Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Thunder Dog by Michael Hingson and Susy Flory

Thunder Dog
by Michael Hingson with Susy Flory
1 star - I couldn't finish it, but you might want to read it anyway

I feel awful giving this book just one star, but I have to be honest. I couldn't finish it.

Here we have yet another example of an individual with an important and very interesting story to tell who is saddled with, dare I say, a dog of a co-author.

What's it about? The book is about Michael Hingson, blind from birth, and his guide dog, Roselle, who helps him escape from the 78th floor of the World Trade Center after the 9/11 terrorist attack. It is also about Mr. Hingson himself, his life, and his comments regarding the state of affairs for blind people in the US.

Let's get the criticism out of the way first and then I will go on to tell you why you might want to read the book anyway.

As is so often the case with autobiographical works penned with a co-author (see my review of Wallace), this one suffers from horrifically shoddy writing. The writing style is at about an 8th grade reading level. In fact it reads more like a book report than a compelling story. Even moments that are exciting become mundane with the simplistic sentence structure and lack of skill at weaving a tale. What could have been humorous moments fall flat as the author drones on with every sentence the same, every paragraph evenly spaced, and not a single stretch into using an SAT level vocabulary word. 

And that all pisses me off. 

A lot.

Why? Because Mr. Hingson is clearly a really neat, well educated guy with a lot of important things to say. Obviously, the link to 9/11 is the draw. The chapters alternate between the events of that day and a bit of Hingson's history. That could have been exciting, but the descriptions of his flight from the towers are penned with the same, just the facts, ma'am, style as the chapters outlining advances in technology for the blind community. Hard to believe, but, yes, I started skimming over the Trade Tower chapters even before I started skimming the other chapters and then, ultimately, giving up.

So why, oh why, would any of my many followers read this book? Well, because for whatever time you can stomach Ms. Flory's robotic delivery, there are a lot of thought provoking snippets to be pulled out and mulled over.

Mr. Hingson was born in 1950, a time when parents were told to sequester their blind children in schools for the blind (often far away from home). They opted to mainstream their child. Subsequently, young Hingson went to public school and learned how to do for himself. And do he did. He learned to ride a bike and tooled around the neighborhood (without any accidents). He helped his teachers learn how to teach him. He graduated high school, went on to college, got a degree in physics, and became a salesman for high tech equipment. He also did a lot of work with people developing better technology to assist blind people.

There is information in the book that bucks the prejudice of the sighted regarding what can be accomplished without the use of one's eyes. I am amazed. The back of the book contains an extensive list of resources for the blind.

Mr. Hingson established Roselle's Dream Foundation in honor of his beloved dog, Roselle. The goal of the foundation is to help blind people get the access to technology they need to to fulfill their potential in a sighted world. You can visit the foundation web site here

Michael Hingson is a cool guy. I'd love to meet him and talk to him. I'd love to hear his life story in his own words. Maybe someday he'll write his own book. 

A different book. A challenging book. 

I hope so. 


  1. Great review, MM. I guess we all can't have Laura Hillenbrand or Walter Isaacson write our memoir... It sounds very interesting, but like you, I have very little patience for poor writing.

  2. I've seen some interviews that he did, and he sounds like an interesting and engaging man, who is very intelligent. What a shame that he was saddled with such a novice co-author!

  3. It's a shame when a good story suffers because of the writing. I'm afraid I'll have to skip this one on your recommendation.

  4. I agree with the comment above: it's a shame when a good story suffers because of the writing. I must also say, that I am very grateful for what you wrote about "Maxdog"... Phew, I passed :)
    sending lotsaluv
    Maxmom in SA

  5. How can you even call this a book review without being mature enough to read the entire manuscript? All you cared about was the lack of SAT level word(s),a sign of a truly shallow person,shame on you. This is a wonderful book written by Mr. Hingson and coauthor that I highly recommend to everyone. The above reviewer, again, wasn't mature enough to read the book before reviewing: if you would have read the book you just maybe would have noticed it Was in Mr.Hingsons own words.Larry King would agree, along with everyone else who were deeply moved by this book.