Some of you may have never heard of Malcolm F. Cross in real life, but he is a well-respected furry author who goes by the pseudonym ‘foozzzball’ on the Internet. He’s been well known to write erotica, science fiction short stories, and even an occasional novella here and there, specifically set in this fictional universe he’s created from his online story series “Stories from San Iadras”. I never got the chance to check it out, but his latest novel “Dog Country” caught my eye and I couldn’t resist.
In the far future, the world is starting to accept the rights of ‘gengineered dogs’,
anthropomorphic animal-like people originally built as dog soldiers by private companies. Bred to be tough, follow orders without question, and be clone assets in wars, the gengineered dogs fought for emancipation and won.
Our main character is a Doberman-like former soldier named Edane, who is trying to live a life everyone wants for him after recovering from a mortar shell in Tajikistan during the days of Emancipation. Despite having the right to choose whoever he can be and be whatever he wants, Edane is quite reluctant to have human feelings. It’s not that he doesn’t want to have them, but rather he feels like being something other than a soldier is not his life. He even has trouble keeping a stable relationship with his girlfriend, and spends most of his time in MilSim leagues (think Call of Duty meets virtual reality).
However, everything changes when Edane and his clone brothers are needed again. This time, they are requested to topple a fascist dictatorship that has oppressed Azerbaijan for decades. Yearning for battle, Edane has little choice and joins in the coup d’état in hopes of not only liberating the people, but also finding himself.
Going in I thought this would be a bore, and I was…kinda right about it. As a self-published book, it is flawed, and it can show in the first few chapters. For example, the author, while I respect how much of a small following he’s made, strangely doesn’t take advantage of telling the environment. We know where the character are, but we never get the opportunity to fully see anything in detail (this does improve more as the chapters go on). I’m not expecting scenery porn or anything, but at the very least it would be nice to know what the hell Edane’s apartment, the MilSim arenas, and even a few other things with the characters.
Speaking of which, here’s my other main problem with ‘Dog Country’: why the hell do literally 3/4 of the characters have names that start with E? We have Edane, but then we got side characters named Ereli, Everson Eichardt, Elwood, etc. Was Bob, Carol or David too boring if names?
The point is, it can be really annoying and make it hard to memorize who is who in a book that doesn’t use that much imagery. It’d be like if the author of the last book I reviewed (“In a Dark, Dark Wood”) suddenly decided to have every character either renamed Nora or Lee like the main character. If you wanted to, you could make an argument that the author did it this way to point out how all the gengineered dog seem average and therefore add to the message of individuality more, but it isn’t exactly subtle in my opinion; it’s just more difficult to make the characters more memorable aside from badass moments and intimidating lines.
While the characters in this are bland, what kept me reading was following Edane (one of two interesting characters in this. The other is his MilSim captain named Marissa who reminds me of an angry Erza from Fairy Tail) as he works through trying to understand his newfound freedom and making a life of himself. He is a good character, and reminds me of a veteran coming home from the battlefield or a black slave fully comprehending his emancipation. Before, they feel like a number among thousands, and now need to comprehend the idea of expressing a personality, figuring out what they themselves want.
The world Michael Cross has created is an interesting one as well. It isn’t a world like Marie Lu’s “Legend” trilogy, but it makes itself unique and relevant to today’s world. For example, when Edane and his clone brothers learn about the dictatorship regime in Azerbaijan nearing its tipping point, the oppressed citizens plead for their help by literally donating eighty-seven million dollars on a GoFundMe page online.
That is brilliant commentary.
Not to mention that the last two-thirds of this feels like a Call of Duty game, kind of Advanced Warfare-esque the more I think about it. It talks about futuristic weaponry, corporatocracies, hell it even feels like reading the latest Just Cause game. Despite it not having that much imagery and bland characters aside from Edane, the action and detail toward the weaponry and setting is really damn good.
Overall, I believe “Dog Country” is…good. It’s not great or spectacular, but it is far from awful or anything. It has good commentary on the amalgamations of war and the internet economy, it has a likeable main character, and a good heart to it (not to mention one other brilliant scene where one of the characters monologues about religion and similarities to others). If you ever have the time, take yourself to read Michael Cross’s “Dog Country”.
And be sure to buy it with this link too:
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