that is just another way of looking at our multiple realities if you buy that possibility.

And now, to pick your brain:
What is your take on how culture, gender and identity is portrayed here in Dog Pound (whichever is relevant/significant)?
What does it say about the Malaysian mindset, values, beliefs, attitude, behaviour, traditions, practices, habits (sum up in general)?
Is this story a form of confrontation with something, a cry for help, a promotion of awareness towards something...or?

Please do quote when needed...


Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
Hazirah wrote: "Kalai wrote: "Hazirah wrote: "I was drawn into Dog Pound at first glance by its setting, as it was set in my own personal hometown. The many references made to the familiar landmarks around our town

Hazirah...literature is such that I don't think that there is a wrong way of reading a book..haha! That's the beauty isn't it !

But there's this theory by Gubrium and Holstein (2009) that states what happens outside the story is as important as what happens inside the story. They say that stories could either be a social product or told for a social cause...it is influenced by the narrative environment of the writer at the point of writing. And therefore, certain pressures, policies/societal conditions/ economic situations/their daily lived lives can be learnt from these sort of storytelling patterns. Anyway, that is just another way of looking at our multiple realities if you buy that possibility.

And now, to pick your brain:
What is your take on how culture, gender and identity is portrayed here in Dog Pound (whichever is relevant/significant)?
What does it say about the Malaysian mindset, values, beliefs, attitude, behaviour, traditions, practices, habits (sum up in general)?
Is this story a form of confrontation with something, a cry for help, a promotion of awareness towards something...or?

Please do quote from the text when needed...



Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
Samantha wrote: "Kalai wrote: "Samantha wrote: ""Dog Pound" by Mamu Vies was a very average novel and was definitely not one that would leave a lasting impression on me. Being one of my first Malaysian-written nove..."

Actually we all have our biases, Sam! We can't help it. We all put on different lenses to evaluate different things. No harm in that.

But there's this theory by Gubrium and Holstein (2009) that states what happens outside the story is as important as what happens inside the story. They say that stories could either be a social product or told for a social cause...it is influenced by the narrative environment of the writer at the point of writing. And therefore, certain pressures, policies/societal conditions/ economic situations/their daily lived lives can be learnt from these sort of storytelling patterns. Anyway, that is just another way of looking at our multiple realities if you buy that possibility.

And now, to pick your brain:
What is your take on how culture, gender and identity is portrayed here in Dog Pound (whichever is relevant/significant)?
What does it say about the Malaysian mindset, values, beliefs, attitude, behaviour, traditions, practices, habits (sum up in general)?
Is this story a form of confrontation with something, a cry for help, a promotion of awareness towards something...or?

Please quote from the text when needed...


message 25: by Kalai (last edited Jun 11, 2018 06:53PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
Violet wrote: "Kalai wrote: "Violet wrote: "I was initially very excited about the book as it was my first book written by a Malaysian Author, so i expected something very relatable to myself. However, the book d..."

Violet, like I was telling Silvia, too...at the end of the day the reader's response tends to trump the writer's intentions...that is just the way it is.

But there's this theory by Gubrium and Holstein (2009) that states what happens outside the story is as important as what happens inside the story. They say that stories could either be a social product or told for a social cause...it is influenced by the narrative environment of the writer at the point of writing. And therefore, certain pressures, policies/societal conditions/ economic situations/their daily lived lives can be learnt from these sort of storytelling patterns. Anyway, that is just another way of looking at our multiple realities if you buy that possibility.

And now, to pick your brain:
What is your take on how culture, gender and identity is portrayed here in Dog Pound (whichever is relevant/significant)?
What does it say about the Malaysian mindset, values, beliefs, attitude, behaviour, traditions, practices, habits (sum up in general)?
Is this story a form of confrontation with something, a cry for help, a promotion of awareness towards something...or?
Please quote from the text when needed...


Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
John wrote: "Kalai wrote: "John wrote: "In my honest opinion, Dog Pound is a book riddled with poor story-telling, mediocre writing, and a number of other flaws made by an author who obviously has a lot more to..."

John...your usual kickass comments!! Completely valid opinions coming from the lenses that you have chosen to put on.

But there's this theory by Gubrium and Holstein (2009) that states what happens outside the story is as important as what happens inside the story. They say that stories could either be a social product or told for a social cause...it is influenced by the narrative environment of the writer at the point of writing. And therefore, certain pressures, policies/societal conditions/ economic situations/their daily lived lives can be learnt from these sort of storytelling patterns. Anyway, that is just another way of looking at our multiple realities if you buy that possibility.

And now, to pick your brain:
What is your take on how culture, gender and identity is portrayed here in Dog Pound (whichever is relevant/significant)?
What does it say about the Malaysian mindset, values, beliefs, attitude, behaviour, traditions, practices, habits (sum up in general)?
Is this story a form of confrontation with something, a cry for help, a promotion of awareness towards something...or?
Please quote from the text when needed...


message 27: by Hazirah (new)

Hazirah | 9 comments Kalai wrote: "Hazirah wrote: "Kalai wrote: "Hazirah wrote: "I was drawn into Dog Pound at first glance by its setting, as it was set in my own personal hometown. The many references made to the familiar landmark..."

Hi Ms! The theory you mentioned sounds pretty interesting, and makes a lot of sense too now that I think about it. However, I personally find it difficult to relate literature to reality especially when it is centered around themes that are foreign to me without some insight into the author’s context behind his work. Maybe that’s something that I should work on to improve my reading experiences in the future! :)

And now to answer your questions:

What is your take on how culture, gender and identity is portrayed here in Dog Pound (whichever is relevant/significant)?
Culture: I enjoyed how the author was able to capture the kind of behaviour that Malaysians are all too familiar with: The everyday banter & casual slangs, the natural harmony between all races, etc. however I think that kind of portrayal lacks explicit reference to things that people would normally attribute to culture (eg: Traditions & taboo) so I think it would not really have the same impact towards readers who are not familiar with the Malaysian culture
Gender: Despite managing to smooth out the cultural setting with multiracial characters, the story definitely lacked involvement of female characters except those which provide casual interludes between important events such as the twins as well as the girl who worked in the boxing ring. Not only are the female characters blatantly sidelined but they also have pretty much zero contribution towards the story’s progression. Would definitely have enjoyed seeing more female involvement in the kick-ass action parts of the story
Identity: I can’t really say much about the characters and their identities because I feel like the only parts of their identity portrayed are those which directly relate to the storyline. In effect, I feel like I only got to know the characters at surface level which did not allow me to relate or empathise with them as much as I would have liked to. I also felt like there was still so much backstory between characters that the readers were left in the dark about so it was rather difficult for me to really form an opinion on the characters.

What does it say about the Malaysian mindset, values, beliefs, attitude, behaviour, traditions, practices, habits (sum up in general)?
First of all, I think that it is a pretty difficult task to sum up an entire culture in a book despite how many characters you may have because as long as you are confined to a certain set of ideas & themes that you are going to portray then you can’t really go far from cultures & behaviours related to that. With that being said, as I mentioned before, I could not really see traits, behaviours or cultures which explicitly apply to Malaysia as the general setting of the story- crime, action, thriller -is one that is rather universal. Therefore, when I read the story, apart from the physical & social setting as well as language variation, I did not really see much of Malaysian culture but I saw a lot of features that I could relate to a lot of the action-packed Blockbuster movies I have seen before.

Is this story a form of confrontation with something, a cry for help, a promotion of awareness towards something...or?
From what I understood from the story, it is an attempt to raise awareness towards the importance of knowing our purpose in life. Referring to the idea of the penrose steps introduced in the story, I feel like the cyclic maze that kept Roy trapped in what felt like an endless loop was the fact that he was only living each day to survive rather than having something to pursue. This is portrayed in how before joining Dog Pound, Roy stayed still and put up with all the bs that the people around him (eg: His boss and that one annoying colleague). Even when he began to get tangled up in the mess with Rusydi, he still allowed himself to be pushed around by everyone else because he never felt the urge to change his fate. When he finally had enough and decided to take charge of his own life, it brought him to imprisonment and lastly back to Dog Pound where it all began. Although, in literal sense, he is back to being confined and risk falling back into the mess that Dog Pound can bring, the difference this time is that he is doing what he wants to do rather than what he needs to do to survive.

Sorry this turned out so lengthy, but I hope I answered your questions Ms! :)


message 28: by Violet (new)

Violet Ke | 7 comments Kalai wrote: "Violet wrote: "Kalai wrote: "Violet wrote: "I was initially very excited about the book as it was my first book written by a Malaysian Author, so i expected something very relatable to myself. Howe..."

