31. Dogs by Nancy Kress
Kress is an award-winning science fiction writer, and I was excited to read one of her books, though apprehensive about the topic. A virulent plague attacks dogs, inducing them to violently bite and kill humans, even beloved owners and especially children. The plague is spread through the bites, and guess what? a form of the virus can be transmitted to bitten humans. The disease affects a suburb of D.C. and Kress tells the story from the viewpoint of a variety of townspeople. This book is so formulaic, it almost made me sick. If you have read any mystery or detective novel, ever, you know all the characters, you know who did it, and you know how it ends. Praise on the back of the book states that the characters "wrestle with a moral and ethical dilemma." I saw no evidence of this conflict in any character. Each was decided, from the outset, how to behave, whether to kill dogs in a bloody rampage, or save them at all costs. The only conflicts were external. One thing that particularly bothered me is that Kress has one character, the American wife of a Muslim man, bemoaning prejudice against Arabs, and then, lo and behold, there is an Arab terrorist involved. Why attack a stereotype and then propagate it yourself? I was initially worried about becoming attached to the dogs or other characters, and then watching them die, but that was certainly not a problem. None of the characters are compelling, and the dogs are mostly skimmed over, except to be cursorily described as "old" or "pitiful." I would recommend you skip this one, and I'm now rethinking reading any of Kress' other books, even the celebrated Beggars of Spain.