Apparently this is the year I read all the dead dog books. So . . . sorry for that!
TW: Animal cruelty, animal death.
In a near future, scientists showcased exactly how terrible humans are by genetically trying to improve on animals. (As if there is anything to improve on in any animal.) Their experiments went extremely wrong, however, when dogs suddenly stop wagging their tales, and suddenly are no longer man’s best friend. As the effects of this tragedy sweep the nation and dogs become dangerous and are being abandoned or worse, it is decided a mass euthanasia is required and we are suddenly left with a mere half-dozen dogs. Those are relegated to a sanctuary named Dog Island. And on this island, the company Mechanical Tail is developed and tests out new robot companion dogs with the island residents before they are released to the nation at large. In efforts to curb abuse and suffering of animals, more mechanical species are released, and residents of Dog Island are instructed to report any live animal sightings so those animals can be released of their suffering. But one day, when feeding the feral “organic” dogs kept on the island, teen resident Nano discovers a puppy that does the unthinkable — it wags its tail. And everything she’s been taught about animal rights and animal treatment and the very mission of Dog Island is thrown into the air.
I really liked a lot of this book – the premise, while horrifying, is very unique and unnervingly believable. It’s a quick read, in a bizarre and interesting setting. And I do believe Wes Anderson could have made his own little bizarre sci-fi movie based on it rather than that other dog movie he tried. But the second half of the book starts to fall apart. It’s rushed and clunky, and unsatisfying. The reader needs more time with the villain of the piece to understand how their motivation becomes warped. It is hard to read about animals being mistreated, so I don’t think a lot of people will pick it up. But if you’re interested in a very different dystopia that makes you think about animal rights, you might pick it up. No dogs you get to know in the book actually die, contrary to the title and my description. But it isn’t exactly an easy read either.