Wednesday, April 24, 2013

[Review] Dog Aliens 1

Dog Aliens series, book 1

by Cherise Kelley

Verdict: Good - a solid book but something keeps it from being marked as "Great" in my list.

A strange little book told from the perspective of a young dog alien who's trying to find his purpose in life.

Dog Aliens 1: Raffle's Name is told mainly from the first-person perspective of Clem, a dog alien. On this rendition of Earth, all dogs are aliens, and have been for centuries. They've infiltrated human society by becoming companions, but their overarching goal is the peaceful mining of some material in the ground called "jex."

There are two competing "factions" of dog alien -- "Big dog" Kaxians and "little dog" Niques. They are always fighting each other. Also, dog aliens are reborn when they die, although they lose their memories of past lives until they reach a certain age.

Clem is a Kaxian puppy and he works with a packmates to mine jex. But his human master abandons him in the woods, which starts Clem's adventure to find a new home.

I came into this book expecting it to be a cozy mystery series. I've seen the idea done before, that dogs (or cats) are telepaths or can talk with their humans and solve murders or what have you. That is not what this story is.

This story is strange. That's the word for it. I can't say I liked it or didn't like it. I'll try to explain.

Clem is a Kaxian, and all Kaxian dog aliens serve a deity known as "Kax." Clem is a special dog alien in that he can "speak" to creatures telepathically. With his psychic-like power, he can also "see" and influence a human's state of mind, which can help him calm someone down, for example, or also get him into trouble.

It's generally the story of how Clem comes to find purpose in life. After he is abandoned by his first human master, he needs to find a new human who will take him in. He also wants to keep in touch with his old pack mates, which his telepathy helps him with.

Clem's personality comes across rather well. We can see he's an immature puppy, fighting with the Niques when they taunt him, etc., but we also feel it when he's sad and afraid, when he feels he might be abandoned again, and when he's upset when he can't communicate well with the humans (it's part of Kaxian law that humans must never discover that dogs are aliens).

My problems with the book are:

It ends abruptly. Clem's newest owners suddenly adopt another Kaxian named "Oreo" and Oreo is a little bit of a brat and then that's it. I think the story should have stopped before this character was introduced, since it's obvious the story was meant to continue afterward.

There's also a few sections not told from Clem's perspective. In particular, there's a couple of scenes about Neya, a wolf whom Clem met in the woods where he was abandoned. They played together for a short time, and then Clem was driven away by her pack.

But Neya didn't forget Clem and even dreams about him. I assume this is the start of a romance that will be expanded upon in the future, but since Clem never thinks of her again, it's weird to see these small scenes in which Neya thinks of him. It was interesting to learn that wolves are not aliens in this world, and how they view the dog aliens as, well, aliens and not to be trusted. I must assume it will be a plot point later in the series.

Also, Clem finally bonds with a human family -- but he never refers to the humans by name. But he's referred to an earlier, ultimately unimportant human, by name, so it seems weird.

Finally, the religious undertones feel a bit out of place in a story titled "Dog Aliens."

In the end, it's a quirky story. It's not a bad story, and if the title interests you, I say go for it.

A copy of this book was provided in exchange for a review.

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