|Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis|
Are the monster dogs a hoax? An elaborate myth? An urban legend?
Cleo Pira saw their landing in New York. She becomes friends with two of them in particular- Ludwig and Lydia- and learns that they are much more than just dogs with the ability to speak and to walk upright. They have all the desires, dreams, wishes, and reasoning which humans possess- but in a dog's body. While they have much intelligence, their dog's bodies pose some unique problems, which their leader, Klaue Lutz, intends to keep secret, along with the dark history which led to their creation, and later, their exodus to New York.
(spoilers after this point)
Ostensibly written by Ludwig, the Monster Dog's historian, and later collected by Cleo, The Lives of the Monster Dogs is a novel which seems to relate the story of how the Monster Dogs came to New York, and how they left it. However, it carries much more weight than it seems.
The dogs struggle between brutality and civilization, and this struggle is encapsulated in the disease which plagues many of the dogs- temporary fits which take form in a return to their dog natures, which they do not remember when they again return to their own natures. Ludwig in particular suffers from this disease, concealing it from Cleo. He lapses into depression, to the point where he contemplates suicide. When Cleo realizes this, she confiscates his keys, and cuts him off from any way of attempting suicide.This tragic decline provides much of the impetus of the story.
Some of the dogs embrace the purpose of soldiering and killing which they were bred for, while Lydia refuses to fight, except when in danger or when fighting is absolutely necessary. The monster dogs are the creation of a half-mad genius, and were raised in a remote settlement in Canada, which retained the 18th-century German traditions of the settlers. The loathsome Augustus Rank created his own race
This pull between the contrasting eras of 18th century Prussia and 20th century New York further sets the dogs apart, creating even more of a gulf between them and humans. Not only are the dogs seen as unusual creatures, they are out of time, and so are even more out of place.
This tragic tale of how the dogs come to New York, and the chaos which occurs afterword, is populated with rounded characters, who not only intrigue, but have their own contradictions and character flaws.
The struggle of the monster dogs to find a place in this new world is engaging, as is Cleo's struggle to understand them.
The Lives of the Monster Dogs does exactly what its title promises: it depicts the strange beginnings of the "monster dogs," and their final decline. But it is the individual "monster dogs" that make the story great: the legendary Mops Hacker, the refined Lydia, the knowledgeable Ludwig, and their ruthless leader, Klaue, who each have their own story of how they either clung to their humanity or forsook it.