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Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Book Review

October 25, 2017

Dogs of War

Rex, Honey, Dragon and Bees are weaponised, genetically modified animals controlled by their Master. They are working together in Campeche, south-eastern Mexico as an experimental unit.

But one day they find their communications cut and unable to get instructions. They are off the leash. Now they must make the decisions as to who is friendly and who are the enemies.

So often science fiction stories revolve around aliens who are humanoid. When writers do attempt to use other species, they can be less than credible in terms of the reader being able to relate to these strange protagonists.

Adrian Tchaikovsky really knows how to get under the skin of another species and run with it. Children of Time brilliantly took the development of Portia spiders and created something which allowed a reader to relate to their mindset and society. In Dogs of War he considers what would happen if you modify different animals and weaponise them.

Rex is effectively a dog, with dog-like traits of wanting a master to obey. Honey, the bear, has a sense of independence. Dragon, an oversized, adapted lizard, just wants to eat and lounge around all day. Bees is a collective of bee-like creatures who work together.

All these different qualities create different ways in which the animals develop when their master no longer controls them and they have to make their own tactical decisions. This brings up some very interesting situations when they are confronted with humans, and the team must make the decision as to whether they are to be treated as enemies or people they must form a relationship with. This raises a whole raft of moral issues. It asks to what degree can these animals be considered tools to be exploited, or responsible for their actions.

The story doesn’t just stop in the battle field, but progresses to when the animals are removed from it, adding a new layer to the narrative.

Given that dolphins have been trained by military units, Tchaikovsky’s concept is probably not so far from what might eventually be achievable.

Under the science fiction invention is the age-old discussion of accountability in war and what do you do with the soldiers, accustomed to little else, when they return to normal society.

Dogs of War was courtesy of Head of Zeus via NetGalley.

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