The Cambridge Geek

Dogs of War
Adrian Tchaikovsky - Dogs of War

Just like I have a soft spot for dogs, I also have a soft spot for books about dogs. Even when those dogs are hybrid monsters, who are part dog, part man, part machine brain and all soldier. Rex is a good dog. He's also a "bioform", effectively an Uplifted dog, combined with a bit of mind-controlling software to make him an excellent warrior, but also a slave to his Master, a morally dubious leader of a corporation owned mercenary corps.

Bioforms have been developed as a response to the rather impressive failure of AI-controlled armies, which had something of a hacking problem, leaving people with occasional areas of the globe it's just not very wise to go without up to date anti-virus software. And Rex is part of the newest wave of bioform who are being developed into multi-form packs, specifically Honey, a bear, Dragon, some sort of chameleon, and Bees. Who is some bees. Are some bees? Not sure whether a compound mind is singular or plural.

The team are dropped into the middle of a war crime, deep in Mexico, and realise they've been made just a little too intelligent when they start discussing the morality of killing humans, even when Master says they should. And so begins a book that stretches a lot further than I expected it to when it first started. I had been imagining a fairly straight thriller, but this runs quite quickly into Dollhouse territory, at least in terms of the wider political and sociological consequences of Bioforms.

It has some excellent characters. The development of Rex from a zombie-like soldier to a self-aware being is excellently done, with the change in writing style well matched to the stages of his thought process. And the other Bioforms are also nicely distinct. The oddness of Bees' literal hive-mind contrasts well with the unexpectedly gentle Honey and psychotic Dragon. And they're sufficiently sympathetically written that you still want to rub the belly of the eight foot tall human-killing doggo.

Thankfully, not all of the book is from Rex's perspective, as the style, even as it evolves, is a little jarring at times. Other characters drop in and out to provide a little more background or context that Rex wouldn't be aware of, and this helps it form the more rounded shape it needs.

Fun book, with some nice approaches to problems I've not seen recently. I'd say I'd read a sequel, but actually I don't think it needs one. Sits as a standalone perfectly well.


Tagged: Book Science fiction Post-humans Novel Print