Gaslight Dogs is a new novel by Canadian author Karin Lowachee. I picked up a copy of this paperback release while at Ad Astra this past year, but have only recently had a chance to read it. I had originally heard the book described to me as being part of the steampunk genre. However, I'm not sure that this novel fits my criteria for the genre. Very little focus is placed on the role of technology, steam powered or otherwise, in this novel. While one of the nations is more technologically advanced, the focus is more on the animist powers of a nation of the far north, and how this could be used for further colonial expansion.
Karin Lowachee has written a story which explores not just the concept of the other, but in how one can be an outsider in one's own homeland. The sense of self is explored by two of the main characters, and how they interact with each other. It really engages with the sense of self-identification. How does one identify oneself as a part of a group, or a particular heritage?
Being ripped away from her home and family, Sjennonirk is transported by a colonizing force to a distant city, echoing some of the feelings of loss experienced by the natives of North America. Gaslight Dogs is a story which echoes some of the unrest felt in native communities today, with a sense of endangered heritage.
The conclusion to the story is unsettling. At first, I didn't quite see how this ending made sense, as it wasn't anything near what I was expecting. Rather than detracting from the story, this ending instead reinforces the themes of otherness and resistance to colonialism woven throughout the text. It contains messages important to us today.