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DOGLAND by Will Shetterly

DOGLAND

By Will Shetterly

Pub Date: June 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-85171-5
Publisher: Tor

 Shetterly makes the transition from young adult (Elsewhere, 1991, etc.) to adult fantasy with assurance and aplomb. In 1959, Luke and Susan Nix travel with their family--four-year-old Chris, whose narrative is informed by hindsight; Little Bit, three; and Digger, two--to Dickison, Florida, to set up a tourist attraction: Dogland, a sort of canine zoo displaying dozens of different breeds of dog, along with a restaurant and gift shop. Their supportive neighbors include Maggie DeLyon, the Seminole owner of the Fountain of Youth motel, realtor Artie Drake, and the old black cook, Ethorne Hawkins, soon hired by Luke along with Ethorne's equally hardworking family, Mayella, James, and college boy Seth. Some locals resent Luke's color-blind approach, while others come to accept it. As the years pass, and new federal laws begin to bite, Luke writes to the local newspaper supporting integration and the banning of prayer in schools. Waitress Francine rejects her violent, bigoted husband, Cal, and runs off with James; attempting to stop them, Cal calls out the Klan, only to be outwitted by Luke and Ethorne. Dogland, meanwhile, receives a steady stream of visitors, many of whom may not be entirely what they seem. John Hawkins, a descendant of the original plantation owner, assisted by lawyer Nick Lumiere, opens a rival attraction, a pirate theme park, then tries to buy Luke out. Another neighbor, Gideon Shale, who serves hamburgers and Jesus, blows his brains out after Lumiere taunts him. Next, Maggie's Fountain of Youth succumbs to the Hawkins-Lumiere axis. Finally, when the Klan makes an all-out effort to run Luke off and defeat Ethorne, Chris calmly lets loose the dogs. Compelling, absorbing, hard-edged work, lit by glimpses of another, more fantastic reality: reminiscent of top-notch Orson Scott Card, child-centered but tackling adult themes fearlessly and with great charm.