This absurd tale set in the mythical 19th century Bufkin County all starts when one pup, Salem, starts mysteriously laying eggs, one of which hatches into something most extraordinary, a cyclops resembling a pug with wings Alas, the birth of this cyclops may prove to have dire consequences if Salem’s owner, a clever young boy named Hitch, his vapid father, Jethro Tull, and the county’s constable, Buford Bumford don’t do something about it. In this series of mishaps, the three of them – along with their allies including Jethro’s ultra-buff estranged wife, Vera-Lee, and the scientist credited with many degrees, Pubblish O. Parrish – must help maintain the balance between good and evil and keep the town safe from creatures like the cyclops, lazy skeletons, a lagoon monster, and even Dracula himself.
A young, naive boy comes of age mentally. A father resolves his penchant for alcohol in order to win the love of his life back. An academic is humbled. Although wacky with many a monster battle, this story deals with story arcs that are familiar and relatable. Each character appears to represent a larger idea or conceit as if an allegory. With character names like Pubblish O. Parrish and Hercule “Tappetou” Dia-Bêtes (the candy maker), and Demi Gogg (the riot starter) it even beats a dead horse with the allegory thing (Maas even has a dead horse beaten in the book with the respective dead horse cliche followed).
There were two methods for character arcs in the book: One, a character was not part of the main story, and suddenly when brought back into the story – he or she changed. Two, a character changed through expositional dialogue – literally explaining the changes he or she went through to those around as the change happened. The book would benefit from showing these characters arcs rather than just telling them. That was true not just in Mass’s character arcs, but in his overall writing style. It was all very direct.
The characters, dialogue, and events in Maas’s book are so outrageous that they are clever in an absurdist sense. Maas’s use of cliche and abundance of literary allusions and overall sense of humor in the book made for several funny moments. At times the humor did feel out of character though, like Maas’s comedic voice came through more than the characters’ voices. Moreover the characters, because they were so outrageous, became superficial. In addition, each chapter felt like a setup for another monster battle. In that sense, the book definitely reads as a series of episodes rather than a typical fiction novel. Yes, there is an overarching story, but each section of the novel felt like another problem to be solved and therefore episodic. This, depending on the reader, could lend to intrigue or lack of closure.
Quirky humor mixed with allegory wrapped up in an episodic format makes THE DOG THAT LAID EGGS: EVERY MONSTER COMES FROM SOMEWHERE a quirky and clever book.