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Plague Dogs by Richard Adams
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Plague Dogs (edition 1981)

by Richard Adams

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1,761285,774 (3.71)70
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Title:Plague Dogs
Authors:Richard Adams
Info:Fawcett (1981), Mass Market Paperback
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The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams

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Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Rowf, a big, shaggy, black mongrel dog, and Snitter, a black and white fox terrier, are experimental animals at the Animal Research Station--Scientific & Experimental (A.R.S.E.) Rowf was born there, but Snitter once had a loving master and a happy home, until his master was struck by a lorry in an accident that Snitter blames himself for. The two dogs, living in adjoining pens, have become friends, and share their experiences: Rowf is daily nearly drowned in a tank of water, while Snitter has had brain surgery that breaks down the barrier between conscious and unconscious minds, and consequently has mad waking dreams. When carelessness by the animal care man gives them an opportunity, they break out of their pens and subsequently out of the facility via the heating system.

That's when life gets really hard for them.

Rowf and Snitter are not equipped to live as wild animals. They struggle along, trying to understand the unfamiliar world of the English lake district countryside, for a time with the help of a fox they call The Tod. Meanwhile, in the human world, the scientists' initial attempts to simply ignore the escape of the dogs breaks down and makes the situation even worse when the dogs' sheep killing angers the farmers and a muckraking reporter seizes on the story to create public outrage and sell newspapers. The dogs are soon fleeing active pursuit by people who believe them to be carrying bubonic plague.

[Note 1. Dogs can't carry bubonic plague. Note 2. Despite its ravages in the 14th century, and the death grip it apparently still has on the fear centers of the British brain, bubonic plague is now easily treated with penicillin. It's endemic in the rodent population of the American west, and every year there are a few human cases. It's a really, really bad year when even one person dies. But as recently as the 1990s, the British were driven to impressive heights of hysteria by a few human cases of plague in India, during what was a really bad year for it there.]

Adams is of course sounding a warning note about the moral issues of animal experimentation. Rowf's torment seems impossible to defend; if there is a real purpose to Snitter's brain surgery, we never receive it. Nor are these the most horrific experiments being conducted at A.R.S.E. At the same time, Adams is not setting up cardboard villains, and we see other research at A.R.S.E. stopping the release of truly dangerous products to the unsuspecting public.

But this is,profoundly, the case for the animals, and for their lives to be valued, and not wasted carelessly or for shallow reasons. I was totally captivated by the dogs, and deeply moved by their story.

Highly recommended. ( )
  LisCarey | Sep 19, 2018 |
I'm a bit torn on what rating to give this book. Portions of it I absolutely despised, as they just felt rather contrived and redundant... other portions I absolutely adored, and three parts were downright beautiful. I enjoyed the style of the book itself, and the newspaper clippings interspersed throughout were used just as well as they were in say, [b:Carrie|10592|Carrie|Stephen King|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1166254258s/10592.jpg|1552134] or [b:Dracula|17245|Dracula|Bram Stoker|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347251549s/17245.jpg|3165724]. The moralistic conversations, while a bit jarring, were still used rather well to the purpose that the book served.

All in all, a three star for me with a potential for change. The movie, on the other hand, is a solid five star endeavor. ( )
  Lepophagus | Jun 14, 2018 |
Richard Adams is of course best known as the author of Watership Down, but that was not the only book he wrote featuring somewhat anthropomorphized animals. There was also this 1977 novel about two dogs who escape from a research facility where horrible things were done to them.

To be honest, I can see why this isn't nearly as well-known as Watership Down. I remember that being a really good book. This one... Well, it's one of those odd novels that feels to me like a good book and a bad one have been somehow fused inextricably together.

