Quick Review: FIFTEEN DOGS by André Alexis (Coach House)

A marvellous, thought-provoking, and moving novel

— 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.

When I first started reading Fifteen Dogs, I was worried I wasn’t going to like it. It took me longer than it should have to realize what Alexis was doing — namely, the fact that the canines in the title, while gifted with human intelligence, were not also gifted with human knowledge. It may seem like a common sense thing, but it’s not something I’ve seen in other novels in which animals are or become anthropomorphized. As a result, the first fifty pages or so were pretty blunt, and the writing didn’t exhibit the lyricism or depth that I’d been led to expect. But after that point… it really started to shine. Continue reading

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New Books (January)

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Featuring: André Alexis, Jennifer Armstrong, Rob Boffard, Ezekiel Boone, Algis Budrys, Matthew de Abaitua, Patrick Flanery, Ian Graham, Elizabeth Greenwood, Sarah Hilary, Joe Hill, Gregg Hurwitz, Davide Mana, Samuel Marolla, Vonda N. McIntyre, A.D. Miller, Tim Murphy, Daniel José Older, Chris Pavone, Aidan Donnelley Rowley, Adrian Selby, Nick Stone, Patrick S. Tomlinson, Fran Wilde

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