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Lives of the Monster Dogs

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  1,428 ratings  ·  199 reviews
Here is a first novel like no other: a spellbinding tale that both creates its own fully realized world perspective and provides an incisive look at the ways that humans and animals resemble each other. A group of elegant monster dogs in top hats, tails, and bustle skirts become instant celebrities when they come to New York in 2008. Refugees from a town whose residents ha ...more
Hardcover, 291 pages
Published February 1st 1997 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published 1997)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,616)
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Jess ❈Harbinger of Blood-Soaked Rainbows❈
This may very well be the hardest review I've ever had to write. Maybe that's why I've put off writing it for so long. I read the book two months ago and find myself still thinking about it.

I decided to revisit this one because it reminded me so much of this historical gothic tale I just read and I wanted to compare it to my thoughts of this one.

I really liked this book, but I'm not quite sure why. The plot is confusing and disturbing, but at the same time magical and captivating. This book coul
Feb 06, 2011 Mariel rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: dog lovers
Recommended to Mariel by: random search (russian dog's head book searching)
The journalist Cleo was the least interesting part of Lives of the Monster Dogs (great title), for me. She goes on and on about "getting" them, how sad their plight is and yet how tragic it is that it is going to end. Okay, it's not the birth of rock and roll out of slaves forced to the usa, or classic Hollywood benefiting from geniuses forced out by the Nazis. They had dress up parties in a big mansion and she gets to come for the one last time party like the kids in Charlie and the Chocolate F ...more
Quite magnificent. 150 dogs arrive in NYC with prosthetic hands, voice boxes and high intelligence. It's about them struggling with cultural difference, their history in 19th century Germany and the Canadian north, and the meaning of their existence. It's beautifully written, thoroughly touching, and embodies something fundamental for me about what makes New York so important.
I like the idea of this book, but I am very confused by several of the author's decisions in writing it. It seems as if the novel takes place in (almost) present day, in a world exactly like our own except that the Monster Dogs exist. And then for some inexplicable reason, the main character Cleo owns a laser pistol. The single idea of that laser pistol seems more absurd than the Monster Dogs themselves and that small detail just keeps on bothering me. As for the rest of the book, I find Cleo ve ...more

A few months ago I read Carmen Dog by Carol Emshwiller, and obviously I was reminded of this -- since both are New York novels featuring intelligent talking canines -- when I picked up Bakis's book. In reality, the two are quite different creations: Emshwiller's is a feminist surrealist satire while Bakis, a significantly more disciplined writer, has produced a very moving book that, while not without its own satirical and surrealist moments, approaches its subject matter almost reverentially.

Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

One of the sincerely biggest pleasures for me of being a book critic is to hear from the authors of the books I review, letting me know of the various ways they feel I got my analyses of their manuscripts right (and, not); so you can imagine my delighted surprise, then, when hearing out of t
Aug 03, 2008 Nancy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: daisy
I picked this up in a junk shop for $4, and it was a complete surprise for me in every way. I enjoyed much more than I would have guessed from the jacket blurb. It requires total, unwavering suspension of disbelief, but the story is fascinating. A race of genetically and mechanically altered dogs with hands and voice boxes and very high intelligence flee a bizarre, violent, hidden past and move to New York City. A young human female becomes involved in their lives and tells their story.
Laura Morrigan
Lives of the Monster Dogs is a book that truly explores the nature of what it is to be human, which may sound strange when I tell you that it is a story about dogs. When told a short version of the plot, people sometimes laugh, but I have to tell you that it is one of the most beautiful, melancholy books that I have ever read.

The book follows the life of character Cleo Pira, a young reporter who one night meets one of the 'monster dogs' and becomes involved in their strange lives. The Monster do
Linda  Branham Greenwell
This book is the intriguing story of an artificially created race of super-intelligent, slow-maturing dogs with prosthetic hands and voice boxes who descend upon a bemused New York City in the early 21st century. Created by the disciples and descendents of a disturbed and driven 19th century Prussian scientist, the dogs revolt against their human masters in 1999, leave their Canadian wilderness encampment and eventually arrive in the Big Apple. As a group, the dogs are both recluses and publicit ...more
If you're squeamish about animal cruelty, the story of Augustus Rank's childhood at the beginning of this novel is a tough read. Yet, based on other things I've read about the childhood behavior of some types of murderers, it is certainly not out of line.