To begin with, it is perhaps almost more of an anti-animal research or anti-animal cruelty statement than it is a novel. Not that taking a stand against animal cruelty is a bad thing, but Adams clearly really doesn't care if you think his message is heavy-handed. (Which is is. It so, so is.) Personally, as a lover of both science and animals, I find the whole subject of animal experimentation distressingly difficult and complex, but it became clear to me when we were told the experimental facility in this story goes by the acronym A.R.S.E. that we weren't exactly going to get a nuanced examination of scientists and their motives. Well, all right, to be fair, there are some small hints of nuance on the subject at the very end, but mostly it's all horror and cynicism. Deep, deep cynicism, which extends to politics and the press, as well as to science. Sometimes that cynicism feels like well-placed criticism, but more often it just feels like way too much.

I have similar feelings about the writing itself. There are long, often tedious sections that are overdone, overwritten, pretentious, even purple. But then, scattered there and there, are little moments of succinctly brilliant prose. It made for a weird reading experience. Kind of an interesting one, admittedly, but weird and a little frustrating.

On the positive side, the dogs themselves are good characters, especially poor, mad Snitter, a fox terrier with artificially induced brain damage and terrible, terrible luck. There are moments with him that are genuinely moving. Adams, unsurprisingly for the author of Watership Down, also does a really good job of imagining what the world might look and seem like to dogs who had something of the faculties of humans while still being dogs. (Although he is either unaware of or chooses to ignore the fact that dogs don't have color vision as good as that of humans.) And their survival story is reasonably interesting.

But then there's the ending, which not only features a deus ex machina (or possibly two), but actually stops the narrative cold at what should have been an affecting moment for a long, fourth-wall breaking lecture about animals and environmentalism. The fact that it is, perhaps, a pretty good lecture does not make this any less annoying.

Ultimately, I can't say I'm sorry I read this. Despite all these issues I had with it, large portions of it work much better than it feels like they really should, and, as I said, reading it was at least an interesting experience. But I don't think I'd recommend it to most people. And I particularly wouldn't recommend it to people who can't handle reading about upsetting things happening to animals, because this is basically Upsetting Things Happening to Animals: The Novel. ( )
  bragan | Nov 29, 2017 |
“The Plague Dogs” was the first book I read in 2016, after having read “Shardik” and (re-read) “Watership Down” in 2015. I love Adams’ style of writing: it’s beautiful, poignant, dark, and often interspersed with the mythical and fantastical. “Plague Dogs” was a wonderful read, though I would put it in second place as far as my favorite Adams books, because “Watership Down” probably remains one of my top 10 books ever. I read it as a kid, and it really affected me, so of course I have differing opinions on his books in terms of how it stacks up to “The Plague Dogs.”

What I love about his books is that he takes ideas that are often beloved by children, and crafts them into something wholly beautiful and a little bit wild and dark that is perfect for the well-read adult. This tale follows two dogs, Rowf and Snitter, on their adventures in escaping a government research facility and trying to find their place in the world. They find friend and foes on their adventure, naturally, but the book often goes into the very core of existence. What is the saying, looking into the void, and the void stares back at you? These protagonists are dogs, but they are as well-written and well-rounded as any properly crafted human in other stories. More so than many other books, to be perfectly honest.

Rowf was very much the stoic, cynical, plodding type of character be-fitting his large bread. Snitter, on the other hand, was a bit more complex; good-natured and optimistic, and even a little bit crazed because of the experiments done to him. I would say that Snitter is the Fiver character in this book, with the occasional fantastical vision, and the wonderful way he has of telling stories.

Adams does what he does so well in many of his books: he creates a word with their own gods and myths, and he writes them convincingly. I’d love to read a book he wrote just about these unique creation myths. Sure, his writing is a bit wordy, but he writes so poignantly that the words easily bleed into imagery. This book is definitely not for everyone, and it is a bit dense at times. Those who are easily bored with prose and poetry would probably not find this book to their taste. But for those into a little darkness (often, more than a little..), and who can easily imagine the words they read happening in front of them, I’d say that they should definitely give this book a chance. ( )
  Lauraborealis | Dec 22, 2016 |
Review: The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams.

For readers who are sensitive to what happens to animals that are used for experiments in a laboratory to find cures for terminal illnesses should not read this book. I love animals but I’m also one for finding cures for cancer, etc.

