Something has gotten into the dogs in the tiny community of Tyler, Maryland. They are turning on their masters, normally well-behaved pets suddenly engaging in grisly, unprovoked attacks. What’s gotten into them, it turns out, is a virus that attacks the brain’s rage centers, transforming poodles and pitbulls alike into dangerous predators. And, when it becomes apparent that the virus is spreading, the CDC moves in, quarantining the town and rounding up dogs, initially as a precaution and then, later, for experimental purposes. This, of course, doesn’t sit too well with many of the local dog owners who start taking steps to safeguard their four-legged friends.

Among Tyler’s concerned residents is former FBI agent Tessa Sanderson who moved to the community following the death of her husband, Salah. Tessa comes across a couple of mysterious emails on Salah’s computer and, when she contacts the senders to inquire about their relationship with her deceased husband, she receives a cryptic a message back that leads her to wonder whether she may well have uncovered a bio-terrorist link to the mounting crisis in Tyler.

Tessa investigates and, while her search for answers takes her across the globe, the residents of Tyler on both sides of the “dog issue” decide to take matters into their own hands…

A while ago, I wrote an entry titled “What Scares You?” in which I discussed the personal nature of horror. For me, the possible (ie. bio-terrorism and murderers) is far more frightening than the impossible (or, well, highly unlikely – vengeful ghosts). Throw in an emotional connection – in this case, the prospect of my lovable furballs turning against me – and you have the makings of a terrific thriller. Which Dogs certainly is. Author Kress sets up a truly horrific scenario, grounding it in present-day anxiety about terrorist threats, biological or otherwise. The response of the town’s inhabitants to the scenario is chilling – and disquietingly believable. One group want to err on the side of caution and wipe out all of the dogs, infected or not, while another group risks everything to rescue the lives of the animals they consider family. While many of the town’s residents offer little depth beyond their respective agendas (no doubt owing to the sheer number introduced), other characters like Tyler’s Animal Control Officer Jesse Langstrom, former fed Tessa, and the various dog owners struggling with the effects of the virus, are very well-imagined.

I was surprised to read some of the early responses to this book – specifically, the fact that some of the dog-loving readers of this blog refused to read it because of the subject matter. Well, in retrospect, I think that those of you put off by the prospect of animal cruelty would be well-advised to steer clear. Kress pulls no punches in detailing the dog attacks and the attacks on dogs. Most disturbing for me was the implication that the healthy dogs, unaffected by the virus, were being earmarked for experimentation. In one particularly troubling scene, one of the character saves a dog’s life by switching its cage label with another, condemning the other to the lab. While it may have been intended to convey a sense of relief that this dog, belonging to one of our main characters, had managed to avoid a grisly fate, it, instead, had me wondering about the other dog doomed by the switch and how, without a doubt, it too had a loving owner anxiously awaiting its return.

The narrative is divided into three sections tracking events in Tyler, Tessa’s globe-trotting investigation, and the machinations in Washington where power-players seek to exploit the crisis for political gain. While I found the first two engaging, I was less enamored of the Washington scenes that, unlike events in Tyler or Tessa’s adventures abroad, lacked a character with the depth to give them weight. The politicos were fairly standard opportunists and, at the end of the day, I would have rather spent more time focusing on the psychological meltdown in the tiny, isolated community.

By book’s end, the mystery is solved, the situation dealt with, but a certain ambiguity remains with regard to the source of the virus. Suitably vague or disagreeably confusing? In my case, a little of both.

All that said, the story moves briskly and, while I’m loathe to use the cliché “page turner”, it pretty much sums up this novel. It’s tightly paced and, despite her hard SF background, Kress keeps the science brief but credible, never slowing things down.

So, now that I’ve weighed in with my preliminary thoughts, what did everyone else think? This was an interesting one and I look forward to reading your comments – and seeing whatever questions you may have for author Nancy Kress. Start posting.

Speaking of questions – I’ve lined up two very interesting Stargate-related guest bloggers. Once I’ve finished gathering up questions for Nancy Kress this Wednesday, I’ll make the the grand guest announcements.

