“Dog 51”, by Laurent Gaudé: Not so obedient to the doggie of the future

Laurent Gaude transforms everything he touches into golden literature and dystopia cannot escape his alchemy. With Dog 51his new novel, he goes beyond the SF genre, tackling the social, migratory, economic and ecological crises of the time without falling into caricature pamphleteering.


What disease is dystopia? It is a pathological pessimism that marks the worst to aspire to the best. Our oracles have no morals and expect trouble. Dog 51, it’s Zem Spark, a Greek cop who’s not in his best shape. His country is bankrupt. Yes again. Greece’s debt is old, but this time accusing Europe of its own trouble and asking citizens to pay their taxes isn’t enough. The weather didn’t help. With acid rains and the heat of Sunday rotisseries with a day hotter than Scortas, the tourist has little desire to go dancing in Sirtaki in Mykonos with his open linen shirt, a glass of ouzo in his hand. Goldtex, a greedy multinational, wild as an Amazon, bought the country, privatizing Greeks, including boys and girls. We should no longer talk about citizens but about Ciliaries.

Zem Sparak, in his student and rebellious youth, tried to resist but a bloody repression destroyed the protest movement. Since then, the population is distributed in 3 zones in a megalopolis called Magnapole.
In the first zone, a privileged and dominant class, in the second, the working and consuming middle class, and in the third, it is the remake of New York 1999 on John Carpenter with his band of poor people and his violence. Zem Sparak presides over this no man’s land. A lottery allows some lucky people to win the right to change zones. This is called nurturing despair. The checkpoints between each zone are tighter than the borders with North Korea. It is not the custom to look for bottles of Pastis and cigarette cartridges at the exit of Andorra.
The discovery of a mutilated body disrupts the balance of forces and Dog 51 must collaborate with an ambitious inspector from zone 2, completely integrated into this privatized company.
The author projects us in a not too distant future and a priori, peeing in the shower, banning barbecues and lowering the temperature of the jacuzzi by one degree is therefore not enough to save the planet.

If the novel takes the recipes of the tired hero, who returned from everything without going anywhere, the story of Laurent Gaude beyond the genre and I let myself be completely absorbed in this SF thriller that deals with the social, migratory, economic and ecological crises of the time without falling into the caricatural pamphlet. The scheme is a success, some ideas are original like day of love or the climate dome and its unpredictable consequences. This next-day vacation does not cross the more fluid style of Goncourisé. An American author could have done 300 pages more, but Laurent Gaude know how to get to the point.
For such a crush, it’s hard to find and complain but if I look for a small animal, I can say that the character of the girl lacks the lungs compared to Zem Sparak and the author is too little impasse. of potential technological developments and their consequences. I didn’t expect a remake of star trek or lightsaber fights, but it’s hard to imagine such a situation in this matter.
In this period of literature, so far, I have not found anything better, but I do not know what the future holds for me.

Olivier de Bouty

Dog 51
A novel by Laurent Gaudé
Publisher: Actes Sud
292 pages – 22 euros
Publication: August 2022

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *