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Fifteen Dogs

(Quincunx #2)

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  20,656 ratings  ·  2,591 reviews
" I wonder", said Hermes, "what it would be like if animals had human intelligence."
" I'll wager a year's servitude, answered Apollo, that animals – any animal you like – would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence."

And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a grou
Paperback, 171 pages
Published April 14th 2015 by Coach House Books (first published March 23rd 2015)
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Toprak Deniz Odabaşı I think that the hierarchy the author described for the "changed" pack was never meant to represent the actual pecking order of actual dogs. Atticus a…moreI think that the hierarchy the author described for the "changed" pack was never meant to represent the actual pecking order of actual dogs. Atticus and his followers want to return to their roots, to be real dogs again, but they weren't able to accomplish this. Their real nature was contaminated and therefore transformed with the human intelligence and consciousness resulting in an unwanted change in their pack hierarchy. Some dogs like having sexual intercourse with their own sex, friends, random dogs, toys, humans' legs etc, and it's normal. Whereas this actually is not an insulting behavior among dogs, it may be considered insulting and degrading among humans. Sexual violence has been used as a domination act by humans throughout history. So I believe the author's point is that after regaining human consciousness, the pack had started to need low dogs to exploit and dominate because it is something that the human communities need (it does not have to be sexual or violent of course, it's just that sexual exploitation and violence were the most suitable ways to express it here). You can see a clear indication of this when Benjy had returned to the pack and all of them had started to mount on him. Benjy suddenly realized that the behavior was then used as an insult, as a degrading act, but it wasn't this way before. The author is perfectly aware that this is not a natural order for a pack of dogs, he just uses the pack as a small model for humanity. Human societies want low humans who can be controlled and exploited, just like dog packs want low dogs. Of course, one can argue if human society is actually like this but I believe it's what the author suggests. (less)

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Woof woof wruf wuf.
Woof woof.
Wruf wuf.
Goddamn it. Fuck you, Apollo!
Woof wuf.

sobs uncontrollably

Translation to follow once I stop crying.

P.S. Wrrruuff woof Giller Prize wuf.
Jennifer (aka EM)
Edited: my first review was harsh. And although I stand by my overall evaluation, I don't really want to slam this little book, a Giller prize winner - and recognize that I am decidedly in the minority on it.


This book was disappointing. It failed for me in three main ways:

1) The authorial voice left me uninspired - I found it monotonous and entirely lacking in humour (for a book that seemed tailor-made to be chockablock with whimsy or dark comedy or both). I found tha
Glenn Sumi
Dec 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
A doggone clever and moving book

If animals were granted human intelligence, would they die happier or unhappier? That’s the intriguing question at the heart of André Alexis’s imaginative novel, the most recent winner of Canada’s prestigious Giller Prize.

The gods Apollo and Hermes, dressed like hipsters and drinking Sleemans, are considering this one night at a Toronto bar. Apollo says animals with human intelligence would die even more unhappily than they would otherwise; he’s willing to bet a y
Dec 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If George Orwell decided to write his allegorical Animal Farm in 2015 instead of 1945, he might have come up with something like Fifteen Dogs.

On second thought, scratch that. I don’t think anyone – not George Orwell, not Paul Auster with Timbuktu, not Jack London with Call of the Wild – could ever come up with something quite this sui generis although they’ve all done some darn good writing of their own.

Fifteen Dogs is, to put it quite simply, remarkable. The premise is quirky: Zeus’s two sons,
Matthew Quann
[4.5 Stars]

Second Book of Alexis' Quincunx


In 2000, the Baha Men famously asked, “Who let the dogs out?” Little did they know that it would be over a decade before Andre Alexis would answer that question in his Giller Prize-winning novel Fifteen Dogs.

Alright, alright, Fifteen Dogs has nothing to do with that significant piece of musical culture. The unique, heartfelt, and surprisingly philosophical Fifteen Dogs is a beautiful novel, through and
Not sure what to say about this book. It did impact me deeply, though probably not for the same reasons the author intended. This was a mostly dark and bleak look at humanity. To be honest, I found it quite upsetting.

