The Shaggy Dog meets J.R.R. Tolkien in this entertaining debut effort from San Francisco Chronicle reporter Carroll. The premise is wildly silly and metaphorically transparent, and has absolutely no right to succeed on any level, but Carroll--through a combination of reasonably swift pacing and gruffly funny internal monologues--pulls it off. It's like this: Bill ``Bogey'' Ingersol, a corporate-takeover maven with a killer instinct, has run afoul of the SEC; but before he can get sent to the clink, he's sucked into an alternate universe, where he discovers that he's been transformed into a very big dog. The Wall Street predator suddenly becomes a real one, snacking on whatever he can scare up in the forest, spending a fair chunk of the novel's early pages fleeing a passel of assorted otherworldly monsters. Everything looks vaguely Middle Ages, right down to the rustic peasant whom Ingersol eventually hooks up with. From a wicked wizard named Zalthazar, Ingersol learns that humans--Two Legs to the animal kingdom--were the victors in a struggle against the infinitely evil Mogwert, mainly because the Mogwert were inflexible in their battle tactics. Hence the arrival of Ingersol, claimed from the combative world of high finance to show the Mogwert how to triumph in the upcoming Final Battle with the Two Legs, who've become complacent in the ``Fair Lands.'' Ingersol, however, is completely repulsed by the dark plan and agrees to act as a double-agent for the humans, a mission that leads him to run-ins with some of the more alarming horrors of the universe. Interspersed with these high-jinks are Ingersol's recollections of his parallel life in New York, where his human form lies in a deep sleep. The Devil himself shows up eventually, and Ingersol finds himself awkwardly in charge of forces much darker than venture capitalism. A whole new chapter in the fantasy genre.