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Bear Head (2) (Dogs of War) Paperback – March 1, 2023
WELCOME TO HELL CITY, MARS
Jimmy Martin has a sore head. He's used to smuggling illegal data in his headspace. But this is the first time it has started talking to him. The data claims to be a distinguished academic, author and civil rights activist. It also claims to be a bear. A bear named Honey.
Jimmy has nothing against bioforms – he's one himself, albeit one engineered out of human stock – and works with them everyday in Hell City, building the future, staking mankind's claim to a new world: Mars. The problem is that humanity isn't the only entity with designs on the Red Planet. Out in the airless desert there is another presence. A novel intelligence, elusive, unknowable and potentially lethal. And Honey is here to make contact with it, whether Jimmy likes it or not.
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Adrian Tchaikovsky's dissection of Thompson's appeal and ghastly genius is the thoughtful highlight of this unashamedly thrilling escapade. You don't need to have read Dogs of War to enjoy Bear Head – but why deny yourself the pleasure?' The Times
'Funny, appalling, gruesome and uplifting (often at the same time), Bear Head is propelled by a cracking plot that balances dystopian satire with a palpable sense of moral peril' Daily Mail
An absolute whammy of a read, and a must for anyone who enjoys a smart, fast-paced, hugely entertaining blast of speculative fiction... Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning Adrian Tchaikovsky has successfully combined weighty, thought-provoking moments, with a Trump-like baddie, full-on action and smirky humour... This is one of those books where you can just throw yourself and abandon yourself to a fabulous story, knowing you will be entertained throughout' LoveReading
'A rousing good read' Guardian
A thought-provoking novel... Bear Head is a triumph. Its story is fascinating, with unexpected events occurring throughout. It's a novel filled with compassion and characters that are very easy to empathize with' Geek Dad
About the Author
- Publisher : Head of Zeus (March 1, 2023)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1800241569
- ISBN-13 : 978-1800241565
- Item Weight : 9.7 ounces
- Dimensions : 7.8 x 1.26 x 5.12 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #563,340 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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Following the events of ‘Dogs of War’ the debate about bioforms continues. There is a growing movement to regulate their behaviour through implanted inhibitors, known as Collars.
“Collaring Bioforms today is Collaring everyone tomorrow. Today they Collared the dogs and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a dog, John. And tomorrow they Collared me and then I couldn’t speak out, because I had a Collar.” - Honey, ‘Bear Head’.
The narrative moves between various points of view on Mars and Earth. First there is Jimmy Martin, who is part of a workforce building a city in the Hellas Crater on Mars, nicknamed Hell City. Jimmy is human though has had various modifications to allow him to work in the Martian atmosphere. To supplement his income he undertakes a job of smuggling illegal data in his headspace.
Jimmy is surprised when the data starts communicating with him claiming to be Honey, a distinguished academic and civil rights activist who is also a bear. Honey first appeared in ‘Dogs of War’. Honey is seeking to make contact with Bees, a Distributed Intelligence that has retreated to Mars to avoid being destroyed on Earth.
Back on Earth we also follow Carole Springer, who works for a corrupt politician, Warner Thompson. Rather than relying on NDAs, Thompson has Carole Collared, meaning that she has to obey Thompson’s instructions without question, including some very unpleasant ones. Yuk!
Eventually these various threads come together.
Whereas ‘Dogs of War’ was military science fiction, ‘Bear Head’ is more of a political thriller. It’s a different pace though still had plenty of tense scenes. There is also humour, primarily in the form of banter between Jimmy and Honey.
Overall, this proved another highly engaging work of science fiction from Tchaikovsky. It is thought-provoking and multilayered and I loved it.
BEAR HEAD is a sequel to DOGS OF WAR though it could easily be read as a stand-alone. In the first book the story centred around “bioforms”; genetically engineered, sapient hybrids bred for use in war. Thus, we had Rex, a dog bioform; Honey, an intelligent bear; and Bees, a self-aware bee colony. They start to question their blind obedience to their “masters” resulting in a long struggle ending with legal rights for “bioforms”. BEAR HEAD is set some years later, and the public mood has changed from sympathy to distrust and fear, as the bioforms take on civilian jobs and are more visible in society. Jumping on this bandwagon is a populist American politician, who pushes for “collaring” (implanted behaviour controls”) of all bioforms to “protect” humans.
