Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis

New York City can be described as a melting pot and in 2008 the city added a new group of individuals. A group of monster dogs; clad in top hats and tails, bustle skirts and parasols – they take the city by storm. They are refugees and survivors, the result of a single man’s vision of creating the perfect soldier.

Yet for all the glamour and wealth these monster dogs have, they also have a terrible secret. A mysterious illness threatens them with extinction and there is no cure.

I admit, dear reader, to being a little hesitant to read this particular book at first. The monster dogs are described as being the result of animal testing; of man taking an animal (in this case the domestic dog) and performing scientific experiments on them. As an avid dog lover, I did not want to read about dogs being tortured or maimed in the name of science.

We are fortunate though as those kinds of scenes are glossed over. Told from both the monster dogs’ as well as the human Cleo Pira’s point of view, neither knew exactly what was done and so the actual experiments are little more than a footnote.

I found Lives of the Monster Dogs difficult to read at times. Not because of content or flow of story, but because it was so heart breaking. To go in to it too much is to spoil the story but I will say that I found myself tearing up reading some passages.

One of the things I liked was how Bakis left the ending open. Perhaps for a possible sequel in the future, which is something I would like to see. We are given an idea of what happens but nothing concrete. A sequel would offer the opportunity to answer many of the unanswered questions Bakis left and also to get to know other dog monsters.

There were a few unanswered questions left at the end of the narrative however. The main one being the mysterious disease affecting the monster dogs. What exactly was it? Where did it come from? How was it spread? All of these were unfortunately left dangling unanswered.

At times thrilling and at other times heart rending, Lives of the Monster Dogs is a tough but quick read. It compels the reader to look at what makes us human and what supposedly separates us from our animal brothers. It holds a mirror up to us and posits that perhaps there aren’t that many differences at all.

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