NOTE: There’s a spoiler at the end of this review, so if you don’t want to know how it ends, do NOT read it.
I half wish I’d never read this. The visceral reason is because I love dogs, and hate to see them in peril. The intellectual reason is that in Bacigalupi’s dystopian vision, the future is bleak because human beings are, by nature, monsters.
I might be forgiven for guessing, at first, that I was reading about artificial people. Their seeming indifference to pain, their ability to regrow amputated limbs, their diet of sand and rock, and their immortality all suggested that the characters in this story couldn’t possibly be human. And then I realized that they were a step in human evolution, people living in a symbiotic relationship with creatures called “weevils” that give them the ability to recover from any injury, and to live, presumably, forever.
And in the end, though they’ve become like gods, they still have all the faults of humans but magnified now that there are no consequences. As a result they’re casually cruel and thoughtless. They seem to have lost the ability to care about anything, to value traits like love and loyalty. They wonder, at one point, why the last mortal poet (nice play on the idea of an “immortal” poet) refused immortality. They love his work, but don’t get what it is he’s telling them.
I wish I’d never met them, and yet the power of this story is undeniable.
*SPOILER* They kill the dog.