Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis is one of my all time favorite books. This is my third or fourth time through the novel, I can’t remember which. By this time I could probably tell the story almost as well as Ms. Bakis does but I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book again none-the-less.
Lives of the Monster Dogs is the story of a group of elegantly dressed talking dogs that appear in Manhattan after rebelling against their human creators and escaping slavery in a remote northern Canadian wilderness. The dogs take the city by storm, becoming celebrities New Yorkers enjoy even if they do not completely believe the dogs are real. The story of the monster dogs is revealed through their interviews and friendship with a young reporter Cleo Pira, the papers and memoirs of several of the dogs, and through an opera written by one of the dogs.
This layering of the narrative helps bring the story to life by concealing much of the actual detail about the dogs. Because so much about the dogs remains unknown, the reader does not have to worry about how unlikely they are and can instead be swept up in their story. Their story: it is a terrible thing to be a dog and to know it. How can they interact as humans in a human society? What is their place in the world once they rebel against their masters who spent generations creating them?
In past readings I found the book to break down in its final chapters but I did not feel that way this time. The creators of the dogs were able to lengthen their lifespan but could not foresee the sickness that would eventual drive so many of the the dogs into madness. The dogs, once free from their creators, can live as they choose, however they cannot reproduce a new generation of monster dogs since the records of how to do so were destroyed in the rebellion. Their story, and most of their lives, end in a weeks long party held in their New York mansion/castle. Previously, I found this sequence to be directionless meandering but this time I found it quite haunting. I guess I know these dogs so well after so many reads that their demise produces a much greater since of loss.
I first ran this review in 2008 on my old blog Ready When You Are, C.B. In the years since it first ran that page has received only three views. I fear that I remain the lone voice crying out in the wilderness, singing praises of Lives of the Monster Dogs. But sing I shall though I stand alone. This is a terrific book, that should have all the readers The Sparrow did. I don’t understand why it doesn’t.