Fixi Novo, RM19.90, ISBN 978-967-0750-21-7
Noir Fiction, 2014
Say hello to Azroy Hadi bin Adnan, our hero in Mamü Vies’s debut full-length novel Dog Pound. He’s mean, he’s tough, and he makes his money pounding his opponents into bloody pulp in the neighborhood underground boxing circuit. He makes a pretty good living, shacks up with two hot twin sisters, and life can’t be any better. That is, until he gets caught up in messy business where an opponent ends up dead – apparently stabbed by Roy, a big no no – and Roy ends up being on the run. Will there be a happy ending in his story, or would he end up being another cautionary statistic of hoodlums who meet bad ends for taking part in events not sanctioned by the local BN Youth charter?
You know, I’m pretty sure if I randomly point at any DVD in the B-grade action movie aisle of any movie rental store, I’d find at least two with a similar plot to Dog Pound. Not that this is a bad thing, as an author who knows his or her stuff can usually inject some new life into familiar tropes and story lines through either some interesting tricks or even an engaging narrative style. For the most part, the writing here is serviceable. It does its job, sets the stage well, and lets the sweat and blood fly. Still, the predictability can be overwhelming – there aren’t many surprises here.
While I like that our protagonist is mostly out for himself and there is no icky stuff like love to distract him from punching the lights out of his opponents, he is, at the end of the day, a shallow character that could have very well stepped out of any by-the-number martial arts tale. The author also goes the straightforward deadpan route most of the time, leaving little room for levity. While dead serious can be a good thing, Dead Pound is greatly in need of something to stand out as something more than a Malaysian author’s rehash of a common martial arts action tale. Deep characterization is out, so is humor, so what else is there?
Violence and gore? Unfortunately, there is not much of any here. Not much sex either. Dog Pound, therefore, feels more restrained than it should have been. It’s like forcing Jean Claude Van Damme into a script meant for Steven Seagal – Roy has all the ingredients to be a sexy, bloodthirsty, crazy-wonderful hero to remember, but the story is a bit on the unremarkable and occasionally toothless side. I’m almost tempted to clock off some points for the clichéd use of flashback scenes and the way the author relies on time stamps to indicate chronology and passing of time not evident in the narrative itself, but then I recall that many cheesy B-grade action movies utilize the same devices. Okay, I’ll be nice this once and go with the flow.
Still, maybe I’m just a violent bloodthirsty bag, but Dog Pound just doesn’t deliver the violence and other fun stuff to make it stand out from the crowd.