"A deceptively simple story, rich with complex characters and timeless themes." --Publishers Weekly on Dogland
"A masterwork. A particularly American magic realism that touches the heart of race and childhood in our country; it's 100 Years of Solitude for an entire generation of American Baby Boomers, and deserves the widest possible audience." --Ellen Kushner, host of public radio's Sound & Spirit on Dogland
Introduced in Dogland (Tor, 1997/VOYA December 1997), long-haired, fourteen-year-old hippie Christopher Nix barely remembers the family troubles there. Now in 1969, Chris longs to experience the sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll of central Florida. After a troubling encounter with a trio of bullies and a rebellion against his father's authority, Chris runs away, only to connect with a group of hippie Jesus freaks. For Chris, the only bright spot in his life is CC, who during a brief sexual encounter, awakens a longing that carries through to the end of the novel. When a strange benefactor offers to enroll Chris in an exclusive boarding school, his life takes a dramatic turn. He learns that he is really an elohim, a sacred being in human form. In discovering the god-like powers within, Chris must choose what course his life will take. Reading the second-person, present-tense narration feels strange at first, but it soon sets a certain tone. Shetterly divides the story into four distinct books: the time before Chris learns who he is; his life at the Academy; a story that appears to be the life of Christ, meant to explain the sacred bloodline that flows to Chris; and his final decisions. Book three raises many questions, much the same as The DaVinci Code does, and seems to disrupt the story. Read as a coming-of-age story, while confusing and slow-going at times, this novel nevertheless provides much material for thought or discussion. Reviewer: Roxy Ekstrom
Christopher Nix, a 14-year-old boy in 1969, meets a man who gives him a "gift," then disappears without actually giving him anything. Days later, a mysterious benefactor pays for Chris to attend an exclusive academy and makes him his adopted son and heir to the family's supernatural powers. As Chris tries to make sense of what has just happened, he faces a moral and spiritual crisis that ultimately leads to an understanding of who he really is. Shetterly's (Dogland) compelling coming-of-age-story is also a cautionary tale of power and the perils that surround it. A thoughtful selection for most libraries.
Still working the boundaries between YA and adult fantasy, Shetterly offers this long-range follow-up-hardly a sequel-to Dogland (1997). In Gainesville, Fla., "you," ninth grader and aspiring artist Christopher Nix, flee a bunch of redneck thugs, and find that you can walk on water-although you swiftly rationalize the experience. You meet and fall for beautiful black girl CC, but she inexplicably vanishes overnight. You then learn that you have a benefactor, the rich and powerful Jay Dumont; thereafter, you continue your schooling at the prestigious Academy. Soon you discover that you indeed posses miraculous powers, including the ability to raise the dead. Dumont avers that you must marry, or at least sleep with, his daughter Heller, although you find you don't want her. Dumont is in fact the highest of the immortal elohim, who serve the god El, and you are his heir. But you learn that your predecessor was murdered; that your Academy friend Elverado was killed for showing too much interest in Heller; and that elohim frequently use their powers for evil purposes. You wonder if you want to serve a god who delights in pain, cruelty and death. Then you unearth an ancient document, written by Judas, recounting the story of Jesus, another elohim-decidedly not the version told in the Bible. You make a momentous decision. Other than the intriguing Judas chapters, the story's narrated in a bizarre and unconvincing second person, present tense (so who is the actual narrator?) and treads largely familiar ground; not so odd, then, that the most controversial section is by far the most persuasive.