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My name is Rex. I am a good dog. Rex is 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 Multiform Assault Pack operating in the lawless anarchy of Campeche, south-eastern Mexico. Rex is a genetically engineered Biof My name is Rex. I am a good dog. Rex is 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 Multiform Assault Pack operating in the lawless anarchy of Campeche, south-eastern Mexico. Rex is a genetically engineered Bioform, a deadly weapon in a dirty war. He has the intelligence to carry out his orders and feedback implants to reward him when he does. All he wants to be is a Good Dog. And to do that he must do exactly what Master says and Master says he's got to kill a lot of enemies. But who, exactly, are the enemies? What happens when Master is tried as a war criminal? What rights does the Geneva Convention grant weapons? Do Rex and his fellow Bioforms even have a right to exist? And what happens when Rex slips his leash?


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My name is Rex. I am a good dog. Rex is 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 Multiform Assault Pack operating in the lawless anarchy of Campeche, south-eastern Mexico. Rex is a genetically engineered Biof My name is Rex. I am a good dog. Rex is 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 Multiform Assault Pack operating in the lawless anarchy of Campeche, south-eastern Mexico. Rex is a genetically engineered Bioform, a deadly weapon in a dirty war. He has the intelligence to carry out his orders and feedback implants to reward him when he does. All he wants to be is a Good Dog. And to do that he must do exactly what Master says and Master says he's got to kill a lot of enemies. But who, exactly, are the enemies? What happens when Master is tried as a war criminal? What rights does the Geneva Convention grant weapons? Do Rex and his fellow Bioforms even have a right to exist? And what happens when Rex slips his leash?

30 review for Dogs of War

  1. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    I finished this late last night (has been a while since I stayed up so late to finish a book) but had to seriously ponder how to write this review. Only recently I read Adrian Tchaikovsky's Children of Time and it is clear from these two books that the author has a wonderful sense of bringing the thoughts and feelings of animals (sorry, bioforms) to life. It is also clear that the author doesn't consider animals to be "just animals" but sees them on the same level as humans if not even one above. I finished this late last night (has been a while since I stayed up so late to finish a book) but had to seriously ponder how to write this review. Only recently I read Adrian Tchaikovsky's Children of Time and it is clear from these two books that the author has a wonderful sense of bringing the thoughts and feelings of animals (sorry, bioforms) to life. It is also clear that the author doesn't consider animals to be "just animals" but sees them on the same level as humans if not even one above. A notion with which I completely agree. This book, then, is about Rex, a dog-like bioform engineered for war. He combines canine senses with sentience, human DNA and then also got cybernetically integrated weapons systems. He is the leader of one of the first few multi-form squads, meaning teams that consist of more than one kind of animal/bioform. It is also about what the engineers designed him to be and be capable of and what he actually is and is capable of. The same goes for the rest of his team. The book uses multiple POVs from doctors to lawyers to all kinds of bioforms in order to explore topics such as the role of artificial intelligence in society (there is a history of robotics too), responsibility and guilt, what exactly we humans define as humanity, the ethics of conflict resolution and the manufacturing of sentient biological life. The different angles allow the author to give the reader many different perspectives with which to identify or not and allow for an objective as well as emotional exploration. And he shows that there are never easy answers, easy solutions, and we often revert back to the old ways just because their familiarity offers comfort while new ways are often scary. making choices is the price of being free Nevertheless, at some point I was wondering where the author will take this because I had thought we had reached the end of the narrative. However, the author had a lot of threads that he weaved into a complex web of a lot of other important questions. Thanks to the fact that the entire book was interspersed with all kinds of wars and conflicts, it never got boring or too preachy / theoretical. What I loved about this book was in what detail the author described each individual bioform and therefore gave them actual life and personality. We have the typical mammals but also marine bioforms, reptiles and even hive-minds (a very intriguing concept). Rex has a lot of canine traits, while Dragon is a typical reptile, Bees' consciousness is literally buzzing all over the place, and the felines are ... well, cats (there was an enormously funny moment in the book when a character actually said Even chipped to the eyeballs you can't get cats to do what you want them to do. and it definitely nails their best-known character trait). However, this realistic portrayal of the bioforms' characters was also what was very difficult to read and especially after / because of their development I cried more than once. Last but not least, I like how thorough the author is with his exploration of a topic. It would have been easy to end this book after the events in Campeche / Retorna but we went much further because the topic is and would be complex and winning one battle does in no way mean you'll win the war. Moreover, as far as I can tell from conversations with veterans, he's really done a great job in realistically portraying what it means to be part of something bigger, wanting to protect and having a purpose - and being stripped of it later. He teaches the reader about integrity and sacrifice. A true gem in this book was his criticism of current social and political problems in the world: Perhaps the idealism of the Anarchistas had decayed into the sort of backbiting rabies that such popular movements so often devolved into, not fighting for, just fighting against. flavour-of-the-month outrage Technology is not Good Tech or Bad Tech. It is the Master who is guilty for what it does. Sounds like comments to very current topics to me. To me, this is one of the most important books when it comes to considering the future of bio-tech, human engineering and the ethics that should not be forgotten but go with the territory and the author has quickly become one of my favourites simply for having a fantastic way of making the reader THINK. Now, does anyone have the author's address so I can send him the bill for all the tissues I needed? :P Thanks go to Netgalley and the publisher / author for giving me the opportunity to read this early.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    What at first appeared to be a straight tale of totally augmented dogs and other animals refitted with all the glorious technology of war, designed to be true monsters completely obedient to their masters, eventually became a tale of ethics and morality couched in legal-drama, societal commentary, and complicated decisions. I'm quite impressed. This isn't just a war-dog story taken literally. It's a full-blown discussion on what makes humanity, transhumanism rights, and the pitfalls of certain ki What at first appeared to be a straight tale of totally augmented dogs and other animals refitted with all the glorious technology of war, designed to be true monsters completely obedient to their masters, eventually became a tale of ethics and morality couched in legal-drama, societal commentary, and complicated decisions. I'm quite impressed. This isn't just a war-dog story taken literally. It's a full-blown discussion on what makes humanity, transhumanism rights, and the pitfalls of certain kinds of tech, focusing more or less on those that remove free-will, but it's not always about the tech. What are any of us? Truly? We hide behind entities and justifications just as damning as the operant conditioning so tightly discussed in this novel. Good boy, Rex, you're a good dog. lol yeah, indeed. It's similar to Tchaikovsky's other novels in that he's got a big thing going on about personified animals or a wide variation on the theme, but like his other SF novel, Children of Time, I really like his SF much better than his fantasy. :) There's a lot more depth that I can sink my teeth into, IMHO. It's not as epic as CoT, either, but it's certainly a very interesting ride. Don't go into it expecting the same thing it starts out with. The novel changes with the MC... or I should say the MCs. Damn, I love Honey. It's worth reading just for her.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    Bioform Rex is trying to be a Good Boy, the kind of Good Dog his Master wants him to be. But when he is cut from that hierarchy, he must make his own decisions with the help of his friends in the Multi-form Assault Pack: Bees, Dragon, and Honey. Reminiscent of Flowers for Algernon, Rex's story is one of self-discovery, changing perceptions, and the building of personal morality. His evolving situation, from military asset to something more, means he must ask himself questions he was never progra Bioform Rex is trying to be a Good Boy, the kind of Good Dog his Master wants him to be. But when he is cut from that hierarchy, he must make his own decisions with the help of his friends in the Multi-form Assault Pack: Bees, Dragon, and Honey. Reminiscent of Flowers for Algernon, Rex's story is one of self-discovery, changing perceptions, and the building of personal morality. His evolving situation, from military asset to something more, means he must ask himself questions he was never programmed to consider: what is the right thing to do? And what happens when his Master orders him to go against this burgeoning understanding? Told through multiple perspectives, including some of the other bioforms, the books presents a complex picture of humanity, especially when being human does not necessarily mean you are humane. It gives the larger issues of the book a real vibrancy and immediacy. And there's lots in there: the right to life, the viability of artificial intelligence, genetic manipulation, the rights of animals, ethical warfare... The sci-fi setting only enhances the ability of the author to ask these big questions, they are our current concerns writ large. On top of all that, it's full of action and has a serious emotional punch. My only criticism is that the end section felt overly long, even if the climax was both moving and apropos. Overall, a fun and thought-provoking read. ARC via Netgalley

