I read a strange book recently. I had picked it up at an overstock store, so I expected absolutely nothing from it. Consequently, it had a real chance to dazzle me, and dazzle me it did.
Lives of Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis
Lives of Monster Dogs is the author’s first and only published novel. I know because the first thing I did after finishing this book was to go online to see if she had written anything else. Its flaws—an underdeveloped premise, an unsatisfactory ending, an intriguing history left unfinished—are ones that a gifted writer of this magnitude is unlikely to make again given some additional experience, and they are not nearly bad enough to ruin the overall effect. It is a beautiful, wistful, haunting story.
Bakis quickly and deftly drew me into the lives of the mad scientist, the race of intelligent dogs that he creates, and the woman who befriends the dogs when they come to live in New York. I was hooked by the fourth paragraph:
Those things are always amazing—the hour before you meet the person you’re going to marry, the last time you speak to someone before they die, even the moment before someone calls you, when they’re reaching for the telephone and you don’t know it yet. Those currents just beneath the surface of your life, separating and converging, all the time.
The story is akin to The Island of Doctor Moreau and Frankenstein, comparisons which put the author up against some revered names in fiction. It is unique, though, and so well-written that I think Bakis can stand in the company of Wells and Shelley without embarrassment. I hope she will publish another novel soon.
I had planned to put this book on the Chopping Block and open up some shelf space, but it’s a keeper. Doggone it!