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Nancy Kress
Tachyon Publications, 280 pages

Nancy Kress
Nancy Kress was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1948. She went to college at State University of New York at Plattsburgh, receiving a degree in Elementary Education, and spent four years teaching the fourth grade. Her first sale was a story, "The Earth Dwellers," to Galaxy in 1976. Her first novel, The Prince of Morning Bells, appeared in 1981. Nancy Kress moved on to write copy for an advertising agency, wrote fiction part-time, raised her children, taught at SUNY Brockport, and earned an M.S. in Education and an M.A. in English. In 1990 she became a full-time writer. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Nancy Kress Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Crucible
SF Site Review: Nothing Human
SF Site Review: Crossfire
SF Site Review: Probability Space
SF Site Review: Maximum Light
SF Site Review: Savior
SF Site Review: Probability Moon
Interview: Nancy Kress
SF Site Review: David Brin's Out of Time: Yanked!
SF Site Review: Stinger
SF Site Review: Maximum Light
SF Site Review: Beaker's Dozen

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

Dogs It's the familiar, everyday things in life which, if they suddenly turn on you, can be the most frightening. Nancy Kress evidently knows this very well, because in her latest novel Dogs, a taut thriller, she takes that beloved object of American affection, the family dog, and turns it into a carrier of terror, chaos, and international intrigue.

Dogs takes place, for the most part, in Tyler, Maryland, a small town not far from Washington D.C., that generally exists apart from the big city intrigues which dominate life in the nation's capital. That all starts to change when Jess Langstrom, Tyler's Animal Control officer, is called to the scene of a house where the family dog had suddenly turned vicious, attacking the family's youngest child. It quickly becomes apparent that something bigger is going on when complaints of dog bites suddenly mushroom from one every other month or so to dozens in a single day. Before the local residents can catch a breath, both the Center for Disease Control and Homeland Security have set up shop in town, and Tyler is placed under a quarantine.

The plot branches out into a larger story of international conspiracy through the person of Tessa Sanderson, an ex-FBI agent who has recently moved to Tyler after the death of her husband. Tessa's husband Salah was Arabic, and she is convinced that her marriage was held against her at the Bureau. Deputized by Jess in order to help with the plague of vicious dogs, Tessa finds herself going undercover, both to remove suspicions raised by a series of emails found on Salah's computer, and to track down the man she suspects is responsible for the dogs' behavior.

Kress wastes no words in telling her story and in portraying the inhabitants of a small town consumed with fear and paranoia. The characters, from diners at the local breakfast spot to animal rights activists to government interference-hating hunters are portrayed realistically, without resorting to caricatures and stereotypes. Because of that, their actions are all the more believable, and all the more terrifying. Dogs is a novel that takes the outwardly civilized behavior of a small American community and shows what can happen when otherwise good people are pushed to the edge by fear and suspicion.

In the last decade or so, several science fiction writers, most notably Greg Bear and Paul McAuley, have ventured into the land of the political thriller. Those books, like Bear's Vitals, and McAuley's White Devils, have been fairly successful, but, as Mike Levy once observed at Minicon, the problem has been that, even while writing in the style and tradition of the popular thriller, they couldn't help being science fiction writers too. That's a mistake that Nancy Kress avoids in Dogs. Even though she must have done a fair amount of research in planning the book, there's just enough talk of viral infections, brain chemistry and dog behavior to help bring the reader's feeling of tension to a maximum, without bogging the story down in too much detail and scientific patter. Because of that, Dogs is the kind of thriller that continually makes you want to turn the pages faster than you can read them.

Copyright © 2008 by Greg L. Johnson

The impact of Dogs is such that reviewer Greg L Johnson couldn't help regarding his neighbors' pets with a bit of suspicion for several days after finishing the book. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction. And, for something different, Greg blogs about news and politics relating to outdoors issues and the environment at Thinking Outside.

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