Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky

HareBrain

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Why does that so often happen soon after I've already bought a book!
I think I can top you -- I bought it the evening before Brian posted, for £2.99!

So far, I loved Rex's first chapter, but wasn't bowled over by the next two, which I found slightly by-the-numbers. Glad I persisted with it, though (lack of reading material on a flight helped) as it's now picking up again.
 

HareBrain

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Hmm, just abandoned this at 90% (having skimmed from about 70%).

I generally enjoyed the first 2/3 (parts of which were very compelling and exciting, though others less so), but after the ICC bit the story seemed to lose focus, or maybe that focus shifted to something less interesting to me. Rex's chapters also became annoyingly verbose, with near-endless repetitions of his basic characteristics.

Anyway, I'm not really a SF reader, so it's probably unsurprising that I didn't have the strong positive reaction that some of you have.
 

Rodders

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I’ve just finished this. Rex was a good dog.

Like many of you, Rex’s final chapter drew a tear from me, too. Beautifully and Interestingly written, this is definitely my favourite book of the year.
 

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I posted this on the What I'm reading thread for September, but believe for future use it might be good to put this here as well.

I've finished Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky, and I'm really in a quandary about what to say about it.

The strong points:
It's very original.
The main character (Rex) is one of the most original in fiction.
It's closer to hard science fiction than science fantasy.
It's plot turns are not predictable.
It has important things to say about:
(1) human nature,
(2) where the line is between sophisticated tools and intelligent beings,
(3) the likely direction of human warfare.

The weak points:
The concluding chapters seemed rather anti-climatic.
Why Rex's team thought so highly of him at first is baffling.
I would have liked the story to have focused on Honey or Bees, much more than Rex.
There always seems to be a key player off stage that is never truly revealed, only hinted at.

Overall, I would have to recommend this book. It is a book that I believe is an important addition to the SF genre. But I just think that such original ideas should have come together in a book somewhat better than this.
 

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The concluding chapters seemed rather anti-climatic.
I'd agree with you about the very last chapter, Parson, but for me the chapters dealing with Rex and the assault on the facility were very necessary to end his story. I can see why that very last chapter is there, because it could be argued the novel isn't about Rex at all, but about the wider battle in which Humos is the protagonist -- that's certainly Humos's view, of course. As I mentioned above, I didn't like its chapters (nor the other intervening ones at the end with the extracts from Maria Hellene's book), but again I can see they're there to give the wider picture.

Why Rex's team thought so highly of him at first is baffling.
I don't know that they did. Dragon is openly contemptuous of everyone else, Bees doesn't seem to think on an emotional level, at the beginning at least, and Honey seems to treat him as someone she's fond of, but who is nowhere near her intellectual equal, much like we might treat a clumsy child who is a distant relation, or an old friend who is decent and honourable, but is a friend simply because you've been through so much together. However, the others are all bound by the hierarchy system that's an integral part of their programming -- they have to obey Rex because he's higher up the chain of command. At one point Honey says something to the effect that she will tell him what she's doing/thinking if he orders it, but she would prefer him not to ask, and because he recognises that she is more intelligent than he is, he doesn't ask. Plus his orders are correct for the situations they're in and in accordance with their training/programming, albeit Honey manipulates him when she can so those orders are more humane/palatable to us, so there's no reason for them not to go along with his wishes. But to my mind that doesn't equate to thinking highly of him.

I would have liked the story to have focused on Honey or Bees, much more than Rex.
I don't think I could have coped with Bees! As the least human of them, she/they would have made things very difficult to follow -- I had problems enough understanding her communications! And Honey, I think, would have made less of a story, in that she doesn't grow in the way Rex does. She learns more of what is going on, so confirming her suspicions, but she doesn't develop -- she's intelligent and manipulative at the beginning, and is intelligent and manipulative at the end. So as a protagonist, she'd have no character arc to speak of. Plus she knows more of what is going on so the Humos mystery would be over and done with far sooner, unless she was also withholding information, and too much of that can be very annoying in a story.

There always seems to be a key player off stage that is never truly revealed, only hinted at.
That "always seems to be" is, I think, a real understatement! There's definitely a key player manipulating everyone, but although the early chapters are cryptic, I thought Humos was pretty much revealed by the end, even if we can't be sure exactly what form it takes. I don't like that kind of puppet-master stuff, so actually I'd have been happier without his appearance and just left with nothing more than hints of something going on in the background.

But I'm glad you think it's worth recommending, even if you didn't like all of it.
 