The premise of the book (a bet between gods whether 15 dogs, gifted with human consciousness, would die happy) meant seeing each dog through to it’s death. I generally don’t like stories, whether they be books, tv shows or movies, that take us on the full journey to death. It nudges
Paul Lima
Nov 30, 2015 rated it did not like it
Okay, I'm half way through this book and I'am not sure how I lasted this long. The author obviously knows nothing about dogs. To settle a bet, two Greek gods give 15 dogs in a pound human attributes, including speech. And they pretty much all turn on each other; many die. Is this a commentary on human behavior using dogs? Whatever it is, it lacks any credibility--even with the willing suspension of disbelief. It is a poorly written book with a bunch of 'characters' who basically become assholes. ...more
Sep 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It felt like I was under a magical spell to read this novel about a pack of dogs who were granted the power of human speech and thought. The gods Apollo and Hermes made a bet on whether the fifteen dogs would end up their lifes as happy or miserable creatures. Having human thoughts and feelings proved to be mostly unfortunate, if not dangerous and bewildering for the dogs. Only a few dogs experienced friendships with humans and developed an appreciation of beauty. The majority of the dogs prefer ...more
Jul 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
My dog can't talk. I checked again this morning. His answer to pretty much everything I say is to play bow and growl at me.

Andre Alexis's book is about fifteen dogs who can suddenly talk - and reason like humans - and it seems tailor-made for college freshmen. Alexis gets an opportunity to blitz us through Philosophy 101 as they wrestle with their new sentience (the dogs, I mean, although watching freshmen wrestle with their new sentience is also entertaining). "One of the qualities his ideal do
Nov 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Strange that I don't want to write a review for this, because a review won't do it justice. If you're a dog lover, this book will wreck you, and I mean that in the best way possible. Astounding, heart breaking, and easily among the best books I've read this year. ...more
lark benobi
There is something immediately gripping about this novel. Its core conceit--that 15 dogs become suddenly human-like in their ability to reason and perceive their own mortality--was a very effective way to explore one of the oldest adages in philosophy: whether it's true that "the unexamined life is not worth living." The story is beautifully told. It gave me new spaces in my brain to think about some very old questions. ...more
Jessica Woodbury
This is that rare literary novel that has chops but also serious mainstream potential. The story of two gods who give a group of dogs human consciousness in a bet has a lot to say about thought and individuality and what it means to be a person and a dog. It also has a plot full of goodness and violence that keeps the reader turning pages. (I read it in 2 nights and wouldn't stop until I was finished on the second.)

The bet is whether dogs bestowed with consciousness can die happy, so of course t
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
An interesting novel, which has obviously caught the attention of a number of Calgarians. I had to wait a very long time to get it from our public library and when I returned it this morning there were 543 people waiting their turn. It reads quickly, despite the fact that it is jam packed with ideas.

If any of you have read Jo Walton’s The Just City, this book has a similar feel, with the Ancient Greek gods intervening in the lives of 15 dogs—giving them human consciousness and wagering on whethe
Paul Bryant
Dec 05, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
Hmmm, a whimsical wager by two Greek gods lounging around in a Toronto bar? Eugh. Fifteen random dogs given human intelligence to see if this will make them happier or not? Yeuchhh. So we’re not in Kansas anymore? Nope, we’re smack in the middle of Tweeville.

