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Lives of the Monster Dogs

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  2,251 ratings  ·  323 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
Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 1st 1998 by Warner Books (NY) (first published 1997)
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3.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,251 ratings  ·  323 reviews

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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
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.
Apr 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
David Yoon
May 29, 2017 rated it liked it
The Monster Dogs in question walk upright, speak through electronic voice boxes, possess prosthetic hands and dress in the fashions of 19th century Prussia - naturally. Incredibly smart they are also fabulously wealthy and descend on New York in our near future after spending a century hiding out in the wilds of Northern Canada. They leave this town called Rankstadt after murdering their former masters, along with every man, women and child and burning the city to the ground - which we find out ...more
Jason Pettus
Aug 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
(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
Nov 28, 2007 rated it liked it
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
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
A strange and sad allegory (both in the fairytale and biblical sense) that explores, usually tacitly, the blurred lines that define humanity. The imagery in this is striking, and the backstory sections and first 2/3rds are engaging. The ending is weighed down by being overstuffed with philosophy, so even while the last section is building towards a cataclysmic conclusion, it almost moves glacially for the last 20 pages. STILL, that’s not to say it was bad, because it was still very good. Deep ch ...more
Dec 17, 2009 rated it really liked it

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.

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
Jul 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda  Branham Greenwell
Jan 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
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
Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
An interesting conceit, an okay read, but overall pretty forgettable.

Ha! I've just noticed Jeffrey Keeten rates this at 5 stars!

Well, Jeffrey's a better reader than I am, so I'll nudge it up to 2 1/2. 8 )
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
I definitely went outside of my comfort zone when I decided to read this book, and I'm glad I did. While I am not a science fiction fan, The Lives of the Monster Dogs was so much more than sci-fi. In it, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein meets Edgar Allan Poe's "Masque of the Red Death" as Bakis tackles some philosophical issues of what it means to be human in a way that is quite fresh and original, and her writing is startlingly beautiful at times. When Burkhardt, one of the monster dogs, says of hum ...more
Sara Batkie
A captivating idea ("monster" dogs that walk upright and have surgically attached hands and voice boxes come to New York and nobody finds it weird) but the plotting is haphazard and the modern day portions don't end up going anywhere that interesting. Still it's well worth reading if the description intrigues you; Bakis has a steady, clear prose style that keeps the surrealism afloat even if it sometimes feels like she gave more energy to the concept than the execution. A shame that this appears ...more
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this book when it first came out and it's been one that has stuck with me over the decades (yikes! has it almost been 20 years?!)--and I periodically still check to see if Kirsten Bakis has written anything else, and it's a shame she hasn't. So it's been a very long time since I revisited this book and within a few pages the whole thing came flooding back to me. Even with its weaker parts, it's definitely an original and spellbinding story.

Mad scientist Augustus Rank teams up with Kaiser
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
Jun 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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
Feb 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, read-pre-12-07
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
Jan 16, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
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,
Jul 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
R. G. Nairam
What a weird, weird little book.
Nicholas Kaufmann
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
A charming, playful, imaginative novel, LIVES OF THE MONSTER DOGS is one I'll be recommending to friends for years to come. Bakis is a wonderful writer, and there's so much amazing creativity on display in these pages. (One chapter is written in the style of an opera libretto!) The monster dogs themselves are an incredible creation. With their top hats, tails, and gowns, mechanical voices and robotic hands, they are indelibly burnt into my memory.

One thing I found really interesting is the recur
This may end up being my favorite read of 2019. I was utterly captivated by this story, a story that I wish I had read while I was taking my Animals, Saints and Monsters in Medieval Lit class in grad school a few years ago; the story constantly makes you wonder, what makes a monster, a dog, a human? Are the "monster dogs" ultimately just dogs paying dress-up, as some of them seem to revert back to their dog-like ways? Are they monsters because humans imposed and forced their own humanity on them ...more
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5+ out of 5.

I just loved everything about this, from conception to execution. There's a whole goddamn opera libretto in here -- literally. It's that kind of book. And while it's an exceptional slice of the weird, it's also a marvelous look at human relationships to dogs, and vice versa.

Just marvelous. I'm so glad it got reissued and that it found its way into my hands.
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It fit together the fantastic and real with edges left jagged and made no apologies for it. I'll be thinking about it for a long time.
Jacqui Hencsie
Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
So this was a very weird, very interesting world that I very much enjoyed reading about. Walking talking dogs dressed as Prussian nobles emigrate from a secret village in Canada to NYC.
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful, strange book. My only complaint is that the ending felt abrupt.
Jun 22, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
“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.” 4 likes
“A dog has no money. A dog has no rights. A dog has no way to communicate his grievances. I am a dog. God help me.” 0 likes
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