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unless she was also withholding information, and too much of that can be very annoying in a story.
That is something I find intensely annoying. The recent book I read from Emma Newman - Planetfall - was like that. The narrator know pretty much the whole story from the beginning but only drip fed it to us. I don't mind if there's a good justifiable reason for the withholding but if it's just because there would be no narrative suspense then the whole thing starts feeling manufactured and fake.
 

Parson

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I don't know that they did. Dragon is openly contemptuous of everyone else, Bees doesn't seem to think on an emotional level, at the beginning at least, and Honey seems to treat him as someone she's fond of, but who is nowhere near her intellectual equal, much like we might treat a clumsy child who is a distant relation, or an old friend who is decent and honourable, but is a friend simply because you've been through so much together. However, the others are all bound by the hierarchy system that's an integral part of their programming -- they have to obey Rex because he's higher up the chain of command. At one point Honey says something to the effect that she will tell him what she's doing/thinking if he orders it, but she would prefer him not to ask, and because he recognises that she is more intelligent than he is, he doesn't ask. Plus his orders are correct for the situations they're in and in accordance with their training/programming, albeit Honey manipulates him when she can so those orders are more humane/palatable to us, so there's no reason for them not to go along with his wishes. But to my mind that doesn't equate to thinking highly of him.
Ah, but to me Honey is the key. She is smarter in that she understands the wider picture added to the fact that she and Bees are able to defeat their programming. Why would they then follow Rex so rigorously? Also Dragon clearly is not controlled to any major degree at all, he does what he "feels" like when that corresponds to his orders, and sometimes even when it does not. They all see him as a kind of puppet. So why allow themselves to be so controlled? The logic escapes me.

Rex, on the other hand, is shown to be very nearly compelled by his programming. It is only with considerable difficulty that he deviates and that is usually only when he's able to bend the deviation into some more overriding command or twist of the regular command. I thought A.T. was at his best when working with Rex and his "Good Boy" addiction.

I don't think I could have coped with Bees! As the least human of them, she/they would have made things very difficult to follow -- I had problems enough understanding her communications! And Honey, I think, would have made less of a story, in that she doesn't grow in the way Rex does. She learns more of what is going on, so confirming her suspicions, but she doesn't develop -- she's intelligent and manipulative at the beginning, and is intelligent and manipulative at the end. So as a protagonist, she'd have no character arc to speak of. Plus she knows more of what is going on so the Humos mystery would be over and done with far sooner, unless she was also withholding information, and too much of that can be very annoying in a story.
Interesting to think about.

Hm, I can see where you are coming from there. But Bees could have been a stand in for the way society makes decisions. I didn't feel that there was anything off about her decision making; that was both noble and understandable. Her communication lacked some comprehensibility from our human point of view, but I think if we were in on the way shey (see what I did there?) made her decisions we would begin to understand her communication more fully. I think it would have been terrific, if perhaps a bit on the difficult side.
That "always seems to be" is, I think, a real understatement! There's definitely a key player manipulating everyone, but although the early chapters are cryptic, I thought Humos was pretty much revealed by the end, even if we can't be sure exactly what form it takes. I don't like that kind of puppet-master stuff, so actually I'd have been happier without his appearance and just left with nothing more than hints of something going on in the background.

But I'm glad you think it's worth recommending, even if you didn't like all of it.
I guess if "we can't be sure what form it takes" is true, then I am left feeling that the character has not been revealed. But I definitely agree with you about leaving Humos completely in the background, and I'm not even sure about the hints, would have made this a better book.

But please don't misunderstand, even if I think there are weaknesses it does not mean that I don't believe it is well worth reading. I believe that it is a possible classic. If there is a sequel, a possibility which approaches certainly, I will read it. If I can get a hold of it. I needed Vertigo's help to get this one.

(I keep typing "Humps" for "Humos" so maybe that will be my name for this character)
 
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Vertigo

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It's actually interesting to wonder if Tchaikovsky will do a sequel to Dogs of War. It certainly feels like there is more story that could be explored, but there is no indication anywhere that I can find that he has any plans to do so.
 

Parson

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It's actually interesting to wonder if Tchaikovsky will do a sequel to Dogs of War. It certainly feels like there is more story that could be explored, but there is no indication anywhere that I can find that he has any plans to do so.
Interesting. It is then not as likely to be in the near future as I thought; and leaves the possibility of this being a stand alone. --- A rarity these days.
 

Vertigo

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Interesting. It is then not as likely to be in the near future as I thought; and leaves the possibility of this being a stand alone. --- A rarity these days.
Well there were four years between Children of Time and Children of Ruin and he wrote a bunch of books, including this one, in between. So I guess a sequel is a possibility but I don't know of any plans.
 
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