Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Kgebetli Moele

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Review: Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis

Fifteen DogsWhat would happen if animals had human like intelligence? That they could feel, be angry and rage, love and laugh, feel inadequate and fight to have – what all humans need – power and respect while struggling to live a perfect lives and die happy.

Author André Alexis drives us into this world by giving human intelligence to a pack of dogs. Fifteen dogs, hence the title, are blessed with human intelligence or rather cursed with it. Blessed, as they can assert their lives and be better dogs. Cursed, as animals are much better suited to living animal lives without human burdens and consequences.

FYI: Human reproduction: we complicate this with the word LOVE and almost all of our female counterparts have found themselves burdened after this magical mystical word has been through their ears. Love brings about human reproduction and we decorate it and call it love but that is no love. It is in a way the creation of poverty.

The allegory that George Orwell presented in Animal Farm: the power relations between the animals taught us about our power relations as people, as nations and as countries. That unforgiving truth that is hard to live with: All animals are equal but some are more equal than others. You love it or you loath it, it speaks universal truth.

The premise is the same for both books but the settings are different: in Fifteen Dogs the dogs are given human intelligence to survive dog life and human relationships to see if they can die happy – I don’t think there is a human soul through all the ages who died happy.

The pack is destroyed by fear and discomfort in their new unknown situation. They are caught between the comfort and traditional habits of mere dogs, who are directly (pets) or indirectly (stray) dependent on humans. They start by defending the comfort they have known and fighting what they have gained. It is by this first step – which is indeed a human phenomenon, fear of change – that Alexis loses the plot and the potential that this novel had.

Fifteen Dogs follows in the footsteps of Animal Farm but loses the track and then fails to rise above it. The dogs start off being ruthless, killing the dogs that claim this change and are willing to live it. The book fails to portray the premise, ‘What would happen if dogs had human intelligence?’, as these fifteen dogs die out and are viewed as ordinary dogs while they can speak and think. Imagine walking opposite a dog and it comforts you, “don’t be scared I will not bite you”. Or maybe it begs for some change, crying hunger. Only once did the book come alive when one of the canines was adopted and the owners discovered that it could talk, there a beautiful moments there that are spoiled by the couple’s reaction.

At the end, the human intelligence serves the dogs no function and purpose because they persist to remain dogs. They survive life like all other dogs and kill each other to maintain a dog’s life. The idea was great, but the writing lacked a soul, feeling and emotions. Imagine entering a house without noticing the warning sign, and suddenly seeing the dog and hearing it welcomes you: “Fear nothing, come in.” This is the story that could have been.

Book details


Please register or log in to comment