Ooops. Carl poked his head into my office and corrected my faux pas. Episode #9 isn’t called Judgment as I originally reported (although I think that Judgment is a more appropriate title). Rather, #109 is titled Justice. Someone please head over to Gateworld and change the name of the discussion thread.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Its way, way past my bedtime and I need chocolate. I don’t think I’m going to bother with “Dogs” Its not my cup of tea. I will however, be very interested in the thoughts of those who have read it.


..and what a sappy book cover! it certainly wouldn’t inspire me to even pick the book up let alone consider it for consumption.


Dear Joe,

1. Do you think with these current hard economic times that Project Twilight will be the last Atlantis movie?

2. Joe, Atlantis the actual city ship, was it the same city ship that was observed flying from Antartica in Rising Part 1 or was the city ship from the Tower; or another given the assumption the ancients probably built more than two?

3. Was it just me or were the replicator class Auroras weaker in terms of shields and offensive power when compared to the Orion?

4. Any status update on your future plans after SGU season 1?

Thanks Joe

Narelle from Aus

I think I’ll have to stay away from that book Joe.
In a movie, if a human gets killed I deal. If an animal gets hurt or dies, especially due to human stupidity or callousness, then I’m a mess. Might be partly due to being Mum to a dog that was beaten, burnt and starved for the first 5 months of his life.

Joe, I’m at a loss on deciding what to read next.
The last 5 books I’ve read have been James P Hogan, which I’ve really enjoyed, but don’t want to start the last “Giants” book for a while.

I’ve tried to find Justina Robson’s Quantum Gravity books in e-format with no luck. And no, it wasn’t because I was seeking out a good dose of Elf. Well, mostly not.
Waiting patiently for the next Traveler book to be released.

Humbly seeking your guidance oh spirit guide of the book world.

And hey, part of my dream came true… I appear to have lost the ability to type today. But I think it’s due to the device controlling my fingers, ie: mushy brain, being unable to form sentences. Nothing new I guess.


Yeah, I definitely think I’ll be avoiding that one. I can handle crimes against humans in fiction, but I just can’t stomach crimes against animals, and dogs in particular. Not because I like animals more than humans or value them more, but probably because animal cruelty is far more tolerated in our society than human cruelty, so it just… hit’s a little too close to home and seems a little too realistic for me. I agree that possible things are far scarier than impossible ones, which is why I generally only like “scary” books/movies that involve ridiculous, impossible (or at least highly improbable) scenarios.


I love that most people are okay with stories about human suffering, death and torture but when it comes to animals they flinch. its kinda amusing. I never understood that mentality. personally i rather see an animal die than a human, dont judge me, hypothetically if i had to choose that is.

and someone her mentioned the Traveler book, i couldnt finish it, it was really boring storywise. it was normal and too predictable. and the whole staying off the grid thing takes the fun out of it because he goes on and on about how the characters try to pass through security, use RNGs, all that just pointless. I cant remember much else it was a long time ago and i bought into the hype.

and Joe, this might interest you greatly:

—from the site:
“There is a link now available to download the 125-page transcript (in the form of a .pdf document) of the original 1978 story conference between Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Lawrence Kasdan for a little film called Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

its so awesome reading through it and learning how they come up with these stories. i also now know about George Lucas and Spielberg more than ever, thanks to the transcript. this makes Lucas look like a genius and Spielberg is more on the wacky side.

anyway the link for the transcript might get taken off the internet since its not official.


I just heard that about 10 minutes of ‘Fallen’ was cut for length–scenes about Daniel regaining his memory was what I heard. I know this isn’t yours, but is there any chance you could let us know what was cut? It’s very interesting to find out what was almost canon, but didn’t quite make it.


Im also kinda surprised that this isnt a Stephen King novel. and yeah like you said the real horror is the stuff that hits to close to home, almost to the level of being a taboo subject. I wonder what else can scare the living hell out of people…hmmm, keyboard eats my fingers maybe. hehe


happy I’m a cat person

Deni B.
Deni B.

