Reviews of fiction and nonfiction novels, anthologies, short stories and more!
Thursday, May 25, 2017
Throwback Thursday: Pavlov's Dogs
Pavlov’s Dogs by DL Snell and Thom Brannan took a scientific approach to placing werewolves and zombies in the same setting, and the result was a brilliant undead thriller. While the military’s approach to manipulating the lycanthropic genetics of the “dog soldiers” with technology was fascinating, the release of the Dogs into an undead outbreak was awe-inspiring.
The Dogs are tasked with rescuing the survivors of a zombie plague in a nearby city, and bringing the humans to the research facility on an isolated island. Of course, it all goes to shit: there is some in-fighting between the various ranks of the pack, which leads to a rebellion against the scientific team, and eventually the infection reaches the island. Instead of just human zombies, Snell and Brannan create werewolf zombies.
Readers might initially be tempted to compare this storyline to the movie Dog Soldiers mixed with a Romero flick, but this was far more complex, with a well-developed cast of characters. I would love to see this novel optioned into a movie, but selecting actors to fill the roles would be extremely difficult. The characters are put through a gauntlet of suffering, unlike anything I’ve read before, and their emotions reflected the tone of the story in perfect detail – I can’t imagine who could pull it off onscreen.
The character that stood out the most for me was Jorge; while he wasn’t the most central figure in the plot, I thought his scenes were riveting and thought-provoking. He starts out as guy casually swilling a beer on the way to his last day of work, pushing his friend’s buttons for fun – I almost thought he was going to be the jerk of the story, but he wields his twisted sense of humor like a sword & shield as everything falls apart on the island due to a rogue Dog & a mad scientist.
In the follow-up novel, The Omega Dog, the apocalypse is turned up several notches, with zombies turning into Cthulhu-type mutants. Unlike most other sequels, The Omega Dog begins exactly where Pavlov’s Dogs left off, with Ken and Jorge trying to salvage what’s left of the island’s facilities and resources, and plan a search and rescue for Jorge’s children. The apocalypse becomes something more than just a battle of survival between werewolves, humans and zombies: the authors dig into both history and mythology to create a terrifying end-of-the-world nightmare for their characters and readers alike.
However, I didn’t enjoy the sequel as much as the first novel. What I loved about Pavlov’s Dogs was the interaction between the undead and the genetically engineered werewolves, but in The Omega Dog, there is only one Dog left, he is a fucked-up zombie werewolf with some serious issues that go far beyond being undead, and the zombies take a backseat to the rest of the action. Also, while it was hinted that the scientist behind the Dogs is also behind the zombie virus in the first book, that storyline remains largely untouched in the sequel.