  4. 4 out of 5

    Justine

    4.5 stars Excellent near future SF that delves deep into the ethical questions that arise from augmenting animals and transforming them into a state of personhood. It is just as heartwrenching as you might expect. I was made to be a weapon but I have lived a life. I was born an animal, they made me into a soldier and treated me as a thing. ...Servant and slave, leader and follower, I tell myself I have been a Good Dog. Nobody else can decide that for me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Dogs of War was not the book I was expecting to read - in a good way. I've long been a fan of Adrian Tchaikovsky, his Shadows of the Apt epic fantasy series is great and I really enjoyed his fantasy/adventure novel Spiderlight. In Dogs of War, Tchaikovsky turns his talents towards sci-fi with genetically engineered bioforms - animals enhanced by weaponised technology and given the smarts to communicate with humans on near like-for-like levels. The protagonist is Rex, a genetically enhanced dog w Dogs of War was not the book I was expecting to read - in a good way. I've long been a fan of Adrian Tchaikovsky, his Shadows of the Apt epic fantasy series is great and I really enjoyed his fantasy/adventure novel Spiderlight. In Dogs of War, Tchaikovsky turns his talents towards sci-fi with genetically engineered bioforms - animals enhanced by weaponised technology and given the smarts to communicate with humans on near like-for-like levels. The protagonist is Rex, a genetically enhanced dog who carries out deadly missions as instructed by his master. Along with his team of bioforms which includes bees, a bear, and a reptile named Dragon, Rex is subjected to brutal combat on near-suicide missions, fighting in a war he knows nothing about. Intelligent is his own right, it takes Honey, the enhanced bear, to release Rex and co from the confines of their masters' pull strings for him to see a world beyond violence, a world where bioforms can be more than weapons. I loved the way these characters evolved from combat team to individuals with their own goals, each with a unique voice to go along with their unique physical attributes and all with a surprising amount of character depth. Dogs of War isn't all about combat; it's a novel which takes war and broadens the concept to include peacetime ramifications of this new frontier technology through sociopolitical commentary which in turn gives the characters and theme a 360 feel delivered through a multi POV narrative. My rating: 5/5 stars.In short, this book is great, read it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    "My name is Rex. I am a Good Dog." Rex is definitely a Good Dog. He's also a nearly eight-feet tall bio-engineered cybernetically-enhanced dog soldier with access to heavy weaponry and networked to a whole squad of other artificial bioweapons. (Being introduced to each of them is a really well-done in text - I won't spoil it here). "Most of the humans who are hiding are the small humans, the immature ones. Master says we must kill all of them." Rex is a smart dog, but he's bred and programmed to ob "My name is Rex. I am a Good Dog." Rex is definitely a Good Dog. He's also a nearly eight-feet tall bio-engineered cybernetically-enhanced dog soldier with access to heavy weaponry and networked to a whole squad of other artificial bioweapons. (Being introduced to each of them is a really well-done in text - I won't spoil it here). "Most of the humans who are hiding are the small humans, the immature ones. Master says we must kill all of them." Rex is a smart dog, but he's bred and programmed to obey his Master who is busy prosecuting an illegal personal war using horrific methods and is using Rex's squad to cover it all up. But while Rex is smart, he's not the smartest person on his team, nor is he without friends even if he doesn't know they exist or why they care. An enduring theme in science fiction is the way humans are going to interact with non-human intelligences. In the last few years the focus of a lot of serious works in the field have shifted from space aliens as the likely intelligences that we will interact with to the looming and ever more likely Artificial Intelligence. I made this point in other recent reviews (of Autonomous and Sea of Rust), and there are certainly lots of great books about AI in science fiction at the moment. In this, Adrian Tchaikovsky postulates uplifted animals as another likely contact between humans and non-humans, and he does so with brilliant self-consistency in his extremely believable world. Rex is far more human than animal, but he's also recognizably non-human with a lot of basic behavior coming from his canine ancestry. He's also a very relatable character who over the whole book has to contend with his programming and whether what he does is moral or not. I loved Rex. I loved his squad and the people who befriend him. A really wonderful book from an author who has become a must-read for me.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tessy Nightblood Ijachi

    e-arc given to me via netgalley in exchange for an honest review ”Life is constant creation and destruction. The trick is knowing one from another” This book is about a group of engineered bioform animals. They're used as weapons in the war cause they can carry out orders given to them by their master. Rex is a dog, also the leader of the group which consists of a bear, a giant lizard/dragon and bees. Something about this book is that you will find the animals more intriguing than the humans. I e-arc given to me via netgalley in exchange for an honest review ”Life is constant creation and destruction. The trick is knowing one from another” This book is about a group of engineered bioform animals. They're used as weapons in the war cause they can carry out orders given to them by their master. Rex is a dog, also the leader of the group which consists of a bear, a giant lizard/dragon and bees. Something about this book is that you will find the animals more intriguing than the humans. I loved reading from Rex’s perspective and anytime it was a person's POV, I got very bored. The author did a great job with the animals, they had emotions, thoughts and different personalities. They even went through an intense character development, especially Rex. ”My name is Rex. I am a good Dog” At first, Rex was a dog that worried about not pleasing his master and not making the right decisions but am glad that I got to see him getting over those fears and being himself. The reason am not giving this book five stars is because it was so boring at times. The writing was a little bit difficult to get into at first but I got used to it whenever it was Rex speaking but anytime it was humans, I found their whole dialogue boring. I don't even think they should have their own point of view, it wasn't too necessary. I'd recommend this book to Sci-fi fans looking for something different and animal lovers.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Roy

