Clarke Award winning author Adrian Tchaikovsky seems determined to prove exactly how diverse and skilled he actually is. His novel Children of Time is very different from The Guns of the Dawn, Spiderlight or even his epic Shadows of the Apt fantasy series. So it’s no surprise that his latest book, Dogs of War, is also a departure from the norm. It’s also a stunning take on the entire military fantasy genre.
The title itself is a pun of sorts. This is the story of Rex, a genetically modified being bred to obey orders and fight wars for human beings. It is the not-too-distant future and warfare using robots has lead to multiple disasters, mostly due to humans not really understanding the technology they’ve created. This has allowed the industrial military complex to try a new approach: genetically modified animals.
Rex is a ‘Good Dog’, which means when he follows orders he receives positive feedback directly pumped into his body. This humanoid dog monster leads a team of other experimental animals. As the novel begins, there is some sort of military situation going on in Mexico and Rex’s master uses the dog soldier and his companions in multiple operations. Unluckily for Rex, his master is not a nice man and is using the conflict for his own ends. Rex and chums must decide if they are going to follow orders, or if they should, instead, think for themselves. Rex’s allies are particularly fascinating and rather sweet in their own way, but we’ll not spoil the various surprises for you.
What we have here is a rather profound mix of military sci-fi, courtroom drama, meditations on the rights of thinking beings, and a spy-fi thriller. Tchaikovsky is a phenomenal author, a modern power house of fiction. He uses his slick and highly adaptable style to make this into a multi-layered story that examines the concept of humanity whilst still being a well-paced thriller.
Dogs of War is not as blunt as Grant Morrison’s infamous We3 when it comes to the idea behind animals used in military environments, and this is much to its credit. It’s, quite frankly, a better story because of it, and goes into way more detail about the consequences of ‘uplifting’ the animal world. Fans of Dan Abnett’s Kingdom series (another book about dog soldiers) should be aware that this is a much more considered work, though it does have just as much in the way of clever word play.
Speculative fiction at its best. Recommended.
DOGS OF WAR / AUTHOR: ADRIAN TCHAIKOVSKY / PUBLISHER: HEAD OF ZEUS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW