CriminOlly thinks: Disturbing, dystopian tale of a young man trying to break free from the constraints of the society he lives in. 4/5
Dog Meat wasn’t quite what I was expecting, and somehow that made it even better. It’s a book that packs a lot into its short length, and one that I’ve reflected on since finishing it.
It’s set in an unnamed country in the 1980s, one that seems to be modelled on the People’s Republic of China. It’s an authoritarian society which is just starting to embrace some degree of private business ownership. The protagonist, Ward, is a young man who works for one such private business, a restaurant that serves dog meat. Ward’s job is to butcher the dogs on demand, deliberately inflicting pain on them in order to release hormones which make the meat taste better. The book follows Ward’s struggles with his job, and his attempts to give it up.
It’s a grim and depressing subject for a book and author Priscilla Bettis doesn’t pull any punches in her handling of the inherent violence or its impacts on the people involved. I went into Dog Meat expecting a horror story, and it’s horrific for sure, but there’s nothing supernatural or otherworldly here. Instead, it’s the everyday horror of oppression and tyranny.
What makes it bearable is Ward, he’s a rich, well drawn character, and his tale is fascinating to read. The moral questions he is grappling with are relatable, and I found myself rooting for him to find a way through them.
Bettis also weaves in a touching back story that broadens the scope of the book to cover other elements of the society she is describing. With very few pages, she manages to create a convincing and affecting world populated with memorable characters.
So, Dog Meat ended up being something other than the fun horror novella I thought I was going to be reading. It’s compelling, moving and disturbing. If you’re in the mood for something like that, I’d definitely recommend it.
Title: Dog Meat | Author: Priscilla Bettis | Publisher: Potter’s Grove Press | Pages: 120 | Publication date: 8th November 2022 | ASIN: B0B8QG79DK | Source: Author
Kalb Ward slaughters dogs for the Colony, a closed, dystopian society where resources are tight, free speech is nonexistent, and those in power have eyes and ears everywhere. Ward desperately wants to quit his grisly job, but he knows he’ll be arrested, or worse, if he tries.
In the Colony, a citizen’s future is determined by a placement exam. Score high, and you’re set for life. Score low, and you end up living a nightmare–like Ward.
Li Ling, the love of Ward’s youth, scored high, and she’s a local celebrity now, far out of his reach. Meanwhile, his neighbor’s son is making a series of disastrous decisions as his own exam rapidly approaches.
Can Ward bridge the social divide and win back Li Ling? Can he help the neighbor’s son avoid a future as grim as his own? Can he escape the Colony’s oppressive rule and, if he’s very lucky, bring down the whole horrific system in the process?
You know what they say: Every dog has his day.
And Ward’s day is coming.
Content Warning: Violence against animals.
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