    4.5* This was nearly a 5 star. It starts with a bang of action. Bio-engineered dogs plus other animals working for an organisation with crwzy weaponary destroy a civilian outpost. You can feel the pull of freedom or questioning his master in Rexs voice through his chapters. Great action and characters, as well as an intriguing plot. It changes tact and slowly becomes a different novel or "beast" altogether. The novel changes direction and approaches questions about politics, ethics n relation to 4.5* This was nearly a 5 star. It starts with a bang of action. Bio-engineered dogs plus other animals working for an organisation with crwzy weaponary destroy a civilian outpost. You can feel the pull of freedom or questioning his master in Rexs voice through his chapters. Great action and characters, as well as an intriguing plot. It changes tact and slowly becomes a different novel or "beast" altogether. The novel changes direction and approaches questions about politics, ethics n relation to the use and creation of these war machines, what makes us human, freedom of speech and also AI in our workforce and its issues and problems it could create with increasing change. The last 50 pages I felt just didnt close it the way I'd hoped for. Still one of the better reads this year so far. Cant wait for more from this author. This is a more complex book than just war machine animals going aroind on tactical missions. It really deals with issues that we potentially will face if they havent already occurred. Great worldbuilding, perfectly written epescially the different tones of the characters, just fell short at the end.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ints

    Reksis ir Labs suns. Viņš mīl cilvēkus. Viņš ienīst ienaidniekus. Viņš pilnībā klausa Saimnieku. Viņa pleci sniedzas septiņu pēdu augstumā, viņa ādu lodes neņem, apbruņots ar lielkalibra ieročiem un speciāli izveidots tā, lai viņa ultraskaņas kaukoņa pārbiedētu cilvēkus. Kopā ar Pūķi, Bitēm un Medu viņš veido baru. Reksis ir šī Bara līderis. Bara uzdevums ir sakaut anarhistus dienvidaustrumu Meksikā. Lasot šo grāmatu, jutos kā izvilcis laimīgo lozi. Te ir viss, kam būtu jābūt nopietnā mūsdienīgā Reksis ir Labs suns. Viņš mīl cilvēkus. Viņš ienīst ienaidniekus. Viņš pilnībā klausa Saimnieku. Viņa pleci sniedzas septiņu pēdu augstumā, viņa ādu lodes neņem, apbruņots ar lielkalibra ieročiem un speciāli izveidots tā, lai viņa ultraskaņas kaukoņa pārbiedētu cilvēkus. Kopā ar Pūķi, Bitēm un Medu viņš veido baru. Reksis ir šī Bara līderis. Bara uzdevums ir sakaut anarhistus dienvidaustrumu Meksikā. Lasot šo grāmatu, jutos kā izvilcis laimīgo lozi. Te ir viss, kam būtu jābūt nopietnā mūsdienīgā zinātniskajā fantastikā. Pirmkārt, interesants sižets. Dzīvnieku humanizācija šajā žanrā ir sastopama jau no Velsa Doktora Moro salas laikiem. Šeit Reksis nudien ir saprātīga būtne, saprātīgāka nekā viņa veidotāji to apzinās. Viņa radītājiem Rekša saprāts ir vienaldzīgs, kamēr vien viņš klausa pavēlēm. Lieta ir lieta, un nevienam nerūp tās domas. Tā kā autors ir biologs, tad šajā jomā viss notiekošais izklausās pat ļoti ticami. Un nebrīnītos, ka patiesībā jau eksistētu šādi tādi testa modeļi. Otrkārt, ar šīs grāmatas palīdzību Autors mēģina definēt, kas tad ir cilvēks, kas ir saprāts. Vai mākslīgajam intelektam ir cilvēktiesības? Vai Saimnieka un Verga attiecības ir ilgtspējīga lieta? Nu un, protams, vai hierarhijas uzspiests pasaules uzskats un no tā izrietošā rīcība Ir Saimnieka vai Lietas vaina? Patlaban šādi jautājumi vēl nav aktuāli, bet ar laiku pienāks arī to kārta. Līdz tam varam lasīt kā sociālu komentāru par to, kā vēsture atkārtojas, par to, kā cilvēki tikai pilda pavēles un par to, vai mēs kļūsim mazāk cilvēki, ja mēs citus sāksim uzskatīt par sev līdzīgiem. Tā teikt mūsu pašu ikdienišķie rasu un tautības jautājumi pacelti līdz modificētu un uzlabotu sugu jautājumiem. Treškārt, kādu labumu šāda dzīvnieku modificēšana varētu dot cilvēcei? Nu izņemto to, ka viņi ir ļoti labi kara vajadzībām. Autors ir atradis veselu plejādi ar iespējamiem pielietojumiem, daudzas no šīm tehnoloģijām iestrāžu līmenī darbojas jau tagad, bet kas zina, kā būs ar laiku. Stāsts sastāv no vairākām daļām, no sākuma šķiet, ka būs parasts bojeviks, kur bioformas (tā sauc Reksi) akli pildīs Saimnieka pavēles un lasītājam nāksies saskarties ar visām kara šausmām, taču brīdī, kad notikumu maina savu gaitu, viss kļūst daudz interesantāk. Vienīgais, kas man nepatika, bija grāmatas vidusdaļa, kur pārdesmit lapaspuses tika veltītas juridiskām peripetijām. Beigas gan bija ļoti, ļoti labas no stāsta viedokļa. Tēli, lielākoties ir bioformas, un tie nudien ir spilgti personāži, lai ar izaudzināti laboratorijās viņi ir daudz cilvēciskāki par saviem Saimniekiem, viņu ‘es’ nav noslēpts aiz labprātīgi izkropļota pasaules redzējuma, mazākajiem ļaunumiem un meliem. Viņi redz pasauli tādu, kāda tā ir, un informāciju par to analizē racionāli. Tas, ka Reksis ir Labs suns nenozīmē, ka viņu nemāc šaubas par izdarīto. Viņu bieži nomāc doma, kā bez Saimnieka pavēles atšķirt ienaidnieku no drauga, un kā draugs reizēm vienā mirklī kļūst par ienaidnieku. 10 no 10 ballēm. Šādai ir jābūt zinātniskajai fantastikai, ne tikai jaunu apvāršņu atklāšana un piedzīvojumi, bet arī viela pārdomām pēc izlasīšanas. Iesaku lasīt visiem un obligāti, lai nebūtu to pārmetumu pēc gadu desmitiem, kā gan es to varēju palaist garām!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

