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Lives of the Monster Dogs [Hardcover]

Kirsten Bakis , Kathleen Bakis
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 1 1997
When a race of elegant, superintelligent dogs arrives in twenty-first-century New York, they become instant celebrities, but, unable to adjust to the modern world and confronted with an incurable disease, they construct a fantastic castle and barricade themselves inside. A first novel.

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Product Description

From Amazon

A postmodern Mary Shelley, taking the parable of Frankenstein's monster several giant steps farther, might have written this fable of a novel about a tragic race of monster dogs--in this case, genetically and biomechanically engineered dogs (of several major breeds). Created by a German mad scientist in the 19th century, the monster dogs possess human intelligence, speak human language, have prosthetic humanlike hands and walk upright on hind legs. The dogs' descendants arrive in New York City in the year 2008, still acting like Victorian-era aristocrats. Most important, the monster dogs suffer humanlike frailties and, ultimately, real suffering more serious and affecting than the subject matter might at first glance suggest.

From Publishers Weekly

Cosmopolitan Manhattan of 2008 embraces a new breed of immigrant in this weird, fanciful tale of surgically enhanced, talking, bionic canines out on the town as they search for their history and place in the world. Conceived by 19th-century Prussian mad scientist Augustus Rank as an army of superior, fiercely loyal dog soldiers, the monster Pinschers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Dobermans and other sturdy breeds became fully empowered only many years after his death. Rank's followers, secluded in a remote Canadian village, continued his work, ultimately developing a race of super-intelligent, longer-living dogs trained from birth to use surgically attached mechanical hands, speak fluent German via a mechanical voice box, walk erect and dress in the elegant human fashions of the 1880s. NYU student Cleo Pira develops friendships with a few of the dogs in New York and becomes their liaison to the human press, writing insider articles for Vanity Fair and other chic magazines. Cleo narrates the novel, incorporating excerpts from the papers of Ludwig Von Sacher, the dogs' historian. First-novelist Bakis holds the reader in thrall for much of her imaginative tale, but, disappointingly, the dogs never emerge as strong characters. Though the reader gains some understanding of Ludwig through his writing, Cleo's conversations with the dogs are uniformly abrupt and anti-climactic. Instead, Bakis offers more of a dream vision that, ultimately, might be all in Cleo's head. Fortunately, that vision is engaging in its own right and, through Bakis's storytelling skill, makes for an audacious, intriguing and ultimately haunting debut.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars What a disappointment! April 10 1998
OK, so I bought the hype too. And then I bought the book. What I got was one completely uneveloped idea, careless writing, and a vague narrative voice that boldly apologizes for absolutely sophomoric plot twists (if a book without a plot can be said to have plot twists, that is). Maybe dogs would enjoy this book. I sure didn't.
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4.0 out of 5 stars I NEED a sequel ;) April 1 2004
I'm a huge dog lover and found this story of walking, talking, intelligent dogs very interesting. There is a sad undertone to the whole story and an underlying thread of darkness , cruelty and the grotesque (the cow, the cow!). Very original and imaginative. The only small complaint I have, and it is because of the way the story is being told (in journal entries and by several different points of view) I'm unable to become connected to any one character or know any of them on an intimate level.
My only complaint? I do wish it hadn't ended with so many questions left unanswered.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Diamond in the Ruff Aug. 1 2003
It may be a cliche, but yes, this book has something for everyone. Rather than a tired old bestseller about one woman's struggle with weight gain (groan) or dealing with one's quirky New England (or Provence) neighbors, this plucky little debut novel offers more...much more.
The Germanic penchant for precision, discipline and the scientific method, blessing or curse? This story has an opinion. The "infinite monkeys" problem...if a single-minded community worked tirelessly for a century with only Victorian technology, could they produce altered life-forms? This book says probably...but there would be important differences, wouldn't there?
The "monster dogs" are thought by some readers to be metaphors, but maybe they reflect our anxieties and preparation for someday living among genetically engineered animals (and people). In a world full of transgenic organisms, talking dogs who walk upright and wear silk and velvet are not so far-fetched. Would dogs manipulated into human intelligence behave just like humans? Why not?