And, of course, who are the real monsters here? A human plays God, attempts to create a being to serve his own monstrous desires--always an echo, a mirroring of the many and universal creation stories, complete with growing self-knowledge, rebel
Leant to me by a student. Hmm.

So, this lady really has a way with words. And she has quite the imagination. But her ability to develop the relationships between her characters is sorely lacking. Bakis has fabulous descriptive skills, but she doesn't use any of them to describe the way the relationships between her characters grow. One chapter, the main character gets superficially introduced to people, and then there are a few pages glancing over how she had repeated meetings with these people,
This is a curious and haunting novel. In the year 2010, the Monster Dogs, man-size dogs with prosthetic hands and voiceboxes, arrive in New York City. They are genteel and wealthy, and they are quickly welcomed into polite society, but their origins remain shrouded in mystery. One woman, a young journalism student, is given unique access to the Monster Dogs and begins to piece together their story, even as she is drawn deeper and deeper into their world.

As one of the Monster Dogs notes, "It is a
Intelligent dogs create by a human scientist living in a concealed fortress in Canada reveal themselves to the modern world and then deal with the outcome in this philosophical yet whimsical book.

I enjoyed it book a lot; I'd class it as magic realism in the style of Marquez. It's not quite science fiction, because the premise is unbelievable -- the dogs are completely humanlike save for their heads, and though the explanation is they have artificial voiceboxes that allow them to speak and attach
Bark's Book Nonsense
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 was unable to connect to any one character or know any of them on an intimate level. I do wi ...more
Definitely one of the weirder books I have ever read; like a cross between Frankenstein, The Island of Dr. Moreau and Flowers for Algernon, but with dogs. The book was published in 1997 and takes place only about a decade in to the future when a pack of “Monster Dogs” descend upon New York City. The Monster Dogs haven’t arrived to attack or take over, however. They are just looking for some real estate and maybe a good tailor since their clothing taste runs toward the 19th century. Seems they we ...more
This book has a fascinating premise but overall I felt that it fell short of what it could have been.

What I liked: The writing is lovely, with some passages that are genuinely poetic -- Ludwig's letter with its "net of gold and net of blood" for example, or Chloe's descriptions of Neuhundstein Castle. As always, I love the use of letters, journals, news articles to tell parts of the story; it's reminiscent of Dracula. The descriptions of Rank's childhood forays into "surgery" (or is it animal to
An interesting conceit, an okay read, but overall pretty forgettable.
I just finished reading Kirsten Bakis' Lives of the Monster Dogs. How's that for a title? This is a book about monster dogs, people. Specifically, it's about a race of hyper-intelligent dogs equipped with voice boxes and surgically attached mechanical hands who walk on their hind legs into present-day Manhattan. Oh, and did I mention that they're fabulously wealthy and dressed in 19th century Prussian fashions? Really. And it actually works as a modern Gothic novel that echoes themes from Mary S ...more
This book had been on my wish list for so long that it's probably a bigger disappointment to me than it would have been if I'd just picked it up without knowing anything about it other than its intriguing title.

The plot, a synopsis of which was what interested me originally in this book, involves a group of artificially enhanced, intelligent dogs of mysterious origins who have moved to the New York City of the near future. A graduate student, Cleo, is one of the few humans admitted into their so
believe I heard about this on NPR, and it was also a recommendation from internet friends; I've had it on my to-read list for some time & finally checked it out of the library last week.

What a beautifully sad book. Cleo, a twenty-something New Yorker, documents the arrival of the monster dogs and their (brief) effect on the city. Interspersed with her story is the history of the creator of the monster dogs, Augustus Rank, as compiled by one of his creations, Ludwig. The "monster dogs” are
Oooo-kay. It's been a while since I've read this one, but I saw it on a used book display the other day and couldn't believe my eyes. I had picked it up in my college library years ago, where I was looking for excuses to procrastinate.

The story goes like this: Mad Scientist plays God and creates a race of super intelligent, upright-walking dogs. Mad Scientist abandons experiment in an hidden mountain town. Dogs develop and evolve, build communities and traditions, and speak fondly of the day whe
I was actually somewhat surprised by this novel. It is a debut novel, and to be fair there is something choppy about the ending of the novel.

