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New York is colonized by giant talking canines in newcomer Bakis's wry variation on the traditional shaggy dog story. Imagination is the key here. We need to understand that at the end of the 19th century a crazed German biologist named Augustus Rank performed a succession of medical experiments that resulted in a weird genetic mutation of his subjects and created a race of ""monster dogs""--giant rottweilers and Dobermans who can speak and walk on their hind legs. After living for more than a hundred years in the seclusion of a remote Canadian settlement called Rankstadt, they are forced to move in the year 2008 to New York (where 150 of them take up residence at the Plaza Hotel) when Rankstadt is destroyed. In their 19th-century garb--Prussian military uniforms for the ""men,"" bustles for the ""women""--they cut impressive figures on the streets of Manhattan, where they quickly become celebrities and philanthropists. At Christmas they parade down Fifth Avenue in sleighs, and shortly after their arrival they construct an enormous Bavarian castle on the Lower East Side. When an NYU coed named Cleo Pira writes about them for a local newspaper, the dogs adopt her as their spokesperson and bring her into the inner life of their society. From Cleo's perspective the dogs are benign, quaint, and deeply tragic, and the more fascinated she becomes by their history--both as they relate it to her and as she discovers it for herself through Rank's own archives--the darker and more doomed their society appears. By the time Cleo has learned the secrets contained in Rank's past, it's too late to save his descendants, who have unknowingly brought about their own destruction. Serious enough, but also funny and imaginative: a vivid parable that manages to amuse even as it perplexes and intrigues.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1997
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"