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Variations: Who’s a good writer?

FORMER CNMI Assistant Attorney General Arin Greenwood’s third novel could be made into a movie.

“Your Robot Dog Will Die” is less than 200 pages, fast-paced and entertaining. Once you’re halfway through the book you can’t put it down. Arin knows how to reel in her readers. Her first novel, “Tropical Depression,” remains my favorite, but I like “Your Robot Dog Will Die” better than her second, “Save the Enemy,” which is a thrill ride.

Arin’s stories, in any case, are always well-structured: seemingly simple but sturdy and effective. Her prose never stands in the way of narrating a good tale.

“Your Robot Dog Will Die” is set in the mid-21st century. Dogs are endangered species. Scientists have tinkered with dog DNA to make dogs more useful to humans. Instead, dogs stopped wagging their tails. They became as vicious as wolves raised in the wild and too dangerous for humans. A law was enacted to disallow private citizens from owning or keeping dogs. The dogs were  collected in a massive sanctuary in Texas where they were euthanized. Do-gooders led by a high-profile immigration lawyer and an actor  opened a new sanctuary off the coast of Florida and called it Dog Island. Its inhabitants greet each other with “Dog be with you!” or “Shalom!”

“The Ruffuge” — a mini-Jurassic Park for six human-eating dogs — is located on the island which is also where robot dog replacements are  tested before being sold all over the world. Our heroine is 17-year-old Nano who, like her friend Wolf and Jack, was born on Dog Island. The story takes off when Nano saw a puppy that wags its tail.

Arin’s new novel is scary where it should be scary, and when it’s funny it’s a hoot and a half:

“Mom and Dad come back to the house. They must not know I’m here, because they are using flirty ‘we’re all alone and in love’ voices with each other.

“Dad to Mom: ‘Tell me the truth. Am I as handsome as Hot Bod [the actor]?’

“Mom to Dad: ‘Even better. Your hiney is Oscar-worthy.’ And so on. While I appreciate having two parents who are still in love, after lo these many years, I still pop out of their room to interrupt, before this conversation can proceed to a very woeful place.”

As a writer, Arin has a deft touch. Her main characters, especially the one who turned out to be the villain, are not cardboard representations. They all seem real even if all of them have a good heart. You will even sympathize with the “bad guy” whose “You can’t handle the truth!” speech toward the end of the novel is more believable because less theatrical than Jack Nicholson’s in “A Few Good Men.”  Arin’s villain also reminds me of the Reverend Jim Jones of Jonestown, but not yet insane.

There are deep and disturbing ideas about human nature bubbling on the largely smooth surface of “Your Robot Dog Will Die.” To point them out will spoil the ending, but let me just say that throughout human history, every ambitious attempt to solve humanity’s “problems” usually ends up in an attempt to efface our humanity. Those who seek utopia usually arrive at a “final solution.”

Some of the book’s early reviewers say they love Arin’s “quirky voice.”  Quirky? Well, Arundhati Roy sounds “quirky.” Dostoevsky, too. I’m not saying that Arin has already reached the literary stratosphere, but as a novelist, she continues to get better — if that’s even possible.

“Your Robot Dog Will Die,” like Arin’s two other novels, is available on amazon.com. Read them all.

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