Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Dogs of War

Dogs of War

by Adrian Tchaikovsky

4 out of 5

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?

Rex is a Good Dog. He follows his master's commands, and is like any canine, desperate to please. Unfortunately, he's also a bio-engineered weapon, striking fear in the hearts of all humans.

I received a free copy from Netgalley in return for an honest review.

This was not what I was expecting.
I thought it would be more of an action adventure, where these mutated weapons fight; first for their masters, and then to be free.
And although this story does teeter on a full-blown Planet of the Apes, humans against intelligent beasts; it takes a very different route.

There are battles, and military skirmishes, in the futuristic unchecked regions of South America. But this is... all about transhuman rights. This is courtrooms, lawyers, dodgy commanders getting off the hook, protestors, human emotions, press control...

No, that doesn't sound exciting. Yes, I still enjoyed reading it.
Tchaikovsky has created a very interesting character in Rex. Rex is very clearly a dog, his level of intelligence, and limited emotions, place him firmly as a dog.
Despite the fact he is bristling with guns, has claws and muscles that can tear anything apart, he's an absolute Labrador. Rex is very sweet, only seeking approval, easily put into doubt or worry. And an absolute softie for getting his ears rubbed.

This story follows Rex and his team-mates as they complete mission after bloody mission for their master, before someone hijacks their programming and sets them "free". They are suddenly introduced to the notion of having choices. They can choose who their enemy is, choose who their friends are; all the while, contemplating how this new knowledge affects what they thought they knew about the world.
For the first time, they have moral dilemmas, trying to work out what is good, without the regulated missions they are used to.

The book then switches away from the battlefield, and becomes a legal drama, as war crimes are brought into light and people demand justice. And the public have to face a major question - what rights to these bio-engineered animals have? They may look like monsters, but they have emotions and a level of understanding that can't be refused.
The story continues, showing how the community of bioforms are established, and how they start to make new lives for themselves.

If I had known it would be such a deep insight into the morals we take for granted, and the questions that arise over something so new and potentially dangerous; I might have been put off reading it.
I'm glad I did. It is a heavy and thought-provoking story, but it's really quite endearing, told mostly through Rex's perspective.


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