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Lives of the Monster Dogs Paperback – April 1, 1998

3.6 out of 5 stars 123 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Warner Books ed edition (April 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446674168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446674164
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #789,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
On November 8, 2008, Cleo Pira, the principal narrator of Lives of the Monster Dogs, aimlessly wanders the streets of New York City. Depressed due to a breakup with her boyfriend, she barely notices the hubbub surrounding the arrival of a helicopter bearing Klaue Lutz, an ambassador for what amounts to a new species--150 genetically and surgically altered English-speaking canines who walk upright, a group subsequently labeled "the Monster Dogs" by the press.

The Monster Dogs are the brainchild of Augustus Rank, a Prussian scientist born in 1864. From an early age, Rank was fascinated by anatomy, performing surgery on a succession of increasingly larger animals. After a particularly heinous experiment on a cow at age 13, Rank, rather than being thrown in jail or an insane asylum, instead becomes the protégé of Dr. Buxtorf, a professor of surgery at the University of Basel. Rank flourishes in this academic atmosphere, eventually drawing the attention of the future Kaiser Wilhelm II, who enlists him in an effort to create an army of fierce, aggressive and loyal super soldiers.

Rank hits on the idea of creating canine commandos, and toils for the next fifteen years on the project without success. After a disagreement with Wilhelm, Rank flees to Canada. There, he founds Rankstadt, where, over the next seventy years, his followers strive to achieve his dream, finally succeeding in 1969. The villagers are proud of their achievement, little realizing they have created the means of their own destruction. Sick of their life of servitude, the Dogs rebel, slaying their human masters.

The Dogs travel to New York City, which in their minds has come to have an almost mystical significance.
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Format: Hardcover
Original and powerfully presented, Kirsten Bakis' "Lives of the Monster Dogs" is a compelling tale about 150 anthropomorphic canines -- aristocratic, charming, wealthy and plagued by their own madness and self-perceived hideousness -- descending upon the City of New York in the year 2008.

Written with agonizing attention to detail, the story transports you to the lavish flats of the Upper West Side and down to the stinking slums of Alphabet City. The exquisite 19th Century Prussian dress of the monster dogs can almost be seen on the Bull Terriers, Alaskan Malamutes, German Shepherds and other canines of Bakis' tale. The characters themselves are well rounded, with complex personalities which, though only outlined to the reader in some places, are given enough idiosyncrasies as are necessary to be understood and captured.

The format of the story takes the reader through several centuries, giving them a feel for times past and present, laying the foundation for not only the character's lives, but their backgrounds as well. All of these elements lead to exotic, otherwise unbelievable, "monsters" whose lives, spirits, minds and emotions thrive in a reader's imagination, keeping them turning the pages.

Those, such as myself, whose emotions are moved by the lives, and deaths, of the heroes and heroines of this book will find a wide range of hopes, and sadness, from chapter to chapter. Though not uplifting, "Lives of the Monster Dogs" is still intriguing and gives one food for thought as the dogs explore their reason for being and their conditional acceptance based on wealth.

Driven forward by a doomsday plot, the quirky, mad conclusion made this story a 9 instead of a 10.
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Format: Hardcover
The thing I love about Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is that he convinces me that he is not being whimsical, and that he is not making it up as he goes along. For me, "Lives of the Monster Dogs" has the same quality.
I found it convincing. The city of Rankstadt, the dogs' opera, the genuinely horrifying depiction of the young Augustus Rank--I think these will stick in my mind forever.
It does not surprise me at all that the book does not work for everybody. And, yes, I thought the ending was weak.
Still, I wish Cleo and Lydia the best. I hope that Ludwig will meet "I, Claudius" in some literary Valhalla; I believe they would like each other. And I will certainly look for the ruins of Neuhundstein the next time I find myself in New York City after 2011.
Is it just my imagination, or does something about the expression and bearing of the author, as shown on the back flap of the cover, resemble that of the monster dog on the front cover?
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Format: Hardcover
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 publicity hounds (pun intended), lovers of life yet driven by a sense of impending doom. They befriend and are befriended by a young female writer, and they change each others' lives. The work is filled with dazzling juxtapositions: the diary of a 19th century Prussian madman and of a 21st century journalist; the notes of a "monster dog" and the libretto of an opera about their history written by another dog. There are occasional lapses in style and pace, but they can scarcely mar this driven and impressive work.

I must admit that my personal interest both in dogs and in the New York neighborhood described so perfectly by Bakis - where my daughter lives - enhanced but did not determine the book's impact on me. Taking a dog to the dog run in Washington Square Park will never seem the same again!

The sense of impending tragedy that pervades the book should not dissuade anyone from reading it. It left me shaken but inspired.
-Richard H. Rosichan
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