    Adrian Tchaikovskiy is a brilliant author. He goes from fantasy (Empire in Black and Gold) and pure sci-fi (Children of Time) to Flintlock (Guns of the Dawn) and then writes Dogs of War, which is innovative, bewildering, thoughtful and a read I could not put down. Dogs of War tells the story of Rex, a bioform engineered for war, but ultimately an enhanced dog with sentience, an integrated weapons system and the urge to be a good boy. It's a tale of ethics and morality, and the reader gets to expl Adrian Tchaikovskiy is a brilliant author. He goes from fantasy (Empire in Black and Gold) and pure sci-fi (Children of Time) to Flintlock (Guns of the Dawn) and then writes Dogs of War, which is innovative, bewildering, thoughtful and a read I could not put down. Dogs of War tells the story of Rex, a bioform engineered for war, but ultimately an enhanced dog with sentience, an integrated weapons system and the urge to be a good boy. It's a tale of ethics and morality, and the reader gets to explore what makes us human, what gives us the right to exist and what happens if such a dog turns against its master. They're not easy questions and there's no easy answer. I recommend this to everyone who thinks the blurb sounds at all interesting because damn this book is good.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Antonio Diaz

    Una muy interesante novela sobre las consecuencias del uso de animales mejorados genética y tecnológicamente. No niego que se queda corta en algunos aspectos y probablemente no profundice lo suficiente o descubra nada nuevo, pero a mí me ha gustado bastante y me la he ventilado en dos suspiros. Habrá reseña en Sense of Wonder sin duda.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Bad Master!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    4.5* I enjoyed this a lot. Maybe not quite as much as Children of Time but close. Augmented bio-form dogs, bears, bees, dragons and more, moral dilemmas and war, what's not to like. I am starting to read everything I can get my hands on by Adrian Tchaikovsky and so should you. I love his world building and imagination, his books are so readable and clever and he is fast becoming one of my favourite sci-fi authors.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Williams

    https://lynns-books.com/2017/11/20/do... Dogs of War is one of those books that turned into a very happy surprise for me. I requested a copy of this because I’ve read this author before and liked his style of writing and so whilst the theme worried me a little, because I imagined it was going to maybe be a bit more military style than I would normally attempt, I had faith that Tchaikovsky would win me over. I wasn’t wrong. Dogs of War is so much more than a military style story, in fact after the https://lynns-books.com/2017/11/20/do... Dogs of War is one of those books that turned into a very happy surprise for me. I requested a copy of this because I’ve read this author before and liked his style of writing and so whilst the theme worried me a little, because I imagined it was going to maybe be a bit more military style than I would normally attempt, I had faith that Tchaikovsky would win me over. I wasn’t wrong. Dogs of War is so much more than a military style story, in fact after the first few chapters of action and warfare it turns into a different style of drama completely. This is a thought provoking story that really packs a punch. Rex is a bioform. I’m not going to try and describe all the mechanics of this but basically he’s a genetically modified dog, part human and with heavy duty warfare installed for good measure. He’s the controlling unit for a Multi-form Assault Pack, an incredible fighting team that includes the characters Dragon, Honey and Bees. Each of these have their own unique abilities that I won’t dwell on here but take it from me, this is a deadly team of bioforms that you don’t want to tangle with. Now, Rex controls the unit and Rex’s master controls him. Rex wants to be a good dog. He’s programmed to obey not to think and if he’s told to kill he fulfils his orders with ruthless efficiency. Unfortunately, whilst his actions and motivations are easy to discern those of his master have gone a little awry and Rex and his unit eventually go rogue. The story then changes tack completely, it moves through a courtroom style drama and then goes on almost into a conspiracy theory style story but at it’s heart and soul is a discussion about rights. Do Rex and his team have any rights basically, a similar theme to those explored recently in stories concerning AI. If you create something, a weapon, a machine – does it have ‘rights. Should Rex and his team, and in fact the hundreds of other bioforms created be allowed to live if they’re deemed dangerous. Of course Rex is dangerous, everything about him is threatening, his size, his speed, his voice – don’t even get started on the weapons. No doubt you’ll have heard the phrase ‘there’s no such thing as a bad dog – just bad owners’ – is there any such thing as a bad weapon and isn’t Rex so much more than just a weapon? Clearly in this instance he and his team are intended as the scapegoats. I really enjoyed this book. It’s incredibly compelling, it does jump around in a most surprising fashion and it’s told from a number of POVs but it’s crazily addictive to read and I could barely put it down. If I was to pin down what really made this book so good for me I’d have to say the characters and the way in which it really makes you think. I felt near to tears on a couple of occasions – which is not something I ever expected when picking up a book about warfare and bioforms involving 7 or 8 foot tall dogs, and I kept thinking about it for days after completion. That to me spells out a winning book. I think it really speaks of the author’s writing chops that he can make me love a team of fighting bioforms. Honey is amazing, Dragon, maybe more briefly sketched and yet still easy to picture and Bees – I won’t go there because I don’t even know where to start. I cared about them all but I absolutely loved Rex and I was consumed with an equal desire to shout at him for being idiotic and scratch behind his ears (which, apart from the fact I couldn’t reach could be a dangerous thing to do). Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this. If, like me, you find yourself maybe not drawn to a military style story then be assured that isn’t really the main focus – of course, there’s some warfare involved and to say it’s a dirty war would be an understatement but this book has much more to offer than that. It makes you think and it definitely provokes strong emotions. I’m going to leave it there. I don’t want to give too much away about the nature of the surprises in store, this is a great novel because of the surprising way it adapts, much like the bioforms and other creations within the story. I would have no hesitation in recommending this. I received a copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Rex is the very definition of the word loyal. He is designed to be that way. When his Master commands, Rex will act. Rex isn’t just a dog, he is a weapon. He has been bred for battle and, along with the rest of his squad, is used to quell insurrection wherever it occurs. I think the thing I liked most about Rex is his innocence. He knows little of the outside world and he views every situation in the simplest of terms. The Pavlovian responses in his character are because he just doesn’t know any Rex is the very definition of the word loyal. He is designed to be that way. When his Master commands, Rex will act. Rex isn’t just a dog, he is a weapon. He has been bred for battle and, along with the rest of his squad, is used to quell insurrection wherever it occurs. I think the thing I liked most about Rex is his innocence. He knows little of the outside world and he views every situation in the simplest of terms. The Pavlovian responses in his character are because he just doesn’t know any better. His Master points him in a certain direction and expects Rex to comply. For poor old Rex, ignorance is indeed bliss. As he learns more about his place in the world, he realises that most things aren’t as black and white as he had previously assumed. He must start thinking for himself and make decisions rather than just blindly following orders. Character wise it was easy to view Rex as almost a blank canvas. It is fascinating to watch him evolve in the most fundamental respects as the narrative unfolds. He views himself as a leader, but it is not until his story is nearly over that he truly understands what true leadership entails. Our hero is not alone, however. The rest of the assault team are also great characters. If Rex is the heart of the group, then Honey is the brains. Far wiser than she appears, she acts as Rex’s de-facto guide. Rex lives in the moment, acting and reacting to extra-stimuli, not really planning too far ahead. Honey is the opposite, she’s a thinker. I got the distinct impression all of Honey’s actions were precisely considered to the smallest detail. She sees the bigger picture and acts upon it. Dragon is the most primal member of the group. Much like Rex, he is only concerned with following orders. If he is not directly required to act, he won’t. The most enigmatic member of the Multi-form Assault Pack is Bees. I’ll be honest, I’m not even going to attempt to explain this character. Bees is Bees, that’s the best I can do. You’re just going to have to trust me that Bees is important. Read the book, you’ll soon understand. Adrian Tchaikovsky explores some interesting territory with Dogs of War. Technology continues to develop at an exponential rate. When will we finally ask the question should we be doing something just because we can? In the novel, humanity has difficulty understanding what they have created with the bio-forms. Are Rex and the others just weapons, are they monsters, entities in their own right or something else altogether? Once these questions start to get raised, the plot moves away from the battlefield towards the courtroom. Those for and against the bio-tech appreciate that there are bigger questions that need to be answered. What are the moral implications over engineering thinking weapons that feel and have the capacity learn to beyond their limits? Where the novel really succeeds is highlighting the juxtaposition between soldiers at war, and soldiers in peacetime. The fact that the soldiers are non-human only adds extra depth to the narrative by raising a whole host of additional questions. When it comes to science fiction, my primitive brain always craves action and pretty explosions. My higher self is looking for a plot that forces me to engage my brain and think. With Dogs of War, Adrian Tchaikovsky has managed the near impossible and delivered both masterfully.

