A dystopic Gulfport where dogs are robots and cruelty is kindness: Your Robot Dog Will Die

Arin Greenwood's new book makes Gulfport a dog paradise and challenges our notions about how far is too far.

Your Robot Dog Will Die

Arin Greenwood

Apr. 17, 2018

$18.99; $10.99 digital.

Pre-order here.

click to enlarge Arin Greenwood's Your Robot Dog Will Die, out April 2018 - Ashley Poston
Ashley Poston
Arin Greenwood's Your Robot Dog Will Die, out April 2018

Arin Greenwood moved to Gulfport, Florida in 2015, where she fit right in because she's as passionate about dogs as everyone else in the just-over-two-square-mile town.

So when you read Your Robot Dog Will Die, don't be shocked to learn the setting — Dog Island — has taken over a two-square-mile-town separated from the mainland by sea level rise. In this fictional former town of Beachport, there's a Casino, across the street from which sits an abandoned restaurant — The Smiling Manatee — that has a balcony overlooking the water. Houses, splashed with color, have plastic flamingoes in the front yard; people, horrified by the idea of animals living in servitude to people, live by strict tenets of veganism. There's a dog sanctuary that has a small hill and kayaks nearby, and there are golf cars everywhere. If you've ever been to Gulfport, this may sound familiar. 

As a local, you'll delight in reading it for that reason (and a few other striking similarities) alone, but Your Robot Dog Will Die, intended as a dystopian sci-fi YA work, tacitly challenges our notions of kindness and our world view of bioethics.

Without spoilers, here's the nickel summary: Nano Miller lives on Dog Island after a genetic experiment on dogs caused them to globally turn on humans (yeah, you have to read the book to really get how that happened) and an unprecedented drought has created a world where instead of drinking water you — yep, you guessed it — drink recycled urine. Miller, her family and a small community of other humans are the lucky ones who get to live with the last remaining six dogs on earth. But as the story progresses, it becomes clear that the Dog Islanders have taken the idea of no Organic (non-robot creatures) suffering further than our society does today. 

But have they really taken it further, or have they merely allowed our "kind" actions today to evolve organically? The book opens with Nano surrendering her robot dog for the latest model — because it's cruel to keep an Organic dog for one's own needs, because Organics turned on humans due to scientific manipulation, because Organics are all but extinct — then cuts to Nano, Wolf and Jack  — the only remaining kids on Dog Island — on the beach. Other than the robot dogs, it seems like a typical YA novel, but things quickly turn and what follows calls into question the kindness of so-called ethical treatment of animals. 

And that question ratchets the story back from the dystopian Gulfport to present-day America, where we do all sorts of things in the name of kindness — PETA's shelters that euthanize perfectly healthy homeless pets, for example, because it's "kinder"; "saving" a dolphin with no tail and making it perform in an old water treatment facility; putting primates in cages to give them a "better" life — these things happen every day. And Greenwood's work warns us, it seems, that we're traveling a dangerous, uncompromising road. 

Read an excerpt from Your Robot Dog Will Die.

The way she weaves this delightfully heartbreaking, comically sobering dystopian story sets her work apart from most dystopian YA; her sensibilities — she's an animal welfare journalist for many outlets, including this publication — allow her to balance, for example, the horrors of factory farming with the horrors of taking the "give all animals a life with no pain ever" to a horrific resolution. 

After reading the book — hell, while reading the book — I found myself questioning my level of animal protein consumption. Your Robot Dog Will Die made me question my food choices.

click to enlarge Arin Greenwood with her non-robotic dog, Murray, In St. Pete. - Leigh Clifton
Leigh Clifton
Arin Greenwood with her non-robotic dog, Murray, In St. Pete.

Unlike some vegans who adopt a sanctimonious approach to converting (hold onto your hate mail, I said some, y'all), Greenwood — who is a vegetarian — shows, in the most empathetic way possible, the reasons it's probably a bad idea to eat animal products. She does what few can: Without proselytizing, she lets you feel the horrors not of an animal dying in a factory farm, but living in one, being born in one, existing only as a food source. I did not expect to read this book and immediately transform to veganism, but I also didn't read this book and feel compelled not to eat meat I hadn't hunted and killed myself. 

Neither is the correct answer, for me, I suspect. But, like the book's message, I suspect the true key to kindess isn't all-or-nothing either way.

It's balance. 

About The Author

Cathy Salustri

Cathy's portfolio includes pieces for Visit Florida, USA Today and regional and local press. In 2016, UPF published Backroads of Paradise, her travel narrative about retracing the WPA-era Florida driving tours that was featured in The New York Times. Cathy speaks about Florida history for the Osher Lifelong Learning...
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