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 recurring theme of how complex and fallible our heroes are. Augustus Rank, the creator of the monster dogs who is all but worshipped by canine scholar Ludwig von Sacher, is a violent, selfish man who could easily have become a serial killer had he not become a surgeon instead. Mops Hacker, beloved leader of the monster dog revolution, is churlish, ill-tempered, and petty. Even our protagonist Cleo seems to love the monster dogs more for what they mean to her than for who they truly are. There are no easy answers in the history of the monster dogs, but there is beauty to be found in their lives.
My one complaint about the novel, and the only reason I’m giving it four stars instead of five, is that the end is too abrupt for me. I wanted a lengthier denouement, especially with regard to the mysterious illness that plagues the monster dogs, which is wrapped up too quickly — and frankly too opaquely — to be satisfying. But everything else in LIVES OF THE MONSTER DOGS is an achievement. It deserves all the acclaim it has received and then some. Now if only Bakis would write another novel!