It is when we talk, rather than shout and bark and snarl, that the humans fear us most. I do not understand that. To talk is human: why are we more frightening when we are human than when we are dog?
On the surface, Dogs of War is the story of Rex, a bio-form based on a dog, who is designed to be a soldier. But, scratch the surface a little, and you will discover a world of complexity dealing with ethics, sentience, bio-engineering and the future of humanity. Rex is the leader of a pack that has bio-forms based on a bear (Honey), a reptile (Dragon) and a bee colony (bees). His job is to hunt down and kill those people identified as enemies by his master. As is the case, his pack escapes from his master and then the real story begins.
Dogs of War is superb. It starts off as a science fiction – action novel and slowly eases us into deep questions about morality, responsibility and ethics. This turn happens about a third into the book.
The book reminds me of Asimov’s I, Robot, Bicentennial Man and Empire series. In both cases, non-human intelligences which have been created to do the dirty work that humans don’t want to do. Humans end up fearing them for doing what they were designed for. And it turns out in the end, that the real “monsters” are the ones who are bigoted and can’t see beyond their prejudices. In a lot of ways since they try ask fundamentally similar questions. What does it mean to be free? What is intelligence? Who is responsible for the creations’ activities? How does society react to “difference”?
Adrian Tchaikovsky’s kickass writing ensures that this book is full of soul searing dialogues. For example: consider Rex’s internal monologue when he makes an independent decision for the first time.
I am surrounded by the bodies of enemies. They are enemies of my own making. I took a command decision. I have nobody to tell me Good Dog or Bad Dog for doing so. I do not know what I am becoming
or Dragon’s heartfelt appeal when he is asked why he does not want to be considered a Good Dragon.
I want freedom from their good or bad.
The characters are well fleshed out. Rex is obviously a character for whom we feel a lot of sympathy. But even supporting characters like Honey are great. Thinking about it now, Rex has to be the main character since Honey is the uber smart one.
Other Thoughts (Spoilers warning)
Spoilers below. Continue reading at your peril.
Dragon died 🙁
And I was surprised when the first person narrator turned out to be the gestalt human rather than Bees.
Also published on Medium.