Fluke by James Herbert

Rating 8.5/10
Simply a well told, engaging and moving story. And not a horror book.

Recently I read The Last Dog on Earth, Adrian J. Walker’s excellent dystopian novel featuring dual narratives, that of Reg the human and - most memorably - that of Lineker the dog. I loved the book and enjoyed reading Lineker’s thoughts, and also found myself making a mental note, which was simply re-read James Herbert’s Fluke.

James Herbert died four years ago and for many of us who were teenagers or older in the 80s he was - alongside Stephen King - a must-read horror writer. The Rats trilogy, The Fog, The Magic Cottage - novels that have a special place in millions of readers’ lives. And then there is Fluke, and here’s the thing - it is not a horror book, it is a deceptively simple tale into which Herbert imbues pathos and humour and out of my fuzzy recollections of three decades ago two things remain clear: I was enthralled and I ultimately moved to tears.

The novel itself centres on Fluke, a mongrel who wanders the streets, driven by hunger and hunting a quarry he can not define. But he was once something more and in the depths of his consciousness there’s a memory clawing its way to the surface, tormenting him, refusing to let him rest. It is the memory of what he had once been. A man.

This is a novel that explores reincarnation and poses the question of what would it be like to have a human mind and recollections whilst existing in a canine body. Fluke is a charming lead, a mixture of human and canine thoughts, driven by the fear that soon his human thoughts will fade away to nothing. It’s about Fluke discovering other dogs who become friends, all the while seeing humans in a completely new perspective. But what drives the story is Fluke's finding his way home to his wife and daughter and uncovering what reason his life ended so suddenly.

This is simply a very well told story, accessible to all aged 12 and up. James Herbert expertly captures what a dog's life might be like through and you - as the reader - really find yourself at ground level, revelling in the extra sensory overload that Fluke feels.

Recommended.

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