OMG, no way I’d read this one. I was watching an episode of House last week, and the guy died with his dog next to him, then the dog died. I’ve just about sworm off the stupid show. Hell, I even had a problem with Marley and Me. I suppose the tragic thing is that so much goes on in the world (remember China with the dog cullings?), in labs all over the country, and we do tend to close our eyes to the sad reality because there’s not much we can do about it.

Otherwise, I was right smile My daughter showed up on Saturday and left yesterday. Yep, here on minute and… Still, had a blast! Have a good night!


After reading Book of Joby, I was hoping that Dogs would provide something different. Namely some light entertainment that didn’t involve too much of an investment of time or energy. Dogs delivered exactly that. It’s a fast paced read, with minimal character development, and implausible but-still-holds-together plotline, and a plot device to tug at the hearts of dog owners everywhere. What’s impressive is that the author makes a virtue of all of these, spinning a good yarn that kept me reading even as the clock relentlessly kept ticking away time I could have used sleeping. This may not be “literature for the ages”, but it more than succeeds as a source of entertainment for the duration of the read. The strongest part of the book to me was the depiction of the dogs as they became infected. The opening pages and the first attack are especially horrific and nicely sets the stage for the upcoming carnage. The characters, even the main characters, were generally far less interesting to me, except for how they moved the story forward. There is just enough fleshing out of characters like Jess, Billy, and Jess to make me maintain some level of empathy for them. The character of Allen Levy was the only one that truly came to life for me though. The desperate struggles of a child trying to save his pet, while dealing with the domestic problems in his home. I found myself mentally cheering Allen on, even when his actions were the wrong things for the right reason. Tessa, our heroine, faces worse obstacles and trials, but she does so with the advantage of age, training, and experience. Allen manages to stay ahead of the adults around him through guts and native intellegence. Going back to Tessa, I found the thread that an aquantance of her husband was the proximate cause a bit of a stretch. But the author’s style was such that I was willing to buy into the plot anyways. Sadly, I found it too plausible that her career would have been dead-ended by a marriage to a Muslim, even one who had been so vetted. The character of Ebenfield was easily the creepiest, and the least believable in the book. I found his near-omniscience concerning Tessa to be the only real roadblock in the flow of the book. His physical and mental deterioration was even creepier than what was happening to the dogs of Tyler, and his affiliation with Muslim terrorists was the flimsiest part of the whole tale. The end of the book ended with a bang, literally, and with at least one suprise in terms of what happens to certain characters. The idea of the citizens splitting into save the dogs and kill the dogs factions seemed true to life, and given the tensions and emotions built up over the course of the book, I can even accept both sides resorting to violence. And in terms of the plague, there is the optimistic note that while a… Read more »


Hi, Joe
Now next mid two-part is yours, right? Any titled yet?
And I remember you said early, a familiar face will make a guest appearance, right? Can you tell us the familiar face is from SG1 or SGA?


@Major D. Davis:

Major D. Davis wrote “4. Who are your favorite people who read and comment on your blog?”

(grabs side and falls out of chair laughing) Thanks Davis I need a good laugh. I think it’s safe to say that like any child we are all loved the same but yet are uniquely special to dear old dad.

I once asked my mom that question in front of my sister. We had just found out that mom had about a week left and the room was just really tight with tension as it should be. I have to crack a joke when things get tense. Mom was hyped up on morphine but able to talk. So I made eye contact with my sister and asked mom who was her favorite. Mom being mom said it was who ever would change her bed pan.


What worked best about Dogs was how believable it was, and relatable too, at least to me as a North-American whose family has owned dogs who were as much a part of the family as any of the 2-legged members. The pinnacle being the Westie who would wake up my mom in the middle of the night and demand she massage his paws. No lie.

So the premise really gets one’s attention and holds it when a dog goes nuts and kills a little girl. At that point I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through the book. Then the poor pooches and their suffering… it was tough going. Ultimately it was fast-paced and gripping as you say, Joe. And probably closer to possible than say, wormhole travel (no offense!).