  16. 4 out of 5

    S.J. Higbee

    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 t 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. 10/10

  17. 5 out of 5

    imyril

    This is a quick read if not always an easy one - and one which rewards reflection no matter how fast you breeze through it. However, I can’t say I enjoyed it for the most part. With the exception of the astonishing third act (oh, I could have read a whole book along these lines; it was an unexpected, brilliant twist on proceedings), this is very military in focus, which just isn't my thing. Rex’s existence is defined by his usefulness in war; while the broader implications of emerging AI and sen This is a quick read if not always an easy one - and one which rewards reflection no matter how fast you breeze through it. However, I can’t say I enjoyed it for the most part. With the exception of the astonishing third act (oh, I could have read a whole book along these lines; it was an unexpected, brilliant twist on proceedings), this is very military in focus, which just isn't my thing. Rex’s existence is defined by his usefulness in war; while the broader implications of emerging AI and sentient rights are intriguing, and the world-building as credible as it is disturbing, the primary narrative is one of violence. Consequently, I struggled with this to the extent that it was nearly a DNF. It’s good and well-told but I had to fight myself to read it and stay engaged. I found the structure disjointed and Rex’s POV frustrating. ...but it would make a brilliant bit of cinema, which I’d probably enjoy considerably more. Full review

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ivo

    The novel starts as Military-SF set during a dirty war in Mexico, turns briefly into a court room drama and evolves into a wonderful book about enhanced animals, humans, post-humans, machines, and the increasingly dissolving boundaries between all of it, it is about singularity and hive minds, an extremely stimulating read which may be a good fictional companion of Harari’s HOME DEUS. For us humans of the old-fashioned, non-enhanced type, this read is both chilling and stimulating.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    Dogs of War is one of the only books I have ever finished that I have wanted to go right back to the start and begin reading again, it’s astonishing and by and far the best book I have read this year. Rex’s plight as a bioform soldier is equally fascinating and moving. Part dog, part giant and used by his Master to commit terrible war crimes using his aptly named ‘Big Dogs’, Rex begins his journey into a world where things are not as simple as identifying the difference between enemy and friend Dogs of War is one of the only books I have ever finished that I have wanted to go right back to the start and begin reading again, it’s astonishing and by and far the best book I have read this year. Rex’s plight as a bioform soldier is equally fascinating and moving. Part dog, part giant and used by his Master to commit terrible war crimes using his aptly named ‘Big Dogs’, Rex begins his journey into a world where things are not as simple as identifying the difference between enemy and friend as he is cast free from his restrictive bonds alongside his fellow militants. What surprised me the most was Tchaikovsky’s ability to create a character, in Rex, that it’s impossible not to empathise with, I was on the verge of tears more times than I would care to admit as Rex struggled to be the ‘Good Dog’ that he desperate strived for. Each whine, each time someone uses him for their own gain and each time Rex is manipulated, it really kicks you in the feels. Rex is accompanied by a host of incredible, diverse characters, with a great companion and beautiful mind in Honey the bioform bear and the sinister villainous Master, an antagonist who’s depths of cruelty are vast and despicable. I was rather taken with Dragon as well, a deadly, reptilian bioform sniper whose love of lazing around in a pond struck a tone with me. There are big ideas in here as well, Tchaikovsky forces the reader to consider whether ownership of a lab created creature is ethical, and theorises around ideas of identity, freedom and rights as it becomes more and more evident as the narrative presses on that these morally troubling creations are far more than just ‘things’, they are individuals. All in all, a remarkable novel that reminded me, in parts, of the plight faced by the dark, tragic creations of H G Wells’ The Island of Dr Moreaux. Thoughtful and impossible to put down, this is speculative fiction at the top of its game.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ithil