Hi Ms, the theory you mentioned sounds really interesting and I can relate with the theory based on the literary works I have studied before. As for Dog Pound, I believe if I knew a little more about the sport (or rather, underground sport) in Malaysia, I would have understood the work with a better judgement.

What is your take on how culture, gender and identity is portrayed here in Dog Pound (whichever is relevant/significant)?
I am more interested in the culture and gender roles in Dog Pound, so I think I will focus on these two.
Culture: As a person who appreciates culture, I enjoy the relatable details of our "Manglish", which portrays the uniqueness of the way Malaysians communicate. This includes the use of slangs and expressions such as "la" and "leh". Although this in a way compromises the standard of the overall language of the book, it is definitely unique and relatable to the readers. Yet, this may only work for Malaysian readers as some of the expressions come from languages other than English. Moreover, the intended grammatical errors may put foreign readers off.
Gender: Due to the nature of the plot involving fights and violence, the female characters in the book have less significant roles and often do not contribute to the growth of the protagonist. Eg. the twins and the announcer girl. However, it is understandable as the protagonist is a make fighter, so his environment is generally surrounded by male characters. It would have been a lot more interesting if Vies tries to amplify the gender roles in the book by portraying Jocelyn as a stronger character though...

What does it say about the Malaysian mindset, values, beliefs, attitude, behaviour, traditions, practices, habits (sum up in general)?
I don't think this book illustrates the Malaysian culture very clearly as it is focused on a rather small "underground society", which is not an accurate representation of the general culture as a whole. However, the use of all three races in Malaysia subtly demonstrates the unity of Malaysians despite our racial and cultural differences.

Is this story a form of confrontation with something, a cry for help, a promotion of awareness towards something...or?
Through Dog Pound, we can see the abuse of power that alters principles and moral values by killing as well as choosing individuals to take the blame. I believe this book magnifies and reflects on the injustice of our society, which can be very relatable to many people. A middle school bully incident is similar to this, of course, in a way smaller scale, but the idea is about the same - losing the right to fight for yourself due to the power of the other party.


Samantha Tan (samanthatan0710) | 8 comments Kalai wrote: "Samantha wrote: "Kalai wrote: "Samantha wrote: ""Dog Pound" by Mamu Vies was a very average novel and was definitely not one that would leave a lasting impression on me. Being one of my first Malay..."

Ooh, I think Gubrium and Holstein (2009)'s theory is a very interesting way to look at it. Thanks for sharing that, ms!

- What is your take on how culture, gender and identity is portrayed here in Dog Pound?
Culture:
I think Vies did a great job in portraying the Malaysian culture by including:
1. The Malaysian environment/daily life with the use of mamak restaurants and shopping malls like Sunway Pyramid, as well as Malaysian food such as nasi goreng ayam and teh o' ais. These are no doubt familiar to any Malaysian readers who have lived or grew up here.
2. Characters from the three racial backgrounds, which is important as Malaysia has long been known as the 'cultural melting pot'. With many races, there were also slangs and occasionally, Bahasa Malaysia used e.g: "Orang baik sikit mula la nak pijak kepala."
Though there was a strong depiction of Malaysian culture, there were also Western influences such as actors Brad Pitt and Jason Statham. Perhaps this was inevitable with the presence of media and whatnot in today's time.

Gender
The novel was dominated with male characters. I was pretty disappointed with the lack of portrayal of strong female characters - most were portrayed as prostitutes and showgirls who were unimportant to the development of the story. I'm aware that the setting was an underground fight scene and this would call for more masculine roles, but perhaps it would be nice to see some conventions broken? Introduce a female fighter, a female gangster in Rusdi's circle, etc.?

Identity
As previously mentioned in my first review, I think most of them felt trapped with the actions there were forced to do, almost like an identity crisis. (characters like Jocelyn and Bone)
Also, Roy's decision to join in fights while in prison in the end really showed how passionate he is about boxing - in a way i think it kind of solidified (though not limiting) his character as the boxer.

- What does it say about the Malaysian mindset, values, beliefs, attitude, behaviour, traditions, practices, habits?
I think, all in all, the novel did highlight plenty of Malaysian practices, habits etc., but i feel that the main mindset (?) can be generalized to a large extent. For example, it is clear that the rich seems to hold the most power in society, how the power makes them think they are able to break laws without facing consequences. On the other hand, less wealthy people like Roy seems to be the powerless one, forced to be the scapegoat for a crime he never committed.

