Sunday, May 19, 2013

Richard Adams' "The Plague Dogs"

If I could recommend one fictional book to all of you people out there, I would probably recommend The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams. The Plague Dogs is about two dogs-- Snitter and Rowf-- who escape an animal research facility and venture throughout beautiful Lake District in England. Soon, however, a dishonest journalist named Digby Driver sets out the alert that the dogs were kept in a laboratory that also contained carriers of the bubonic plague-- and now the dogs might be carrying it, too. A wild chase ensues as the humans of Lake District make it their mission to destroy the dogs, who are soon blamed for not only carrying the plague, but also killing sheep and being generally murderous. (Admittedly, they did kill sheep, but they only did it to survive. They're dogs, for heaven's sake!)

Colourful book cover for The Plague Dogs
The book cover from the "The Plague Dogs" book I've read.
Richard Adams brilliantly combines action, drama, suspense, contemplation, and romantically describing Lake District's beautiful scenery in this once-in-a-century novel of morality, friendship, survival, and love. It's easily one of the best books I've ever read.
While in the laboratory, Snitter the terrier was subjected to brain surgery experiments to discover if one could recreate a strange delusion from a fictional story inside the head of a dog. Although he is rather mad, he is also entirely charming. Rowf was repeatedly drowned until he stopped struggling, then pulled out and resussitated. According to a disdainful Adams, all this was done in the name of "science" simply as because-we-can experiments. It was incredibly cruel, and it reminds one of real animal research-- rather insane and nonsensical tests that are done simply because we think that maybe, someday, they'll add to our overall understanding of the world.

Quotes from near the beginning of The Plague Dogs:

"'The wire swing!' said Snitter, sitting up suddently. 'The door, Rowf! That's why I came! The door of your pen's unfastened!'
The Alsatian had stopped howling and for some moments the only sound in the block was a sudden dripping from the tap, plangent on the convex edge of the overturned bucket beneath it.
'We can go through it, Rowf!'
'What for?'
'Rowf, we might be able to get out of here!'
'They'd only bring us back. Dogs are supposed to do what men want-- I've never had a master, but I know that.'
'The suffering, Rowf, the misery you've endured--'
'As dogs we're born to suffering. It's a bad world for animals--'
'Rowf, you owe them nothing -- nothing -- they're not masters --'"

“A quick run past the rabbits' execution shed, a turn around the kittens' quicklime pit, a moment's hesitation beyond the monkeys' gas-chamber--and they are gone: ay, not so long ago these canines fled away into the storm. It would be pleasant to report that that night Dr. Boycott dreamt of many a woe, and all his whitecoat-men with shade and form of witch and demon and large coffin-worm were long be-nightmared. One might even have hoped to add that Tyson the old died palsy-twitched, with meagre face deform. But in fact--as will be seen--none of these things happened. Slowly the rain ceased, the grey rack blowing away and over Windermere as first light came creeping into the sky and the remaining inmates of Lawson Park woke to another day in the care and service of humanity.”

"Freedom-- that consuming goal above doubt or criticism, desired as moths desire the candle or emigrants the distant continent waiting to parch them in its deserts or drive them to madness in its bitter winters! Freedom, that land where rogues, at every corner, cozen with lies and promises the plucky sheep who judged it time to sack the shepherd! Unfurl your banner, Freedom, and call upon me with cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer and all kinds of music to fall down and worship you, and I will do so in an instant, for who would wish to be cast into the fiery furnace of his neighbours' contempt?"

Richard Adams manages to create a truly thought-provoking story without sounding didactic or preachy. I highly recommend any of you to read it.
If you don't want to read the book, you could always watch the movie; you can definitely find it on Youtube. I'm not sure whether it's good, since I haven't watched it yet, but it probably is great. You can watch the WHOLE movie here:
Until next week!

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