Richard Adams does a wonderful job when it comes to describing the environmental world around us. Sometimes a little too much but his descriptive writing impressed me. The book could have been shorter but I still went with the flow of the story. There is sadness throughout the story but I also felt it sent a message to the reader on the grounds of survival and kindness. The story is about two dogs escaping from an experimentation laboratory in England and causing havoc along the countryside, struggling to live and wanting to find a new owner to live with. The larger black dog is “Rowf” and the smaller black and white terrier is “Snitter.

After they escaped from the research laboratory Snitter and Rowf encountered one obstacle after another like being hungry, or bad weather, not finding shelter, also humans who wanted to harm them especially after a goal digger of a journalist started writing that the dogs were infected with the bubonic plague. This journalist is the main protagonist of the story. He wanted a strong story to give himself a name as an upper-class reporter. He writes anything he can dig up on the dogs, the experimental laboratory, and even the researchers who did the experiments. However, he has to decide what angle he wants the story to go. At first he was favoring the human side then the animal side but realized he needed to write a story that would captivate his audience. He decides he has more to gain by writing the dogs as threats to the public health and the negligence of the laboratory researchers.

Snitter was such a sweet little dog and at one time he did have an owner so he knew how it felt to be loved and that’s all he ever talked about. Rowf never had an owner and he kept saying he should have been a good dog and done what the researcher wanted him to do. So, Rowf was a little rougher along the edges but still a sweetheart. These two dogs struggled to survive on the outside becoming what they called themselves after a while, “Wild dogs trying to live in the wilderness”. They were starving so often that they begun killing sheep, chickens, and raiding peoples trash bins. The country folks weren’t to happy about that so they started to take matters in their own hands and started hunting them down. The story goes on through some terrible incidences that Snitter and Rowf experienced but the sad issues lead to a humane ending.

In my review I stayed away from the experiments done in the laboratory and what happened with the two dogs running the countryside to allow readers to love these two beautiful dogs. It was a great story but in order to say that I have to say the ending prevailed… ( )
  Juan-banjo | Aug 21, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Richard Adamsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Butler, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Piet EggenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wainwright, A.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
QUEEN: I will try the forces

Of these thy compounds on such creatures as

We count not worth the hanging, but none human . . .

CORNELIUS: Your Highness

Shall from this practice but make hard your heart.

--Shakespeare, Cymbeline
There is in this passage nothing that much requires a note, yet I cannot forbear to push it forward into observation. The thought would probably have been more amplified, had our author lived to be shocked with such experiments as have been published in later times, by a race of men that have practised tortures without pity, and related them without shame, and are yet suffered to erect their heads among human beings.

--Dr. Johnson
Dedication
To Elizabeth, with whom I first discovered the Lake District.
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The water in the metal tank slopped sideways and a treacly ripple ran along the edge, reached the corner and died away.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
With the same warm sensitivity that made a bestseller of Watership Down, Richard Adams creates a lyrical and engrossing tale, a remarkable journey into the hearts and minds of two canine heroes, Snitter and Rowf, fugitives from the horrors of the animal research center.

The escape from man's cruelty is only the beginning of their chilling experiences as the flee to the isolation - and terror - of the wilderness.

First, they strike an unlikely bargain with a fox who will teach them to live by instinct alone if they agree to hunt with him. Then they find enemies springing up all around them - excitement seekers of all kinds - incited by an ambitious young reporter who calls the dogs carriers of a deadly plague.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345494024, Paperback)

"Thousands and thousands of people will love this book!"
THE BOSTON GLOBE
A lyrical, engrossing tale, by the author of WATERSHIP DOWN, Richard Adams creates a lyrical and engrossing tale, a remarkable journey into the hearts and minds of two canine heroes, Snitter and Rowf, fugitives from the horrors of an animal research center who escape into the isolation--and terror--of the wilderness.


From the Paperback edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:20 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A large black mongrel named Rowf and a white terrier named Snitter escape from an animal experiment center in England's Lake District and may be carriers of bubonic plague.

(summary from another edition)

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