Questions for Nancy Kress:

Do you expect something to go very wrong with genetic engineering at some point?

Are you concerned the S. Korean company that is cloning people’s favorite dogs for $150k?

Given you have a spoiled poodle, was it hard to write scenes of dogs suffering? How about kids?

What do you think happens after the last page?

Thanks for a memorable, thought-provoking read!

Gilder in San Antonio

Since you’ve promised to ask Shanks for a Q&A, please pass my compliments on his death scene on “Burn Notice”, which aired tonight.


Wow! First in a long while.
@Duneknight, I think the reason behind some of us being able to tolerate tales of human suffering is because lets face it as a species we suck royally. Look what we do to each other in the name of power/religion/money etc. Animals are what they are.


Hi Joe. I’m glad yoy believe the Atlantis movie will go ahead. That’s some comfort to all of us suffering from withdrawal symptoms.
1. Any news or thoughts about when it’ll be filming?
2. Is Todd going to be in the film? I love the relationship between Todd and Sheppard.


Hi there Mr M!

Just swinging by to say “hi”. Am amazed at the labelling of the props!! Not a notion!! And I really had good money on PG15 getting them right!! What gives PG15?? I have lost several pints of Guinness on that …..

A belated thanks to Mr Ferrari on his great Q and A.

Didn’t get a chance to read Dogs, but have pencilled it in for Summer time read.

Guest Bloggers eh? Could it be PDL?

All that talk of Blade Runner got me to pop it into the DVD player. I had forgotten just how good that film is…. and for some bizarre reason I always think of Back to the Future when I watch it…I think it’s the hovercar thing.
Anyway, I sat through BTTF (part1) last night. Pure popcorn delight, with effects that almost stand-up today. Some great camera angles and wonderful exposition without the 100 mph delivery. Following your recent discussion : leads me to ask, when it comes to Sci Fi movies are you more hard-core Sci Fi or light entertainment?

Any-hoo best to all!! Oh and tell Kerry that it is spelled with a “y”…..we even named a county after her here in Ireland!

Best to all



Narelle from Aus said:

I think I’ll have to stay away from that book Joe.
In a movie, if a human gets killed I deal. If an animal gets hurt or dies, especially due to human stupidity or callousness, then I’m a mess. Might be partly due to being Mum to a dog that was beaten, burnt and starved for the first 5 months of his life.

Yeah I’m much the same way, although I can’t pin it down to something specific like that.

Re: movies though. Don’t get me started on The Horse Whisperer.

Sorry to hear about your dog. That’s heartbreaking. Is he scared of stuff? My cat’s scared of people (not me). She wasn’t mistreated but the vet thought she was from a feral litter. She scratched the vet.



Sorry, but this is one book I wouldn’t bother picking up even to check out the flap. I go for the “bio-terror” genre usually, but this one doesn’t seem to contain elements that appeal to me.

I have a stack waiting for me…& currently no time.



well of course its believable as with any animal, they can go crazy, they aint robots which ironically do also go crazy sometimes. in fact its sooo believable that there needs no sci-fi explanation as to why they go crazy. thats the beauty of nature, it makes things go crazy and thats normal. you act as if its as far-fetched concept as a stargate. and yes i agree with you, it mustve been extremely hard for the writer to write scenes about dogs suffering, especially if they are cute and cuddly. I took pet culture in anthropology and its amazing to find out how each culture glorifies certain animals and each animal is treated differently depending on the culture–some like to pet them, others like to eat them.

and Joe, I think the ghost thing is a pretty realistic if you think about it. first of all, ghosts are all about death which is something terrifying to us all, you might not think about death that much but in the back of our minds its there. secondly, we have no idea what the afterlife is like. I dont know, but i dont want some crazy insane ghost to haunt me who had a miserable life or i dont want to die and get raped by ghosts. no one knows what it is really like. thirdly, there is an emotional connection, a loved one dies and want them back, so you think that they are still out there somewhere and then you think what else is out there somewhere. pretty scary. having said that, i cant wait for ghostbusters 3!


