Venus wants Buddy to quit asking her to “make puppies.” Buddy wants Winston’s help wooing Venus. Winston wants Guy’s respect. Guy wants Dolly’s job. Dolly wants to know the meaning of it all. Nobody knows what Fiddler really wants, not even Fiddler. But mostly . . . these sled dogs just want to run.
Sounds simple? It should be, but even dogs have their office politics. Office politics with sharp, sharp teeth.
I started with the solicitation text because there is just no other way to begin. If I were to say that this is a story about sled dogs in the harsh Alaskan wilderness, your mind would in all likelihood be taken to visions of a Jack London story. If I were to say that this story was written by one of the writers for the Colbert Report, then you would probably feel like there should be some air of “truthiness” about it. But the fact of the matter is that this story exists somewhere in between.
The solicitation nails it on its head when it describes Mush! as a book about office politics because, when you get down to it, being a sled-dog is a 24 hour job. Whether they are out running, resting and recovering, or being selected for mating and breeding, the life of a sled-dog is all business.
I was having a hard time determining why the writing felt so familiar and the story felt so accessible, despite the fact that the characters were dogs and they were dealing with things I had never had to consider (like being forced to mate with someone so that your offspring could be sold). But when I did a little more research, I realized why: Glenn Eichler is the creator and executive producer of Daria. All of a sudden the pieces fell in to place.
Mush! is not so much The Office as it is Daria with dogs. Just as Daria was filled with over the top characters who serve only to antagonize each other and scheme to rise to the top of the social food-chain, Mush is full of over the top characters who serve only to antagonize each other and scheme to rise to the front of the sled dog line.
The real difference between Daria and Mush! is that Daria never actually confronted her antagonizers. Sure she would use her smarminess to underhandedly get back at them, or wait for their half-baked schemes to implode. In Mush! there is a build up and an actual confrontation. That is where Mus! develops its own voice . Before then it is a series of humorous episodes with some bittersweet philosophy tossed in. After, there is a real sense that the world (at least the world of the sled dogs) has changed. It makes me wonder what life for Daria would have been like if she would have actually taken on the world.
Mush! is not going to be for everyone. However, for fans of Daria, or for people who genuinely wonder what life is like from a dog’s eye view, Mush! is for you.
Check out a 27 page preview here.