- Is this story a form of confrontation with something, a cry for help, a promotion of awareness towards something...or?
Imo, Dog Pound aimed to show readers the darker side of Malaysia with the illegals fights, gangsterism and violence. Thought these topics are obviously quite known to most Malaysians, it helps bring awareness in a more interesting way - a seeming 'fiction' story. With this, we begin to question how many innocent people have been wrongly accused, faced with jail time and a ruined life, just because they don't have the resources, the power and the status to fight back against the injustice faced?


Silvia Teow (silviateow) | 8 comments Gubrium and Holstein (2009)
- Interesting theory, miss! Kind of like art during the Expressionism era, I definitely agree and see how this theory is applied in other novels too, it's just that although I see it being applied here, it wasn't conveyed very well (in my opinion!)

1. What is your take on how culture, gender and identity is portrayed here in Dog Pound (whichever is relevant/significant)?
i) Culture
- It is definitely written in a way that successfully immerses the reader into Malaysia's culture on surface level, with the emphasis on how food is so heavily integrated into a Malaysian's lifestyle, our manner of speech and how the 'Malaysian' language is really a combination of 3 languages, the 'bustling Klang bus station' highlights the culture of using public transportation and the Malaysian life in the city, how our country is filled with shopping malls and typical meeting places being at mamaks or even Old Town white coffee.
With that being said, I still feel that there is a huge part of Malaysian culture missing which goes further than the surface level references previously mentioned such as family dynamics, the patriarchy, the racial quotas and how it affects relationship dynamics amongst Malaysians, complaints about the government and even focusing on the education. I understand that because of the plot including these aspects may have diverted the overall focus of the story, however, I think it would be possible to emphasise on *some* of these aspects in the book that could have brought out more 'oomph' to the characters.
ii) Gender
HAHA, safe to say that women were clearly portrayed as the inferior gender in this book. Not sure if that is resulting from the author's own personal subconscious bias or if it was intentional to highlight the lack of progression in Malaysian society when it comes to women's rights. Nevertheless, there is little to no progression on the female characters, almost being completely redundant as they have barely any value to the plot. If anything, it seems they were added merely to accentuate some of the male characters' progression in the plot (like Jocelyn to Roy). Other than that, male characters dominate very 'dominant' and 'power-wielding' roles like cops, boxers – typically characters that demonstrate aggression, power and some form of superiority. The female characters are essentially given non-important roles like prostitutes and call girls that also demonstrate some form of obedience to customers (typically, men), an inferiority complex and submissiveness.
iii) Identity
Personally, I don't have much to say as to how the characters felt about their identity because I'm not so sure myself. Even if I were to speculate, it would be out of assumption and bias with barely any foundation considering there was very minimal development and insight towards the characters.

2. What does it say about the Malaysian mindset, values, beliefs, attitude, behaviour, traditions, practices, habits (sum up in general)?
I'm not sure it says much about the Malaysian mindset, values, beliefs, etc rather than the author's own perception of the Malaysian mindset, values, beliefs, etc.
Personally, as I've mentioned in my previous review that I felt like the characters were very dumbed down and although their language and speech was rather accurate to the *stereotype*, I don't think I have actually ever met any Malaysian who speaks Manglish as a native language.
Emphasising on my previous point in my review about the lack of 'grey areas' in the novel – Vies' managed to introduce characters of different races and establish a friendship between these characters with a great 1Malaysia bond. However, there is also the underlying side of racism to this in reality and how this is not always the case for everyone which I feel was not highlighted enough in the book.
Nevertheless, the book still does highlight a good deal of the Malaysian culture that would still be interesting for a non-local like myself to read – I'm also not sure if this has to do with the culture of the book pertaining to 'lower class settings' such as prison and clubs which I, a middle-to-upper-class individual may not have been exposed to, so I feel like what I'm saying *might* be a little ignorant, sorry T_T

3. Is this story a form of confrontation with something, a cry for help, a promotion of awareness towards something...or?
I think it could be interpreted to be all three of what you said, I definitely see how it promotes the awareness of corruption in the Malaysian culture and how money truly is power in this country and the injustice of it all.
Making the protagonist undergo the journey of an innocent man 'framed' for a crime he did not commit allows readers to sympathise with Roy and thus the victims that also undergo this same treatment and are not exposed to the wealth of the upper class. The reader is given insight to the corruption of the justice system and how money can win over the law in Malaysia (unfortunately).
This could be a confrontation of an underlying problem in Malaysia thus tying in with the theory that you mentioned at the start and it may be Vies' main motive, to exploit this problem, confront it and as a 'cry for help', make readers empathise and sympathise with the protagonist in hopes of inspiring readers to fight against this injustice.

