"I wonder," said Hermes, "what it would be like if animals had human intelligence."
"I'll wager a year's servitude," answered Apollo, "that animals - any animal you like - would be even more unhappy than humans are if they were given human intelligence."
And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto veterinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old dog ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks.
André Alexis' contemporary take on the apologue offers an utterly compelling and affecting look at the beauty and perils of human consciousness. By turns meditative and devastating, charming and strange, Fifteen Dogs shows you can teach an old genre new tricks.
©2015 André Alexis (P)2016 ECW Press
"[Alexis] devises an inventive romp through the nature of humanity in this beautiful, entertaining read.... A clever exploration of our essence, communication, and how our societies are organized." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Alexis manages to encapsulate an astonishing range of metaphysical questions in a simple tale about dogs that came to know too much. The result is a delightful juxtaposition of the human and canine conditions, and a narrative that, like just one of the dogs, delights in the twists and turns of the gods' linguistic gift." (Publishers Weekly)
"...I'm far from being a dog person, but as a book person I loved this smart, exuberant fantasy from start to finish." (Jonathan Gibbs, The Guardian)
This is a great read. Apollo and Hermes make a wager about whether dogs could be happy if they were bestowed with human intelligence. The ensuing tale is a real page turner.
I had high hopes for this book. Several people I respect said it was excellent, but I now have to disagree.
The narrator/author's reading is ponderously slow and his pronunciation is often pompous. (And, no, it has nothing to do with his "Canadian accent." I'm from Toronto, and no one I know talks like that.) By half way through chapter two, I decided to increase the listening speed to 1.25, which helped a little.
The story itself takes far too long to get moving. The first couple of hours are all told in a matter-of-fact, distant narrative style. It was all telling, no showing. I wanted to become invested in the characters and watch scenes unfold, but the reader is kept at arm's length as the author quickly kills off characters that we don't care about. I'm sure the author did this on purpose, but it didn't make me want to keep reading. It made me want to return it.
By the third chapter (and the chapters are quite long), I finally started to care a little. When the focus was on one dog's story, we got to see more than the 2-dimensional cardboard cutout characters who had previously been running around High Park, and there were finally moments that were both funny and touching.
By the end, though, I still can't recommend this novel. I was really listening for the allegory and insight that others have said they appreciated in this story, but it wasn't enough to win me over. I'm glad I finished it, but I wish I had spent my credit on something else.
I fear the author knows less about canine psychology than he thinks: but the book was about people I'm sure, so it doesn't matter.. Like many books I have the feeling there was a great deal of meaning here, but I don't know what it was
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