    Good book. Very good book. After I finished ‘Children of Time’ i knew I had to read more of this author. And let me tell you he did not disappoint at all. I practically read this novel at any minute I had of available time. Adrian generates a very interesting discussion about the use of genetically and technologically improved animals and their use. What began as a military science fiction novel quickly became a very deep dissertation about the meaning of existence and what it mean to be alive, Good book. Very good book. After I finished ‘Children of Time’ i knew I had to read more of this author. And let me tell you he did not disappoint at all. I practically read this novel at any minute I had of available time. Adrian generates a very interesting discussion about the use of genetically and technologically improved animals and their use. What began as a military science fiction novel quickly became a very deep dissertation about the meaning of existence and what it mean to be alive, have the power of choice, and when an artificial created intelligence stops being an “it” and becomes a sentient nearly human being. I just loved how futuristic but at the same time actual it is. The POV at the beginning were a bit odd and they took me a couple of chapters to get used to. But once I did, I found them brilliant: how the writing style changes and adapts to the character and how changes evolving with the character throughout the book. I just loved how well driven it was. Even the bad characters were so complex and well written that you could empathise with them. You knew they were wrong, and bad, but still you could understand them, and that made them so much difficult to hate. The only con I could find is that it was so short, which may be a pro for others. It’s so easy to read and addictive that it lasted me near to nothing. I could have read hundreds of pages more, but hey, it’s not like Adrian has no ore books.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Xan

    A modo de resumen rápido: este es un libro de ciencia ficción hard en un envoltorio suave. Es una lectura asequible, que no trata de impresionar al lector con conceptos herméticos o palabras rimbombantes para que se vea que el autor sabe mucho de ciencia. No, aquí la ciencia es creíble porque nos sitúa en un futuro no tan lejano (dentro de veinte, tal vez cincuenta años) en el que aún podemos reconocer nuestro presente. A través de la mente simple de un perro iremos avanzando en un trama que se A modo de resumen rápido: este es un libro de ciencia ficción hard en un envoltorio suave. Es una lectura asequible, que no trata de impresionar al lector con conceptos herméticos o palabras rimbombantes para que se vea que el autor sabe mucho de ciencia. No, aquí la ciencia es creíble porque nos sitúa en un futuro no tan lejano (dentro de veinte, tal vez cincuenta años) en el que aún podemos reconocer nuestro presente. A través de la mente simple de un perro iremos avanzando en un trama que se complica de forma inesperada, y lo que parecía una simple batallita de perros soldados acaba llevándonos a una reflexión profunda sobre lo que significa ser humano. Un buen libro y un muy buen escritor.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    Copy provided by Net Gallery. So this was my second Tchaikovsky book I've ever read, and it's really quite different from Shadow's of the Apt. Other than having animal/humanoid type creatures. But I digress. I enjoyed this book quite a lot. The way Rex, the main character, was developed over the course of the novel - slowly becoming more eloquent and slowly gaining more perspective of his role in life was really quite well done I thought. If it had just been Rex, I think the style of the prose w Copy provided by Net Gallery. So this was my second Tchaikovsky book I've ever read, and it's really quite different from Shadow's of the Apt. Other than having animal/humanoid type creatures. But I digress. I enjoyed this book quite a lot. The way Rex, the main character, was developed over the course of the novel - slowly becoming more eloquent and slowly gaining more perspective of his role in life was really quite well done I thought. If it had just been Rex, I think the style of the prose wouldn't have been able to carry the novel, but it's broken up by the perspective of various humans over the course of the novel. The overall plot was fun, there's always that voice in the back of your head going "are they going to far? is this going to lead to some post apocalyptic nightmare?" But it's genuinely holds to some rather upbeat ideals. And regarding the deaths that happen during the story, I really did feel sad when they happened. Three in particular, so that was quite well done as well.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    "Surely when they made a dog soldier they did not mean to make a thing that would have thoughts like these. I was not supposed to be able to look back or look forwards. These things are not useful for my purpose, but they are part of what I am." Dogs of War is a thrilling futuristic Science Fiction novel that explores a dystopian war where humans have created animal-machine intelligent hybrids termed 'bioforms'. While the book changes point of view chapter to chapter, the most prominent and inter "Surely when they made a dog soldier they did not mean to make a thing that would have thoughts like these. I was not supposed to be able to look back or look forwards. These things are not useful for my purpose, but they are part of what I am." Dogs of War is a thrilling futuristic Science Fiction novel that explores a dystopian war where humans have created animal-machine intelligent hybrids termed 'bioforms'. While the book changes point of view chapter to chapter, the most prominent and interesting POV is Rex, a canine bioform and leader of one of the revolutionary mulit-form squads. After he is released from the service of his Master, Rex not only has to find his place in a world where many people fear and control his kind, but also work with others for the rights of the bioforms to exist as free beings. There are some very well written action scenes, interesting character development and the aspect of the book I liked the most was exploring the idea of bioforms and the morals behind humans creating and controlling intelligent beings. The story does get a little disjointed and slow throughout the middle portion of the book, but overall it was such an interesting  book and I will be looking to read more of Tchaikovsky work. What I Liked The rawness of Rex's narration- The chapters written from the POV of Rex were incredibly done and really conveyed the turmoil Rex experiences as he comes to grips with his new freedom, lack of master, place in the world and the scary fact that he makes his own decisions now and the consequences fall upon him. The language is so simple and raw as he is a canine-machine hybrid with not exactly limited intelligence, but limited free will and autonomy. His development and growth throughout the book was so interesting to read and he made such a gripping character. Exploration of the rights of human created intelligent beings- I love when books explore interesting ideas and tackle complex issues. Dog of War has some great moments for the POV of all three major narrators where they tackle the rights of these engineered beings that were created to be soldiers. 'We are here because we are dangerous. I do not understand: they made us to be dangerous. I do not see how they can be surprised when we were' is one of my favourite lines from the books and really sums up not only the major plot points, but how Rex is such a great narrator with his simple insight into the world. What I Didn't Like The lack of detailed world building- With such interesting characters and a unique concept that is explored so well (the ethics and morality behind man made intelligent beings) I was craving some more world development. We do not really get much detail into where the book is set, what the time frame or time period of the book, and what the whole political landscape is. The last point, the lack of information on the political landscape, is so important to the book as one of the major plot points is the uncovering of war crimes committed by a certain individual in a contested area. We do not know exactly which forces are at play and what major entities are on each side of the conflict which would have added more impact to the story. The plot and time moves too fast- OK, so normally I complain that stories move too slowly, but in this case I felt the passage of time was way too fast and disjointed and plot points jumped too quickly and didn't have enough linking between major events. If it was just slowed down a little bit and a brief explanation of the passage of time included it would have made this interesting and thrilling story flow better.

