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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Strange Horizons, April 21, 2014

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Strange Horizons, April 21, 2014

“Pavlov’s House” by Malcolm Cross

Reviewed by Alicia Cole

Set in a near-future Middle East, “Pavlov’s House” by Malcolm Cross is a potent and disturbing take on bioterrorism and clone-engineered warfare.  Told from the perspective of one brother, Sokolai, a gengineered, plague-resistant humanoid dog, this story focuses predominantly on the shock and intermittent reverberations of long-term combat and how this affects familial and emotional relationships.  There is much left unanswered about gengineering, what the dogs themselves are, and the fascinatingly gruesome strain of biowarfare introduced at the beginning of the story, which keeps the world building from grasping the reader as thoroughly as it could.  Still, as a portrait of a traumatized soldier, engineered to a robotic killing-machine level, and his hunt for his own emotional core, this story is gripping; the titular concept is well fleshed out, Sokolai being the dog who responds to the toll of warfare.  Not recommended for those with combat-related PTSD.