Alright, so when you get over those two hurdles, it then becomes sweet and quite compelling, but also confusing, irritating, incoherent and mawkish. If you want to shed tears over noble dogs leading lonely lives pining for their old owner to
Dec 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dec-16
After finishing this novel last night I watched the 30 minute long video of Andre Alexis being interviewed.
Being a self proclaimed depressive fit perfectly with the type of person I imagined this author to be.
There was not an ounce of happiness in this story. (Ok possibly the very end depending on how you look at it)
I am a dog lover! If 15 dogs are going to be released from a veterinary clinic most are going to be seeking love and affection.
What we were given was a lot of violence and death.
I am
Fifteen Dogs blew me away. This book equally gave me Animal Farm, and Lord of the Flies vibes, while remaining something that felt incredibly original. It’s not a story for the faint hearted; the lives of these fifteen dogs are brutal and harrowing in both human and animal ways. But Alexis is unwavering in his exploration of the weight of human consciousness. This novel asks big questions about the impact of this consciousness on our interpersonal relationships, our notions of happiness and unha ...more
The ending of Fifteen Dogs was a no win for author and readers alike; well, some of the readers lost, and I came down on the losing side.

The problem (if one can call it that) is built right into the premise. Apollo and Hermes make a bet (and this is no spoiler since it opens the book) that, having granted human intelligence to fifteen dogs in a Toronto vet hospital, not a single one of the fifteen dogs will die happy. Apollo is on the side of unhappiness; Hermes is on the side of happiness. One
Chihoe Ho
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Trust a pack of dogs to tell us more about what it is that makes us human! Fifteen Dogs started off as a simple story but became more insightful with every twist and turn.

I must admit, I initially resisted this novel due to my snobbery – think about it, a story about fifteen talking dogs sounds like it could go downhill pretty quickly, doesn't it? It was foolish of me to think so as André Alexis has deftly crafted an undeniably entertaining and thought-provoking plot. It's filled with keen obse
Andrea McDowell
Nov 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Oh my god. Prince and Majnoun. I am heartbroken.

I can't even describe to you how disordered and distracted I was while finishing this book.

So you've read the cover copy and you know that the premise is that Apollo and Hermes have a bet: if you give human consciousness and intelligence to fifteen dogs, will it be a curse or a blessing? Will any of them die happy, or will it make them as miserable as it makes us? And since the bet is only settled when all fifteen dogs have died--you are then trea
Apr 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: can-con, 2015
Apologue (ap·o·logue \ˈa-pə-ˌlog, -ˌläg)
— noun:
an allegorical narrative usually intended to convey a moral

Two Greek gods walk into a Toronto bar...and after downing a few Sleemans and riffing on the farce that is human language, Hermes and Apollo decide on a wager: They will grant human intelligence to a random group of animals, and if even one of them is happy at the moment of death, Apollo would owe his brother a year's servitude. Passing by a veterinary clinic, they bestow the “gift” to fif
I wasn't expecting to be so blown away by this. It easily could have been terrible. I'm not usually a fan of novels told from a dog's perspective, which are usually overly sentimental and also require the reader to suspend disbelief at the "dog's" very undoglike thoughts. Alexis dealt with this problem thanks to the novel's imaginative and highly original premise; the Greek gods Apollo and Hermes have a bet over what will happen if you give human consciousness and intelligence to fifteen dogs. T ...more
Earthy, and at times lyrical, this story of a bet between Apollo and Hermes plays out in the minds and actions of several dogs in Toronto. The two gods wonder, if granted human intelligence and language, would dogs lead unhappier lives than humans. The gods then bestow said gifts upon fifteen dogs in a clinic. The results of the gods' actions play out for years, with the dogs experiencing confusion, anger, fear, sadness, and in rare cases, some happiness.
The dogs struggle to understand their wid
Primrose Jess
Jan 03, 2017 rated it did not like it
I did not like this book, I thought carefully if I could give it a "it was ok" star ranking and I really couldn't. There was nothing I liked about it. I was left with the conclusion that the author was trying to convey major themes about humanity and the nature of humanity. He did. Yet I didn't find the reading the raw, unlikeable characteristics of humanity forced into the noble, pure nature of a dog. I'm a dog lover. There are many reasons I love dogs and their pureness of spirit is something ...more
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a remarkable, imaginative, thought-provoking book which examines just what sets humans apart from other animals.

