I am entering the home stretch of drafting Lost Dogs, my young adult novel about the apocalypse as experienced by two dogs living on Kent Island, MD. I was inspired to write the story after seeing a segment of the series Life After People. Part of the segment postulated what would happen to our pets if humans suddenly disappeared (hint: not good for most of our fuzzy friends).
As I’ve been writing the book, I’ve been made aware of three other treatments of this idea, intended for various audiences.
The first was Book 1 of the Survivors series (The Empty City), by “Erin Turner” (actually, four writers under a common pseudonym). The series began in August 2012, and the publisher will crank out the fifth episode this June. I tear the first one a new hole to push its dog poop through here, but the TL/DR version is that it’s facile, clichéd, and has no emotional depth. It is everything that is wrong with young adult literature today.
The Last Dogs is another series, by “Christopher Holt” (actually Jeff Sampson) and Allen Douglas, this time for middle-grade readers (generally, 8-12 year olds). I haven’t read any of the Last Dogs books (the fourth and last in the series comes out this June, like Survivors), so I’ll let the first one’s blurb do the talking:
When all the humans in his world disappear, Max, a yellow Labrador Retriever, begins the search for his family. He knows that if he can just find Madame Curie, a wise, old black Lab, she’ll be able to help. Madame had a premonition of astonishing events to come—she might know where Max’s family is. But Max can’t make the journey alone. Joined by friends Rocky and Gizmo, Max sets off to find Madame. Along the way, the trio must face a pack of angry wolves, forage for food in a land where kibble is akin to gold, befriend a house full of cats, and outsmart a gang of subway rats. Ultimately, they’ll have to escape from the biggest threat of all: the Corporation, a “perfect” society for dogs and by dogs, where nothing is quite as it seems.
Lastly, my writer buddy Brent Lewis (the sage of Kent Island history, btw) gave me the first two issues of the graphic series Rover Red Charlie, by Garth Ennis and Michael Dipascale. If anyone still labors under the misconception that “comic books” are just for kids, RRC, with its violence, language, and gore, is definitely NOT.
Ennis and Dipascale explicitly depict the end of the human world as people in Manhattan suddenly go mad (a “rage virus”?) and kill others and themselves, often with their bare hands. Charlie (a service dog), Red (a dim-witted Irish Setter), and Rover (a Basset Hound with an English accent) survive the initial catastrophe (not so for their owners and their acquaintance Max, a German Shepherd) and attempt to escape the carnage.
RRC is gripping and has an interesting device: the dogs’ dialogue is given in everyday English, and the humans, even the ones who are not yet affected by the madness sweeping the city, speak in gibberish that the dogs—and the reader—don’t understand. This nicely portrays the dogs’ perspective and adds to the mystery of what exactly is going on.
Where RRC goes wrong is that sometimes, the dialogue among the three is a bit too “human” and not sufficiently “dog.” While an author must, in a story like this, anthropomorphize the characters to some extent, it breaks the suspension of disbelief if overdone or done poorly. And that’s what tends to happen here: despite the visuals, I sometimes felt like the characters were really just three guys, not three dogs.
While Lost Dogs shares a similar concept with these other works, I think you will find it much different in tone, characters, and style. I’m anticipating a summer release date for it—more about that as it unfolds.