First published back in 1977, British author James Herbert’s forth novel entitled ‘Fluke’ was a dramatic departure from his previous three incredibly successful and well–received horror novels.
Somewhere deep in his subconscious, Fluke knows that there’s something different about him, something that separates him from all of the other dogs. Fluke is a stray dog, with no family to love and look after him. His life so far has been spent roaming the streets, constantly on a quest for his next meal.
His wandering life brings him to meet with the local scrap-yard dog named Rumbo. Their chance meeting is a saviour to Fluke. Under Rumbo’s guidance, Fluke begins to learn the tricks of getting by on the streets. At last Fluke begins to feel wanted. Maybe even loved. But deep down he knows that this isn’t the first time he felt this way. Those niggling feelings that there is somehow something more in his past, desperately wanting to be remembered. Something before he was born. Something before he became a dog.
However, life on the streets has become more of an adventure now than the day-to-day struggle it once was for Fluke. Stealing meat from the butchers, terrorising the pedestrians and relaxing in the shade of the scrap-yard with Rumbo. Everything seems to be falling into place for Fluke.
And then seeing the family suddenly brought it crashing back at him. The life he once had. The fragmented memories. Mostly of the time he spent with them, embracing them. As a man, as a husband, and as a father. That is until his life was cruelly cut short. But he needs to know how and why. He needs to make those all-important connections. He needs to somehow return to the life he once lived...
Written entirely in the first-person-perspective of Fluke, the tale is an endearing and emotive one that initially plays with a very definite coming-of-age theme. For the first half of the novel, the various adventures that Fluke finds himself within are both exciting and heart-warming, as well as enabling Herbert to really build upon the characterisation of Fluke. Meeting Rumbo, their subsequent friendship and time spent together, builds further tight bonds with the reader from early on.
Although the handful of adventures that Fluke (and Rumbo) embark upon are mostly light-hearted in their delivery, they still have a desperate and almost life-threatening undertone. This is where Herbert really plays with the reader’s heartstrings, mixing the loving qualities of the storyline with a single-minded and directional plot.
When Fluke’s memories of his life before he became a dog begin to slowly claw through the murky depths of his subconscious, the tale takes on a whole new (and very compelling) level. From here emotions run raw, with Fluke’s struggle to accept his new life, his departure from his old life, and ultimately severing his emotional ties with his previous family.
The resulting final stages of the storyline are powerfully emotive, with a wealth of understanding for the deep bonds that have now formed with our principal character and narrator – Fluke. With his own emotional attachments to the story (with both the characters of Fluke and Rumbo) Herbert ends the novel with a monumentally heart-warming and beautifully concluding ending.
The journey from the very start of the novel to the heart-wrenching conclusion is truly magnificent. So much of Fluke and his adventures seem to have been actually lived. The sheer wealth of characterisation in the handful of characters is second-to-none. There is so much love, care and personal involvement running through the very backbone of the tale that it seems to breathe with the very life of Fluke.
To say I loved this novel is surely an understatement. Having read it when I was a youngster and then later returning to it as a young adult, the impression it left on me is still incredibly vivid even to this day. I remember not wanting to put the novel down. I remember feeling as if I really knew who Fluke was, and that he had somehow become someone close to me. I remember being taken on one hell of an emotional journey, seeing through Fluke’s own eyes as everything that he knows in his life as a dog comes crashing down.
Youngsters as well as adults will get a hell of a lot out of this book. It speaks volumes with its simplistic but powerful storyline. It’s one to cherish, to return to after a number of years, and to one day pass on to your own children. Well, that’s how I feel about it anyway.
The tale was later adapted into the film ‘Fluke’ (1995) which was directed by Carlo Carlei and stuck relatively closely with the original storyline.
The novel runs for a total of 191 pages.
© DLS Reviews