Dogs: It was a fast-paced read and an interesting story. But I wasn’t really touched by anything from the story and I never felt a connection with any of the characters and didn’t care for them.

Although I’m not a special dog person, I like animals in general. And usually I can’t read something like that without being touched and often on the verge of tears. But in this case I didn’t feel much for the dogs either. Maybe because the thought, that a dog is really able to kill a human, is very frightening. I saw more the killing machines in them than the lovely pets. Even though they reacted in that way because of an infection and not because they were evil. The story immediately started with an aggressive dog, so there wasn’t time to feel any sympathy for single dogs. Maybe it would have been different if there had been some kind of a prologue about the dogs’ ordinary lives first.

I can empathize with Allen’s (the boy) feelings, because I loved my cat in the same way. There’s usually a special bond between a kid and his pet when they grow up together.

The people’s reaction to the whole situation, their actions, the separation in two different groups (which both turned violent), was very believable. Like everything else what happened related to the dogs. I can imagine that things would happen exactly that way.

For me the most disturbing thought was, that Ebenfield bite the dogs to infect them.

And the end? Frightening…

After reading Stephen King’s Pet Sematary I had a strange, uncomfortable minute with my cat. He was a huge male cat and cats have the unpleasant habit to stand in the middle of the room and just stare with their oddly gleaming eyes (depending on the light). Well, I’ve always had a lively imagination. wink


“Dogs” was not a book I would have picked up on my own, but a friend mentioned that she had read Nancy Kress’s books and liked them. Also, up to this point I’ve avoided all of Joe’s horror genre picks and I was feeling a bit guilty about it. So in spite of the fact that I don’t do well with stories where the dog dies, and doggie demises seemed inevitable given the plot, I started reading – heck, I figured I could always stop if it got too bad. But I didn’t stop. I finished it. And I enjoyed it. I thought “Dogs” was more thriller than horror, which suits me just fine. It had a definite “Andromeda Strain” feel to it. The story was exciting and the plot was plausible. Having terrorists use man’s best friend as a means to spread infection and psychological terror was an interesting twist. And the effect it had on the population of Tyler seemed to me to be just the way such a thing would play out in reality. I didn’t mind the occasional cuts in the action to show how the politicians back in Washington were involved in the whole thing. I even found it kind of amusing when, at first, they were trying to take advantage of the situation to buff up FEMA’s reputation that had been so tarnished by the handling of Hurricane Katrina. Overall, I liked the book. I had a little trouble connecting with the characters, but I thought they fit well into the small-town, rural setting of the story. Tessa was a formidable heroine and the best developed character of the bunch. And I liked Billy. The premise of the story was interesting and it really did make me wonder how we would cope with a bioterrorist threat like that. I’m involved in my hospital’s “emergency response” team, and I can assure you that we haven’t even thought about infections spread via animal vectors. The dogs turning on their owners, especially when they attacked kids, was pretty disturbing. I was fine with the treatment of the infected and uninfected dogs by the Medical Research team; it was realistically cold and clinical, as I expected. It was sad – no one would ever want their pet turned into a research subject in that way – but from an infection control standpoint it made perfect sense. Strangely, the scene that really got to me involved Ebenfield’s Dobermans and what Tessa had to do to them to make her escape. I have mixed feelings about the ending. Although the little epilogue seemed a bit forced to me, it served the purpose of reminding us that the virus was still active and still a threat. And I like a book that leaves you with something to think about. Questions for the author: Dog bites (and people bites) don’t seem to be a really effective way to spread a plague, even though the havoc wrought by trying to control such a… Read more »


hey Joe have you ever been to Montreal Comedy Festival?

Major D. Davis
Major D. Davis

Hi Joe,
What’s up? Got a couple questions

1. Have you ever considered directing a Universe episode?

2. When will we get more news on the Atlantis Movie?

3. Will promo pictures and or videos regarding Universe appear on the sci fi channel after one of the SG-1 movies air?

4. Who are your favorite people who read and comment on your blog?

5. How is life for you in Canada? Are you loving it or hating it?

Merci Beaucoup,
Major D. Davis