Lives of the Monster Dogs Hardcover – Feb 1 1997
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
More than anything I am reminded of Frankenstien - true, the Island of Dr. Moreau might be more pertinent, but the very earliest thoughts of the modern era about what it might mean to make artificial life are echoed here in bold. Will these creations of ours be better than us? More brutal? Kinder? Or will they be just like us; unwilling to let go of the chains of power, unwilling to ask for help and keeping secrets to the bitter end? Do we as humans even have the right to create new beings, or does it require the mind of an insane person to execute on this dream?
The book is ultimately very sad and sweet at the same time. It is very apparent that it is a first work - the author has a few problems expressing herself, but this is overtaken by her driven prose and obvious zeal for the story.
Wonderful, unforgetable characters. I'll never forget the historian.
Unfortunately, this book reads like a first novel. The author just doesn't have a sure hand at storytelling.
When you write a horror or fantasy-type book, you are allowed to ask the reader to suspend belief over one fantastic idea. From that point, though, everything has to be "true." The characters and plot have to develop in a realistic way from that far-out premise. That's where this one doesn't work.
The culture of Prussian "superdogs" is a great idea in the "Island of Dr. Moreau" tradition, but what happens following their arrival simply follows the cliches & just doesn't ring "true" from sentence to sentence. The characters are thin, and the plot copies -- rather than pays homage to -- all the old "B" movies.
Fun light reading, maybe, but that's it.
I do hope Bakis sticks with it, though. There's the kernel of a really good yarn in here, and she may yet develop into a first-class writer.
Most recent customer reviews
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 ,... Read morePublished on April 1 2004 by Barks Book Nonsense
In reference to an earlier poster (the first one who gave it 1 star)- this woman is a creative writing professor.... scary, huh?Published on Dec 7 2003
Formulaic and predictable. Dogs with voice boxes - new; the plot - genre fiction. The ending is easily predictable, as the book follows its path, or genre, from the first word to... Read morePublished on Oct. 30 2003 by Carey
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. Read morePublished on March 24 2003 by M. Pickering
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... Read morePublished on Feb. 23 2003 by Richard E. Pozzuto
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. Read morePublished on Feb. 19 2003 by Lee Packard
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... Read morePublished on Jan. 12 2003
Every single person who I have given or loaned this book to has finished it the same day they started it. It's like Frankenstein meets watership down. Read morePublished on Sept. 3 2002 by Susan R Murray
For a first novel, Kirsten Bakis proves to be an assured craftsman. This is especially true considering how original her concept is. Read morePublished on Oct. 17 2001 by D. C. Cannon