Blurb: From the mind that brought you Science for Heretics, comes a darkly comic thriller.
When Khafre, the mighty Egyptian God-King, died four and a half thousand years ago, he expected an eternity in paradise. Instead, he found himself in modern-day Cairo, trapped inside the lowliest of creatures, a police dog who earns its living by sniffing out bombs.
Yet, nightly, vivid dreams taunt him, conjuring up a brilliant life of wealth and power. As his past life reveals itself, he discovers himself to have been a man willing to pursue heresies, break sacred boundaries and even murder for the woman he loves. But nothing in these memories explains why the gods have chosen to punish him so severely.
Enduring endless humiliations in a new life he doesn’t understand, and unable to communicate his predicament, he finds himself suddenly thrust into a plot to kill millions of people. Helpless and alone, he must fight to save Egypt and his own soul.
Khafre was a king in Ancient Egypt, and now he finds himself a police sniffer dog in modern Egypt. What went wrong?
Barrie Condon’s book takes us deep into Ancient Egypt, via a dog’s dreams of being a king, and provides fascinating insight into the culture: rituals and religion, medicine and food, procreation and punishments. We also get to see modern Egypt from an utterly unique perspective – ancient and canine – which is a new twist on the whole ‘stranger in a familiar land’ trope.
The main character is Cheops, the dog… or rather, Khafre in the body of a dog his handlers have named Cheops. He is introduced as an immediately unpleasant character, as we see him mocking and desecrating the dead in his past life, but it didn’t take long for his insatiable curiosity – in both lives – to win me over. His desire to know all about everything, especially anything forbidden, humanises him and we come to realise that his cruelty is a by-product of his upbringing and cultural beliefs (so different from modern values!) rather than an inherent part of his well-concealed softer nature.
The first half of the story deals mainly with the struggles of a proud man trapped in a canine body – the smells, the subjugation to his handlers, rotten food, defecation and female dogs – and I admired how he managed to adjust and survive to his new situation. Meanwhile, his dream flashbacks fill the reader in on his previous existence, some of the main players – his father, Khufu; the High Lord, Neferhotep; the Royal Physician, Peseshet. At this point, the plot seems to have no real direction, but the depth of the characters and settings carry the reader onward.
In the second half of the book, both timelines suddenly gain focus. In the past, Khafre begins to suspect treachery and reacts with his standard intemperate hastiness (and you know what they say about acting in haste). Meanwhile, in his waking hours, Cheops begins to suspect that there is a terrorist plot afoot which his handlers – embroiled in their own domestic struggles – are oblivious to. And the convergence of the two plotlines is the answer to the mystery of how Khafre ended up as Cheops, and whether there is anything he can do about it.
You can expect lots of dark humour and coarse language within these pages, as the dog narrator doesn’t shy away from all the gory details of bodily functions, viscera and violence. To be fair, the king narrator also has a pragmatic approach to such things! Still, those with sensitive stomachs might want to steer clear of this one on that basis. Which would be a shame, as they’d be missing out on a great story!
I was utterly immersed in Khafre/Cheops story of betrayal, wanton cruelty and attempted redemption and would recommend it to anyone interested in Egyptian history and culture, or looking for a gripping, gritty read.
I’d better apologise right now for the quality of my memories. My past life comes back to me only in fractured, though strangely detailed, doggy dreams. I have a vague overall sense of my past but the dreams that colour this in, that provide substance and texture, arrive only at the whim of Seth, the god who revels in chaos and mischief. Nevertheless, over the years of this new life, a story has been slowly unfolding. I want to know more about it. But, given that I eventually wind up as a dog, I’m guessing it can’t have the happiest of endings.– Barrie Condon, The Tethered God
Barrie Condon has degrees in Physics, Oceanography and Nuclear Medicine. Now retired, he spent over thirty years as a Medical Physicist working for the UK’s National Health Service as a Consultant Scientist.
He also held an Honorary Professorship with the University of Glasgow, and at the peak of his career was responsible for the work of over 300 scientists and technologists. His own research work has mostly been on the neuroscience applications of medical imaging techniques, including MRI and Nuclear Medicine.
He is an author on over 80 full research publications in peer reviewed journals such as the Lancet and the British Medical Journal and on over 200 national and international conference presentations.
Don’t forget to check out the other blog stops on the tour for more great reviews and content (see the poster below for details)!