Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lives Of The Monster Dogs


While I was reading Mr Chartwell I was reminded of another novel about dogs with human characteristics, The Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis. This book was originally published in 1998. It was a strong seller for us in it's day. Sadly, it is currently out of print but it is very much worth the effort of finding a copy at the library or a used bookstore.

The Lives of the Monster Dogs is about a community of dogs who become celebrities when they arrive in NYC in 2008 dressed to the nines 19th century style. They were the brainchild of Augustus Rank a mad Prussian scientist. In the late 1800's Rank established a secret town in the wilds of Canada. His own evil Brigadoon. There he set to work creating his Monster Dogs. Rank's plan was to create an independent yet completely loyal dog-soldier. He used his surgery skills to give them human hands and voice boxes and breed them to be super-intelligent. After Rank died his work was refined and completed by his disciples. At some point the dogs turned against their creators and they made their way to NYC.

The media is enchanted by these up scale refugees. They are the new big thing. They are courted by high society. It makes no difference whether anyone believes in the dogs or sees them as a hoax they still fascinate the public. They are elegant and sophisticated but they have a hard time adjusting to this new, modern world. Once in New York City they construct an amazing castle for themselves and then barricade themselves inside.

The narrator of the story is a young woman named Cleo Pira. She is one of the few, human friends the dogs have in their new homeland. Cleo is lonely and sees her own isolation mirrored in the dogs. She becomes the dog's press agent and liaison between them and the world, but she cannot protect them.

The Lives of the Monster Dogs was an engaging, stimulating science fiction novel about humanity, loneliness and celebrity culture. There are a few flaws there. The characterization of the dogs isn't as well defined as you would like and occasionally the dialog is a bit flat. However, Bakis puts her own voice to the Frankenstein story in an intriguing and inventive way. She is a strong storyteller and when book number two shows up I'll be very excited.


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