Apollo and Hermes are sitting in a bar in Toronto (How's that for a start?). Shortly, the discussion turns to the nature of humanity and a bet is made regarding whether human intelligence leads to more or less "happiness". Being gods, the two find fifteen dogs kenneled in a vet clinic nearby and instill each with the intelligence of human beings. Will their new lives end in g
Aug 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: doglovers, or any-kind-of-animal-lover
What was he, really? Where did he fit in the world? Was he waiting for Nira because it was in his nature to wait, or was his dedication unique and noble? Most days, he felt only that waiting was right. Every once in a while, however, he imagined waiting was only the expression of an instinct, something he had to do. This thought, whenever it occurred, saddened him, mere instinct being unworthy of Nira, who was not his master but, rather, a being who completed him, made him more than he w
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Oh wow, dogs! A light-hearted story about man's best friend, right?
Well, no.

It all begins with a wager. The Greek gods Hermes and Apollo take human form and are hanging out in a bar in Toronto.
“‘I wonder,’ said Hermes, ‘what it would be like if animals had human intelligence.’ . . . ‘I’ll wager a year’s servitude,’ said Apollo, ‘that animals — any animal you choose — would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they had human intelligence.’”
Fifteen dogs at a nearby kennel are the focus of th
Book Riot Community
This book is both a dog lover’s dream come true- and their worst nightmare. Apollo and Hermes are hanging out and decide to have a bet on whether granting a group of dogs human intelligence would make them happy. Eventually the gods and the fates and pretty much everyone gets entangled in this story. But at its heart are the titular fifteen dogs. Poetic Prince, soulful Majnoun, gruff Atticus, and many more. It’s one of those books that manages to make grand statements about the human condition b ...more
Sep 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
André Alexis’s Fifteen Dogs has been longlisted for this year’s Giller Prize. It’s by far the oddest, and possibly most absurd, book I’ve read in a long while. Indeed, to say I didn’t much like it might be an understatement.

Under normal circumstances, I’m sure I would have abandoned this strange and unusual novella. But as some of you will no doubt know, every year since 2011 I have taken part in the Shadow Giller — chaired by KevinfromCanada — in which a group of us read and review all the boo
FIFTEEN DOGS by Andre Alexis is only 171 pages long, and is cleverly written with stories within stories. You can quickly read this simple story about fifteen dogs and miss the deeper philosophical and metaphysical aspects.
I appreciated being able to flip to the front of the book and refresh my memory on who was Max, Majnoun, Benjy, or Lydia. There was no problem remembering which dog was Atticus.
There were a few gritty sections that I found difficult to read, but the desire to find out what is
Oct 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book destroyed me in the best way possible. Read it, then hug your dog.
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Play Book Tag: Fifteen Dogs - André Alexis - 5* 6 38 Oct 29, 2020 05:16PM  
Play Book Tag: [pb][flurries]Fifteen Dogs, by Andre Alexis, 3.5 stars 2 8 Oct 25, 2020 12:37PM  
Play Book Tag: (Poll Ballot Tally) Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis - 4 stars 5 16 Oct 22, 2020 01:38PM  
Play Book Tag: [Poll Ballot] Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis 4 stars 8 12 Jul 31, 2020 07:40AM  
What's the Name o...: SOLVED. From the perspective of Dogs. [s] 7 700 Apr 22, 2020 10:43AM  
fifteen dogs book report 2 26 Oct 01, 2019 06:12PM  
Fifteen Dogs 1 8 May 17, 2018 01:41PM  

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André Alexis was born in Trinidad and grew up in Canada. His most recent novel, Fifteen Dogs, won the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. His debut novel, Childhood, won the Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Trillium Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. His other books include Pastoral (nominated for t ...more

Other books in the series

Quincunx (5 books)
  • Pastoral (Quincunx, #1)
  • Ring (Quincunx, #3)
  • The Hidden Keys (Quincunx, #4)
  • Days by Moonlight (Quincunx, #5)

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