It is a thought provoking novel, however.

Bakis tells the story of 150 monster dogs, dogs that were created to be soliders, with increased intelligence, and human hands. Part history, part Frankenstein, Bakis raises interesting questions about what means to be human. Clothing, thinking, belief, religion, or something else.

The novel is a tragedy, and reveals
Scott Bisig
A really unique, thought-provoking book that never seemed to make the impact it deserved. An under-the-radar lost classic.
Nov 25, 2007 Erin rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who are into walking, talking, aristocratic dogs
I was really into this book...up until I got to about the last 50 pages. I was totally drawn into the characters, the history of the monster dogs and their creator, the relationship that Cleo had with the dogs. And then...nothing. It was just...meh. I felt pretty let down. I read in other reviews that the author intended to leave the ends completely loose at the end, and she certainly did that. But I needed a bit more. So, I have to say, I was let down by the ending, but I found much of the book ...more
I was drawn in by the title and promised something strange, and it certainly delivered.

For those who, like me, read the blurb and immediately zeroed in on wondering exactly what the monster dogs are: They are not a species. They were all surgically altered from puppyhood on to produce human intelligence, install mechanical voice boxes, allow them to walk upright (with help of a cane), and to attach prosthetic hands (hidden by gloves) to their front legs. This means that, with their creators gone
Sci-fi isn't usually my genre of choice, but something about the cover and description spoke to me. This book, written in 1997, is primarily set late in the first decade of the 21st century after a group of dogs, engineered by a German scientist to take on human tendencies, rebelled against their humans and left the community he founded in western Canada, winding up in New York City, where they felt the population was diverse enough to accept 'monster dogs'. The scientist, Augustus Rank, used hi ...more
Alys Lovell
Found this book at a Goodwill and, personally, I feel it was a great buy.

A population of "dogs" come to New York City from a secret city in Canada's wilderness. They are actual canines who have been altered to stand on their hindlegs, speak with voice boxes, use prosthetic hands and deal with the consequences of increased intellect and sentience. They accumulate wealth, fame and renown upon their introduction to modern society. One dog, Ludwig von Sacher, befriends Cleo Pira, a student journali
Austen to Zafón
Fascinating idea: A mad scientist creates a race of dogs to use as war dogs, giving them voice boxes, prosthetic hands, human intelligence, and the ability to stand on their hind legs. Nothing could go wrong here, right? So eventually the dogs escape, come to a sort of modern-day New York, still dressing in Napoleon-era clothing, and try to fit in. This outrageous scenario could have been used effectively to explore so many ideas about racial intolerance, control, war, inheritance, societal norm ...more
Julia Brumfield
I did it, I absolutely did it, I read this book! It is amazing how some books you can read without a problem and then you come across a book that just wants to make you throw it, which is this book. When I was in high school I came across this book I was captivated by the picture and the story sounded awesome but after a paragraph I just couldn't finish it. I tried one more time and got as far as a page before I gave up on it yet again. And now I am done....

The book is one that definitely hold
Chris Laskey
Well my first edit didn't take - so I'll try again. This is the second read of this work - read it back in the 90's when it first came out. It has remained in my library because, while not a great work, its oddness and melancholy make it such a strange and quirky novel. There are so many things that are "wrong" - the female narrator is nearly characterless - Cleo certainly appears incapable of explaining or expressing her feelings. The dogs, while imbued with different traits, very rarely expres ...more
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Kirsten Bakis (born 1967 in Switzerland) is an American novelist. Bakis was raised in Westchester County, New York, and graduated from New York University in 1990. She is a recipient of a Teaching/Writing Fellowship from the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop, a grant from the Michener/Copernicus Society of America.

She has taught at Hampshire College and was a writer-in-residence at Skidmore Col
More about Kirsten Bakis...
The Craft: Essays on Writing from the Yale Writers' Conference Faculty

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“There was something in her black eyes that was as insubstantial as light but at the same time slower and darker than water, slower than anything I had ever seen. It reminded me of one of those moments of sadness that sometimes come when you're waiting for an inconsequential thing, like an elevator or a stop on the subway, and feel a pause that is so still that it seals itself up around you, lifts away from the stream of time, and hangs suspended there. I felt drawn toward her, the way molecules in motion are drawn toward empty spaces.” 1 likes
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