The pace of the book is quickened by multiple viewpoints, flashbacks and foreshadowing. The "mad scientist" diary entries are counterbalanced with the libretto of an opera written by the monster dogs, chronicling their liberation from the mad scientist's doomed enclave.
Similar to other classic science fiction from the 50's, this work will probably be more well-known in 50 years than it is now. Do yourself a favor and get in on the ground floor.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Ruff! March 25 2003
Lives of The Monster Dogs, is an interesting premise, and for the most part effective. The overwhelming and most effective feeling Bakis conveys is one of sadness. Sadness because a mad genius has bred a race of dogs with prosthetic limbs, mechanized voice boxes and a higher intelligence (for dogs) and the dogs are fiercely unhappy, for, they are more or less machines in an otherwise organic body, a body that is rapidly deteriorating and they know it. One of the places the story fails to hold me is within the dialogue. It isn't bad, but it isn't good either. And the further I read the less interesting the story is. The climax I just sort of skim. The sense of action is too minimal to keep me interested. Plus, Bakis isn't very successful in the complete personification of the dogs . After awhile I just can't take the story to heart. A good effort, but not a real memorable one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stuck with me after several years. Feb. 23 2003
I read this book on a recommendation around 3 years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I make no pretense that I am of book critic calibur, but I will say that I woke up this morning thinking deeply about the book. Impressed that it could affect me for so long, I decided to buy it as a birthday gift for a friend. Not the most brilliantly crafted prose, but sometimes you WANT to take a wild ride in a Jeep through the deep woods and high mountains. If you're looking for the tonic experience of a Cadillac, look elsewhere.
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This is one of the most original and deeply moving books I have read in a long time. It is neither "horror" nor "science fiction," though it plays off both those genres. Rather it is deeply felt, brilliantly imagined literary fiction. I will remember it all my life.
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1.0 out of 5 stars the work of an amateur Jan. 13 2003
By A Customer
I bought this book for the sake of the audacity of the concept. I (foolishly) thought that an idea this ridiculous must have something really exciting to redeem it in order to make it publishable, but simply stated, this is awful.
Our suspension of disbelief wears off under the burden of implausibility never mitigated by any skillful artifice of the author, and soon there is just no getting past the perfectly dreadful prose. I found myself editing nearly every sentence, trying to shape those leaden and so often misaligned words into something a little more bearable. The plot(?) is just as amateurish as the prose, and the denouement is worse. No real need to go on about this monstrosity; I hated nearly everything about this in the end, and I found myself incredulous and angry that it had even been published.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Unusual horror story Nov. 29 2002
The year is 2009, and Cleo Pira has an interesting job - as a free-lance journalist she is able to investigate unusual stories. She comes across a tale most bizare-if it is true-that the 150 self-proclaimed "monster dogs" who have appeared in N.Y.C. are not a hoax.
Cleo is invited to be their biographer and recount the history of their creation, through the efforts of mad Prussian scientist, Augustus Rank. The dogs have been surgically altered to walk upright, speak, use prosthetic limbs and have an intelligence similar to humans. Their own historian, Ludwig Von Sacher, has fallen prey to a malady that seems to be spreading throughout their colony-a type of insanity which has no cure. Ludwig comes to love Cleo, though his mental deterioration causes him to confuse her with Augustus Rank's mother, Maria, whose ghost seems to occasionally enter both of their lives.
The dogs reveal their emigration from Canada to America was precipitated by their destruction of the human scientists/masters who held them captive. The rebellion in "Rankstadt" (the city) occurred after Augustus Rank's death and was lead by a dog Mops Hacker, who had been ill-used. The beautiful Samoyed, Lydia, was the only dog who did not participate; instead, she killed Mops Hacker when the opportunity presented itself, despite the fact she loved him. Lydia is an interesting character, but throughout the book keeps her secrets from being revealed, which is frustrating.
The story is moved forward through three diaries; Cleo's, Ludwig's and the deceased Augustus Rank. Rank was the true monster, rather than the dogs. His diary is revolting as he recounts the horrible and twisted acts of vivisection he performed on numerous small animals- and the enjoyment he received from this.
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