Seeking reasons behind the extinction of humankind some 7,000 years before, a team of humanoid dogs uncovers an impending invasion of crystalline aliens and a traitor at the heart of their society.
Woodward’s debut novel is based on the entertaining premise that, after the extinction of humans at the hands of an alien race called crystallen, dogs developed superintelligence and opposable thumbs. This race, which calls itself Canidae, is divided into numerous tribes and recently united as the Unified Canidae Society. Azure is the 19-year-old son of the Chancellor of UCS, and as the story opens, he undergoes a rite of passage that will pinpoint his calling in life. To his surprise, he is revealed as a potential leader, despite his lack of interest in politics. To gain further insight into his path, Azure volunteers to join an expedition investigating the cause of human extinction. Their expedition uncovers journal entries and other documentation of Dr. Zennith, the last human, while they simultaneously encounter the resurgent crystallen. Woodward has developed a strong plot that, unlike many first installments of what is clearly intended as a series, resolves satisfyingly within the volume. The idea of dogs as the dominant species on Earth has great potential, both serious and humorous; however, that potential remains unfulfilled. The Canidae seem to be little more than furry humans with doggy faces (effectively portrayed in DiLeva’s chapter-head illustrations). Canidae families are called “packs,” but they evince little packlike behavior; Vence, who serves as a guide dog—a joke still waiting to be made—has a better sense of smell than the others, but there is otherwise little exploration of how the canine experience of the world differs from humans. And one can’t help thinking that the preservation of human structures and paper documents for 7,000 years would be slightly less unbelievable if that time were in dog years. Either way, the writing is often repetitive and clunky: “ ‘Let’s go to the ruins.’ Azure, Kael, Yasu and Vence all left the tent and began heading toward the ruins.”
A promising beginning for a new writer, but to make the most of his talents, Woodward needs to work on developing an ear for language and worldbuilding.