Review: STRANGE DOGS (an Expanse novella), by James S.A. Corey

I received this novella from Orbit Books, in exchange for an honest review.

A confession first: when I saw this title among the monthly proposals from Orbit, I immediately clicked on the NetGalley link, without even checking first what the theme would be, or which character it might focus on.  For me it was more than enough that the story would be centered on the Expanse’s universe, one of the best (it not THE best) space opera series currently running. The rest would take care of itself… And it did, indeed: even though none of the familiar “faces” is present in this novella, the story is totally absorbing and my only complaint is that it ended too soon, leaving me with a lot of questions that I hope will be answered in the next full-length book(s).

Laconia is one of the worlds opened to colonization by the alien portal whose creation we saw in Abaddon’s Gate, and young Cara arrived there as an infant together with her parents; her brother Xan was born on Laconia and both of them don’t know any other life but that of their new home, Earth being more like a fairy-tale than an actual place.  Cara’s life is divided between school lessons, domestic chores and the times she spends near the pond at some distance from her home, where she observes the strange flora and fauna of her home world.  And Laconia looks indeed like a wondrous place: the descriptions of Cara’s surroundings create an image of a beautiful, alien world full of possibilities, a place devoid of grave dangers and just perfect for a young person’s imagination to run free.

Not everything is idyllic in this new world, though: the presence of soldiers, who landed on Laconia in the aftermath of the brutal attack on Earth from Nemesis Games, has placed a veil of unease on the settlers and at times Cara intercepts some conversations between her parents that make her wonder about the seriousness of their tone, and the half-understood sentences she is able to catch. Still, she does not delve too deeply on that, preferring to spend her time observing the animals that visit her pond: the weirdest encounter happens when she sees for the first time a group of peculiar dog analogues, creatures that seem possessed of a superior intelligence and that fire her curiosity and imagination, especially when they seem able to do the impossible.

I’m sorry I can’t be more specific, but to do so would be to spoil the whole story, particularly because at some point tragedy strikes and the dogs – the Strange Dogs – will prove pivotal in the upheaval of Cara’s life and the hard choices she will feel compelled to make.  Add to it all the fact that rogue Martian admiral Duarte is mentioned, and since he’s very likely the one who stole the protomolecule sample Fred Johnson was safekeeping, this detail lays a very uneasy feeling on the whole scenario, especially where the dogs and their peculiar abilities are concerned…

What I can safely share is how well-rounded Cara appears, despite the short length of the story, how she feels both very young and very mature at the same time, and how she is able to maintain a sort of… lucid innocence – for want of a better word – despite the harrowing events developing in her world.

There are so many narrative threads in this short story, and they are quite tantalizing because the authors just touch on each subject, moving swiftly to another one and so on, and that’s the reason I felt both intrigued and frustrated while reading the novella: my hope is that this might be a sample of what we will find in the next installments of the series, branching off in what promises to be a new and exciting direction, as it has done with every single book.  All the same, this was a very, very welcome “appetizer” while the wait for Persepolis Rising goes on…


My Rating: 

12 thoughts on “Review: STRANGE DOGS (an Expanse novella), by James S.A. Corey

  1. Ah yes, I saw this one the other day and was thinking of checking it out! I’m actually pleased to hear that it’s not about any major characters because I feel that a novella can better serve its main series by exploring other aspects and events happening in the same universe. That, and newcomers can jump easily into them, and hopefully they’ll be inspired to check out the novels. It really is the best space opera currently running right now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Filling the small nooks and crannies left over by the main narrative thread does help make the major story more detailed, more three-dimensional. It’s rare when a series manages to keep moving forward at full steam, by Abraham and Frank do that in what seems like an effortless way – and we happily reap the fruits of their labors… 😀


    1. Ah, do yourself a favor and start it as soon as you can! 🙂
      Granted, I do love my science fiction and it might not be the same for anyone else, but the story and the characters (and the intrigue!) are beautifully drawn. I hope you manage to find time for it soon!


  2. I need to start this series as well! And I’m so behind. One of these days… But good to know the authors are writing novellas set in the world, that’s always fun:-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What I liked most was that the elements found in the novellas were used in a major way to fill out the blanks in the tv series, giving it the same depth of a written work. As I told Lynn, I hope you find the time to read this series soon: it’s more than worth it! 🙂


  3. Wow, the best space opera series currently running? I mean, I knew people loved The Expanse universe, but that’s a bold claim. Looks like I might have to finally dust off my copy of Leviathan Wakes and see what all the fuss is about for myself!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Expanse is a very successful mix of space exploration and adventure, intrigue, politics, social commentary and observation of the human mind under extreme circumstances. And it does all that while being immensely entertaining.
      I’m certain you will love it 🙂


    1. The show is very well done: they managed to get all the important details on screen without losing the books’ depth and complexity. If you start on the tv show first, you will not be able to resist the books’ lure any longer 😉


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