Meanwhile on Mars, there is a major project to build a permanent colony. Recruited workers have been gene modified to protect them against the Martian conditions, a procedure which they have been told will be reversible. This modification also allows data to be uploaded into their brains (think JOHNNY MNEMONIC) which the workers mainly use for smuggling pornography etc. When Jimmy Martin accepts an illegal download for the local smuggler, he doesn’t expect it to start talking back to him. The artificial personality is a copy of Honey, now a respected academic and civil rights campaigner and she needs to talk to Bees, now hiding on Mars from persecution. She has vital information about Senator Thompson’s plans and his illegal research. These not only threaten the free will of bioforms but of humanity as a whole. Now she just has to convince Jimmy and his friends to help before Thompson implements his deadly schemes.
The story manages to combine a fast-paced and thrilling story with more philosophical ideas about free will and civil rights (the arguments against the bioforms parallel those used in the real world against ethnic, LBGT+, and disabled groups to name but a few). There is at times anger and a bleak view of a humanity perhaps doomed by those with power who resist necessary economic and environmental change purely because it would impact them financially. Adrian Tchaikovsky’s talent in creating imperfect, believable characters has always been one of his strengths and this continues here. Even the character of Senator Thompson who is an absolute villain, is still convincing. Before the past few years, I would have perhaps found him implausible but this is an excoriating examination of a narcissistic, self-absorbed parasite of a man without any empathy or conscience who sees people (and bioforms) merely as tools to achieve his agenda. I should also warn that there are some upsetting scenes of sexual and physical brutality associated with this character but they are in my view integral to the plot and not gratuitous.
This is a book which I think a lot of people will be talking about and should be on forthcoming awards lists. It combines superb storytelling, emotion and leaves the reader thinking long after finishing. If you like clever, incisive SF, I can’t recommend this enough.
Adrian Tchaikovsky takes the reader to some very dark places in this sequel to the excellent 'Dogs of War'. At the end of the story of Rex, the Good Dog, the arc of history had indeed turned toward justice for the modified animals of the story.
But as the sequel begins, this laudable progress had been steadily wound back. Some humans fear that 'what has gone around, might come around'. Like fascists everywhere, it is all projection. Bioforms need to be 'controlled' for the good of all. And the chief projector and enslaver is the odious Warner S Thompson, World Senate candidate and anti-bioform crusader. Tchaikovsky mashes up the naked id of Donald Trump with the charisma of Tony Blair/Bill Clinton and a dash of the technical ambition of Elon Musk to create an antagonist with no redeming virtues. There really is no nuance to this monster, and he is so easy to detest. His entourage comes complete with an amoral mad scientist (Dr Felorian), his conflicted by repressed PA Carole Springer (who provided the POV of the enemy camp)and collared bioforms Boyo, Scout and the Trigger Dogs.
The forces ranged against these harbingers of evil seem weak and flawed. Jimmy Marten, is one of a workforce of biomodded humans, on Mars to build a colony in Hellas Planitia (Hell City!).The colony of course will be for the worker's wealthy betters. Like of course Warner S Thompson. And when work is done, all their mods will be reversed by the grateful company and all will be returned to Earth (Yeah, right).
It is a tough gig. So tough that illicit drugs are an near unavoidable way of escape. And drugs need to be paid for somehow. Jimmy's 'how' is to host contraband data in his surprisingly capacious modded headspace. Which is how Jimmy gets to meet with an uploaded copy of Honey, the bioform bear and former compadre of Rex the Good Dog. Honey's avatar has been sent to Mars by the oppressed Human Distributed intelligence HumOs, to confer with the exiled bioform Bees (also exiled by fearful humans). But Bees has their own plans, fearing their intervention in the affairs of Honey and Warner S Thompson will only make a bad situation even worse.
And so it comes to pass. But in the depths of despair, help comes from an unexpected source. Carole Springer finds that she does not need to be a good person. She just needs to do one good thing. And maybe there is hope.
Tchaikovsky's output is prodigious, and of such a high standard and variety, that he has become a must read for me. This one does not disappoint.
The characters are brilliantly drawn - in particular the ego driven political beast. It's a long time since I've encountered such well constructed and utterly repulsive personality in fiction. It's impossible not to draw parallels with other political personas in the late 2010s and early 2020s ;)
What can I say - I loved it. Thanks! And I can't wait to see if this universe expands further!