  24. 5 out of 5

    kartik narayanan

    Read the full review at my site Digital Amrit 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? Introduction Dogs of War is written by Adrian Tchaikovsky, author of the brilliant Children of Time book and the Shadows of the Apt series. 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, scra Read the full review at my site Digital Amrit 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? Introduction Dogs of War is written by Adrian Tchaikovsky, author of the brilliant Children of Time book and the Shadows of the Apt series. 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. Recommendation 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 a lot of ways since they try ask fundamentally similar questions. 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 Read the full review at my site Digital Amrit

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I received this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This is the first book I have read by Adrian Tchaikovsky but it will not be the last. I like stories with modified and cybernetic beings so this book really appealed to me. The book was told from various POVs which I felt really developed the story. At the beginning, more POVs were used but then as the story progressed, only 2 remained. Just to clarify, that isn't a spoiler - don't assume from the reduction in POVs that the I received this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This is the first book I have read by Adrian Tchaikovsky but it will not be the last. I like stories with modified and cybernetic beings so this book really appealed to me. The book was told from various POVs which I felt really developed the story. At the beginning, more POVs were used but then as the story progressed, only 2 remained. Just to clarify, that isn't a spoiler - don't assume from the reduction in POVs that the rest died. Their stories just weren't as pivotal in what was happening any more. The main character, Rex, is a bioform which is based on a dog. He is the main POV. At the beginning you can clearly tell that he has a dog mentality in the way his sections were worded and structured. I really liked it. It was a nice contrast to the human character POVs. I have never read a book from the POV of a dog or any other lifeform which has a different thought structure to myself. It was refreshing and interesting. The book is fast paced and explores many topics which made it quite thought provoking. What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be a life form of any kind? If a being is made, is it a thing or a life form? Should be owned or free? Does it have rights? Are they a threat to human kind? These are all great questions and made me think back to my time at University when I was studying Cybernetics - all ethical questions which we explored in depth. I read an unproofed version so there were a few spelling mistakes but I trust that these will be corrected when it comes to print. I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kdawg91

    This is an incredible view into a very very possible future. Dogs of war will make you think about the future of warfare, science and mankind. Actually, more like the nature of being. (yes, I am being vague...but I don't spoil things remember) Great, very deep characters, which is an accomplishment considering the premise of the story, cracking action and great pace to the tale, This is a great holiday read if you like your scifi with a military edge. Highly recommended.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alyssia Cooke

    Rex is a Good Dog. He is also nearly eight foot tall, bulletproof and carries gigantic guns. He is a dog of war, a killing machine. But he is a Good Dog because he does what his Master tells him. He leads his team of Bioforms into warzones and he kills the Enemy. The Enemy is whoever his Master tells him; big humans, small humans, humans with guns, humans without. Rex is a Good Dog and all he wants is to make his Master happy. But things can't stay that simple for Rex forever and from a simple y Rex is a Good Dog. He is also nearly eight foot tall, bulletproof and carries gigantic guns. He is a dog of war, a killing machine. But he is a Good Dog because he does what his Master tells him. He leads his team of Bioforms into warzones and he kills the Enemy. The Enemy is whoever his Master tells him; big humans, small humans, humans with guns, humans without. Rex is a Good Dog and all he wants is to make his Master happy. But things can't stay that simple for Rex forever and from a simple yet harrowing tale of the use of genetically engineered intelligence in a dirty war, this novel takes you far deeper. In the depictions of Rex, Honey, Bees and Dragon, Tchaikovsky manages to create true personalities and characters. They are not human. They were made by humans to fight foe humans. They are weapons. And weapons don't have rights. Or do they? And so begins a whole new war; a war for the lives of the genetically contructed beings. A war to give them rights. Told through the eyes of many individuals, some human, but most importantly Rex. For throughout Rex is learning that being a Good Dog is not as simple as just carrying out your Masters orders. He is the leader even though Honey has the brains and he is learning that sometimes you have to rely on your own choices. Sometimes you have to choose what is right and choose to be a Good Dog. This is an interesting and thought provoking read that manages to capture the intensity of an action packed thriller at the same time as weighing up some hefty moral conundrums. Underlying it all is the question of what makes a human and this is explored through a variety of perspectives; the first person confusiom of Rex, the intricacies of the politics in the background and the courtroom drama, the undisputed intelligence of Honey and the whirlwind that is public perception and its impact on justice.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Charlie - A Reading Machine

    Interesting book. I just read Children of Time and loved it. I found this one, especially the final third, a bit harder to get through. Rex is a dog but he is also a solider. He has been manufactured and enhanced and has developed human like emotions and relationships. He is fiercely loyal to his pack and his master and often finds himself caught in an internal conflict as to whether he is a good dog or a bad dog. His orders, his instincts, his conscience and his desires often clash with one anot Interesting book. I just read Children of Time and loved it. I found this one, especially the final third, a bit harder to get through. Rex is a dog but he is also a solider. He has been manufactured and enhanced and has developed human like emotions and relationships. He is fiercely loyal to his pack and his master and often finds himself caught in an internal conflict as to whether he is a good dog or a bad dog. His orders, his instincts, his conscience and his desires often clash with one another but he is the leader so his decisions and actions are heavily debated in his internal monologue. The rest of his pack is comprised of a bear named honey who is far more intelligent than anyone knows, a swarm of mechanical bees that use a hive mind and a crocodile who often has his own agenda and can camouflage at will. They are an efficient and terrifying team especially when sent up against innocent civilians and are being used for some very nefarious purposes. The first half of the book looks at this very much from Rex’s perspective and I really enjoyed it. The internal debates taking place were thought provoking and combined with my natural attachments to dogs, especially those trying desperately to prove their love to their master, made the characters full and engaging despite being animals. The second half dives much deeper into the political and social ramifications of these bioforms joining us and gaining basic but limited limited rights. It gets quite heavy and a bit repetitive as we go round and round in circles regarding the range of applications for the bioforms and the consequences of said uses. I got a little lost but it does go quite deep so I don’t feel too bad and I was able to get back into it fairly quickly. I cant wait to read more of Adrian's work. His writing and his ideas challenge me as a reader. 4/5

