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Zer Netmouse
May 1st, 2002
08:48 am

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oh, and yesterday I also started reading and reviewing material that made the ballot for the Hugo awards. I still need to put the character names into my review of Passage, by Connie Willis, but here's my review of the short story "The Dog Said Bow-Wow" by Michael Swanwick (Asimov's 10-11/01):


Have you ever read a story and spent the whole thing wondering what the title meant? “The Dog said Bow-Wow” is fantasy masquerading as science fiction. It is set in a post-Utopian England. It seems the Utopians covered the world with computer networks and then populated them with demon intelligences that can manifest themselves in the real world given a working modem plugged into a wall jack with an autistic at the other end. Two rogues plan a swindle based on this fact and the apparently safe assumption that even though the network of demons is so dangerous that possession of a functioning modem is punishable by death, the networks of cables were so completely pervasive that everyone gave up on removing them and any room in Buckingham palace can be counted on to provide the necessary wall jack. Did we mention that a demon who has taken over its autistic interface person can then perform spontaneous combustion?


Tongue apparently firmly in cheek, the author describes other, happier scientific progressions that have lead to various genetic constructions: talking baboons, a huge virgin queen with thirty-six brains (something must take up the slack of all those possessed computers), and of course a walking talking intelligent dog named Sir Plus. The dog-form of Sir Plus (one of our two rogues) seems to be included mainly to make references to such things as “doing it doggy style” and having his man-shaped partner sleep on the floor at the foot of his bed amusing. None of the characters in this story have the depth of a bowl of Jello, and none of them develop or grow (except perhaps the queen – a hundred years old and still growing) in the course of the story. The hugely intelligent virgin queen is of course suicidally depressed and the sister of the palace Protocol Officer is (of course) highly attracted to Sir Plus because of his unique form. If you liked Austin Powers you’ll likely enjoy this story, but it’s no more than light entertainment. Oh, and don’t bother waiting for it; the dog never says bow-wow. I’ve read the whole story and still don’t understand the title. If you recognize it as an allusion or something, please let me know.

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