I’m a real fan of Tchaikovsky’s writing, so when I saw this offering up on Netgalley, I pounced and was delighted to be approved to read and review it.
Rex is a Good Dog. He loves humans. He hates enemies. He’s utterly obedient to Master. He’s also seven foot tall at the shoulder, bulletproof, bristling with heavy calibre weaponry and his voice resonates with subsonics especially designed to instil fear. With Dragon, Honey and Bees, he’s part of a Multi-form Assault Pack operating in the lawless anarchy of Campeche, Southeastern Mexico.
If you are attracted to the eye-catching cover and blurb that appears to be offering lots of cool military sci fi action, you won’t be disappointed. There are some thrilling set battles, all written with verve and skill – I was there and I cared. However, this book is not only offering foot-to-the-floor action and excitement, Dogs of War is also raising some tricky ethical questions.
Without giving away too much of the storyline, Rex – like so many soldiers before him – has found himself having to confront and account for some of his actions while operating in Campeche under the control of Master. At what stage is Rex given any rights? If he shows himself capable of breaking his conditioning, should he be allowed any form of agency? And what exactly do you do with an animal with such a dangerous potential, even if you decide that he is not ultimately responsible for those terrible atrocities? Can he possibly be allowed to go free, given that he is designed to engender fear by his appearance and body language? Along with a whole bunch of other equally pertinent and troubling questions, these are some of the issues that are raised in this clever and enjoyable book.
Tchaikovsky is fond of presenting his readers with unintended consequences. Rex is a war dog, specifically bred for strength, absolute obedience to his Master’s voice and a set of formidable teeth and claws capable of inflicting terrible damage on the human body. But as the leader of the cadre of genetically tweaked animals, he is also capable of reasoning and reacting to fast-changing battle conditions. His tactical support, a huge bear called Honey, is able to perform even more extraordinary feats. In short, both animals are able to communicate meaningfully and show an increasing awareness about the morality of what they are doing.
Rex is a war dog, trained and conditioned to kill in battle, so it is a big ask to convince the reader that he is capable and able to reconsider his purpose. I thought the writing of Rex’s character was a triumph, as was the development of all the tweaked battle-animals. It all seemed horrifyingly believable and the full ramifications of such a development were thoroughly explored within the story. I loved this one – along with all the violence and mayhem, there is a strong story about some unusual characters that had me completely engrossed. This book will stay with me for a long time to come.
While I obtained the arc of Dogs of War from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.