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    *copy from Netgalley in exchange for a review* Dogs of War is a standalone sci-fi novel from Adrian Tchaikovsky (whose science-fiction credentials include the superlative Children of Time, which we looked at very favourably last year). It’s a book which explores a lot of interesting ideas, including the role of artificial intelligence in society, exactly what we define as humanity, the ethics of conflict resolution and the manufacturing of sentient biological life. But it does all of this through *copy from Netgalley in exchange for a review* Dogs of War is a standalone sci-fi novel from Adrian Tchaikovsky (whose science-fiction credentials include the superlative Children of Time, which we looked at very favourably last year). It’s a book which explores a lot of interesting ideas, including the role of artificial intelligence in society, exactly what we define as humanity, the ethics of conflict resolution and the manufacturing of sentient biological life. But it does all of this through a variety of different perspectives, from civilian medical personnel to military bioforms, offering a personal view as an immediate and emotional underpinning to its exploration of these big ideas. It is one of the finest sci-fi novels I’ve read this year, and if you’re looking for a new book to read in the genre, it should probably be this one. So, looking at it in detail, what’s it about? Well, the central character is Rex. Rex is a bioform, an artificially created life. We’re along for the ride in Rex’s head, and that head is one which marries sentience with different instincts to our own. Derived from canine stock, then bred for war and cybernetically integrated with weapon systems, Rex is extremely loyal to his Master, and extremely dangerous to those he’s told are the enemy. He works in a unit with other bioforms, each as weird, wonderful, and thoroughly deadly as the last. Perhaps the greatest triumph of the text is in giving the reader a great many non-human viewpoints to consider – from Rex’s canine loyalties and desire to help, to the combined consciousness of a cloud of weaponised bees, and the quietly murderous thoughts of a giant reptile. They’ve been given the ability to think, and to communicate with each other, within the bounds of their cybernetics, and each of them thinks differently, speaks differently, and reads differently on the page. Unfortunately for Rex, his desire to do what his Master wants, indeed his almost inability to refuse, means that he may do some rather bad things. This throws up some exciting questions, first about the role that diminished actors could take in the commission of what might otherwise be war crimes, and about the responsibility and ethics that would come with the creation of new sentience. Actually, the lack of ethics is something more on the table here. At the same time, there’s an ongoing conversation about whether these bioforms, created in laboratories to fight others wars, are themselves actually people. That particular thread rumbles in the background of the narrative; as a reader, it’s possible to walk alongside Rex as he begins to feel, if not more human, perhaps more independent – and as we begin to see him as something other than a weapon, as he is portrayed that way, so too does the wider context round bioform rights open up. There’s a fair bit of action here, laced bloodily throughout the text. It’s never glorified, and the consequences are shown, with a stark light that lets the reader form their own opions on the conflict. At the same time, the combat periods are kinetic, fast paced scenes with real impact – and the moments which explore what’s left behind are thoughtful and affecting without being mawkish. I have to admit, Rex’s unit working together is an awesome sight – and also one which is terrible. Kudos to the story for giving glimpses of both. There’s other stuff in here too; the narrative is layered through with complex questions. If Rex and his bioform colleagues are alive, what does that say about artificial intelligences, also in their infancy in this near-future world? If bioforms are awarded personhood, how does society deal with people who are always heavily armed or actively designed to kill? Seeing that the conflicts Rex has, to be someone, to decide whether he actually wants to be anything other than a follower of his Master’s voice – well, they’re beautifully, honestly portrayed, and a very difficult read. At the same time, they ring true, evoking the US civil rights movement, or the institutional struggles of South Africa. This is a book which is trying to look at big issues in a future context, and also tell us something about humanity, and I think it succeeds. Rex’s personal story – well, by the end of the book, listening to his voice, his thoughts, his feelings, and knowing has sacrifices, I’d been moved to tears several times. Though the story approaches and explores these grand ideas, and does so with complexity and nuance, it’s not afraid to give us stakes in the game. This isn’t a dry, academic exploration of social changes. It’s raw and bloody and personal – and fantastic. Once again: this is one of the best science fiction books I’ve read this year, perfectly blending larger themes and big ideas together with a personal, emotional story; it’s a feast for the mind at the same time that it wrings out the heart, and I can’t recommend it enough – go buy it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Megan Leigh

    This review originally appeared on Pop Verse. Tchaikovsky really excels at finding interesting ways to comment on society through the use of animals in science fiction and fantasy settings. In his Echoes of the Fall series, each group is a different animal and exhibits particular social traits based on those they display in the animal kingdom. In Children of Time, we are drawn along by a spider-kind civil rights movement, where the male of the species attempts to gain equal footing with the women This review originally appeared on Pop Verse. Tchaikovsky really excels at finding interesting ways to comment on society through the use of animals in science fiction and fantasy settings. In his Echoes of the Fall series, each group is a different animal and exhibits particular social traits based on those they display in the animal kingdom. In Children of Time, we are drawn along by a spider-kind civil rights movement, where the male of the species attempts to gain equal footing with the women. In his most recent novel, Dogs of War, again readers are provided with a unique view on our social structures through the lens of the animal kingdom. There are so many inventive ideas on display in this novel that in the hands of a lesser author it would have been far too much. Instead, Tchaikovsky keeps the central focus on a primary technological idea – the bioform dogs – with all other ideas milling about on the periphery. They are given enough ‘screen time’ to elaborate the basic functions, but he never loses sight of the main premise and plot. Good dog For the most part, the novel follows the story of Rex. Rex is a bioform – a humanoid creature built from dog DNA. Why a dog? They’re loyal, they follow orders, they’re strong, and have great senses (smell, hearing, etc). Rex is the perfect soldier… until his hierarchical programme is removed and he is set free. What does a hybrid creature do once its sole purpose is stripped and he may think for himself? What does it mean to be a good dog when you no longer have a master? Philosophical quandaries What I have always loved about science fiction is its ability to dig into social constructs, ethical questions, and generally present philosophical arguments without preaching or being too reductive. That is exactly what Dogs of War does. Some of the philosophical questions that are asked are relatively familiar in the world of SF, for example, what rights does a man-made creature have even if it does have a mind of its own (Melinda Snodgrass’ Star Trek: The Next Generation episode ‘The Measure of a Man’, anyone?). It makes readers ponder the ethical questions surrounding technological implants and the advancement of our species, and more. I have always found that people respond to philosophical ponderings better when they are presented in new and different ways. As such, I think Dogs of War works very well. Much of the novel is written from Rex’s perspective. But Rex is, essentially, a dog. He has a very limited idea of right and wrong, and when it comes to determining what morality means to him, Tchaikovsky is able to explore a lot of ethical ideas we tend to take for granted. Style and voice While Rex’s perspective makes for an interesting dissection of social norms, it may potentially put some people off. He is a very simple dog and the language used in his p.o.v. passages (which make up the bulk of the novel) is similarly simple. At first, I worried that this would become irritating but I came to truly love Rex and his language was pitched perfectly for his character. There are several p.o.v. characters in the book. And while this generally works, the end of the book is filled with a few ‘history textbook’ chapters which I felt detracted from the focus on Rex’s personal experience as well as interrupting the pace. These chapters are also more focused on the bigger question around the future of all bioforms and augmented humans. While these questions are certainly a central aspect of Rex’s story, when it detours too far from the micro experience of the characters we have become close to, it lost me. Verdict: Dogs of War is a lot of fun. It occasionally drags but rarely gets too caught up in the large-scale ethical problems it poses at the expense of plot or characterization.

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