Hope what I said made sense!


message 31: by John (new) - rated it 1 star

John Chen | 8 comments Kalai wrote: "John wrote: "Kalai wrote: "John wrote: "In my honest opinion, Dog Pound is a book riddled with poor story-telling, mediocre writing, and a number of other flaws made by an author who obviously has ..."

Hi Ms Kalai! I appreciate that you can see where I’m coming from in my last post. :) I’ll again do my best to answer your new questions.

The idea you brought up about how what happens both inside and outside the story are equally important is actually quite interesting and isn’t something unfamiliar to me; it’s an idea I was introduced to in my college english literature classes, and I was taught that the political, economic, and social context surrounding the writer is important to consider in relation to the story itself as these factors add weight and meaning to the story being told. It’s quite a fascinating theory.

To answer your questions, I’ll first go over how I feel Dog Pound portrays culture, gender and identity.

I think that Dog Pound only depicts Malaysia’s culture on a superficial level. Some references to local places/locations and local brands (namely cars and foods) were made, and the dialogue was also written to mimic the way Malaysians speak. Furthermore, racial harmony and friction was explored to a small extent in the book, such as through the way the different characters were of different races, and also through brief lines in the book reflecting the character’s thoughts (e.g., a line in page 174: “A part of [Roy] wanted to rough [Han] up. How dare this Cina guy talk about Islam?”). Little things such as these may give foreigners only some slight idea of what Malaysia and the locals are like, but it nonetheless doesn’t do much to give a deeper idea of what Malaysian culture is like. If foreigners were to read the book, they wouldn’t be able to learn much about Malaysian cultural values, traditions, or other significant aspects that constitute our essence (which is understandable, given that the focus of the story isn’t on Malaysian culture).

In relation to gender, Dog Pound again doesn’t do very much to portray how it’s like here in Malaysia, but it is accurate in the way that women aren’t a big part of the story and do little to drive the plot forward which, to a certain extent, reflects the general lack of authoritative power women have in modern-day Malaysia. In a more gender-equal society, women would perhaps have had a larger role in the story. But then again, it could just be due to the story’s setting of an illegal underground boxing scene, and it wouldn’t make much sense to have too many female characters in such a setting. In writing the female characters to be mostly inconsequential to the plot, Vies managed to somewhat accurately represent the status and social influence (or lack thereof) most women have in Malaysian society.

As for the identity aspect of the question, I can’t say the book did much to portray it either as most if not all of the book’s characters had no personal motivation to do what they were doing except to do it out of necessity due to being blackmailed. The characters were also not given backstories, so we never get to learn what it was in their pasts that shaped them into the characters we see when the story first begins. Thus, it’s difficult to say much about their identities. However, one thing that does come to mind when considering identity in Dog Pound is the idea of the Penrose Stairs that Han mentioned in a small part of the book in pages 172 to 173. The idea was that you can choose to run up and down the stairs, or you can choose to jump off, go against the system, and play by your own rules, effectively creating your own identity. Roy demonstrates this in the end when he lunged at Murshid and killed him, supposedly showing that he managed to break free of the circumstances he was caught in and has gained autonomy over his own actions. I do however also believe that this could’ve been portrayed differently and better since Roy ending up in prison and going back to his fighting roots by the end of the story undermines the idea that he has created a strong new identity for himself.

As for the question of whether this story serves as a form of confrontation with something, a cry for help, a promotion of awareness towards something, or anything else… I don’t think it does. I don’t believe that Vies is trying to convey any meaningful message through Dog Pound. I honestly can’t interpret the story as an allegory for anything. As far as I can tell, all Dog Pound is is a book that’s trying to tell a fictional narrative for purely entertainment purposes and nothing more. I can’t identify any thought-provoking or underlying ideas throughout the story that speaks to me.

Overall, I would say that Dog Pound is able to give foreign readers a small glimpse of what Malaysian culture and society is like in relation to aspects such as race and gender. Beyond that, however, I don’t think the book tells a lot about Malaysian values, beliefs, attitudes, etcetera. I’m not able to discern any profound cultural themes or motifs in the book, and it lacks in Malaysian sociocultural subject matter as a whole.

I hope I’ve answered your questions well, Ms Kalai!


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