on December 22, 2002
In all likelihood, you'll already be familiar with Watership Down when you first hear of Plague Dogs. It's a gripping tale of characters you can indeed care about-- two dogs who escape captivity, and a fox they meet (mainly). The three suffer trials and uncertainties, at turns frank, touching, or even spooky. A tale of survival. There's a strong secondary plot involving various humans, too, that is quite compelling.
Adams added a number of relatively silly things into the formula this time around, however. Probably he *indended* for these things to be rather heavy-handed and goofy, but that they were deliberate doesn't prevent them from interfering with one's enjoyment of the book. Adams' awkward and inconsistent transcription of thick scottish accents plagues much of the book. There's a reason they tell you to avoid this in fiction writing 101!
His villains, too, are rather unconvincing-- on one hand, the book as a whole tries to take itself rather seriously as social commentary. On the other, the villains' motives are intentionally made into utter caricatures.
I would scorn a lesser story for silly decisions of the author. Nevertheless, it's a great adventure, with real, and moving, character development. I unhesitatingly give it four stars.
on September 21, 2002
Most people who pick up this book, I am sure, will already be inclined to agree with Richard Adams on the subject of animal experimentation. I don't want to use this review as a debating piece, but I feel compelled to respond to a couple of the comments made by other readers on these pages. Firstly, while the story doesn't focus on medical research, Mr Adams has made quite clear over the years that the novel is intended to be a criticism of ALL animal experimentation. I believe that searching for a cure to human diseases by torturing and killing millions of animals every year is NOT acceptable morally, aside from the fact that, due to our vastly different genetics, animal research is only ever of limited use. And it may interest one particular reviewer to know that when penicillin was first tested on rats, it killed them (it is poisonous to rodents) so we do not owe the discovery of antibiotics to vivisection. Okay, lecture over. The novel is a very difficult read if you are an animal lover or have any degree of compassion in your heart; the descriptions of the lab in the first thirty pages are unbearable, and still haunt me to this day. Other reviewers have commented on the slow nature of the story - this is true, there are long sections of descriptive prose where little actually happens, so if you like an incident-packed read you're probably well advised to stay away. Once the hunt for the dogs gets underway, the tension does mount and the final third of the book becomes very exciting indeed. Some may feel the positive ending detracts from the message, but personally I found it something of a relief - after all, there ARE still kind-hearted humans in the world! The dialects are difficult - I'm British, but I suspect most of us found the Tod's dialogue as confusing as American readers did (if it helps, I found that reading the Tod's speeches aloud, phonetically, made them easier to comprehend). It isn't quite as good as Watership Down - which Mr Adams has never equalled in my opinion - and it certainly isn't a 'fun' read, but it's intentions are the best and, when it gets going, it WILL keep you hooked.
on April 30, 2002
Being a fan of Watership Down I thought I would continue reading the rest of Richard Adams' books, and I find this one to be just as good as the rest. The basic plot of the story is two dogs escape from an animal experimentation lab in England and roam about the countryside, struggling to live and literally dying to find a new master to live with. They encounter one obstacle after another, whether it be hunger, the weather, or other humans, who believe the dogs are carrying bubonic plague after a young news reporter tries to stir up all of England. The story is full of Adams' views on animal experimentation, politics, and human behavior, yet it does not preach.
Readers new to Richard Adams should probably start out with Watership Down before reading this book; this way you get a better sense of his style and prose. The dialect can be extremely tough at times, and because of some of the descriptions and themes involved should probably only be read by a mature reader. I will also say that there isn't a whole lot of action to it; however, you get attached to these dogs as if they were your own pets. The author develops solid, intriguing characters and a great setting. It is definetley worth the time to read, and you'll jump to your feet at the end.
on April 25, 2002
Many reviewers here have found this a difficult read and it is that especially if you don't enjoy dialects that aren't your own. It is a very British book and no apologies are necessary for that.
Many have either loved or hated the didactic theme of the book regarding animal experimentation, but it is really about much more than that. The overriding theme of this book is that of the relationship between humans and other animals. Adams is not ranting here. He doesn't offer any facile conclusions other than that life deserves respect.
Like Adams' other works, once you become acquainted with the characters, the narrative is compelling in the extreme and all the characters are kept interesting and multi-dimensional. The work depends on your caring about the two dogs' fate and here ultimately succeeds. I wasn't moved to tears here, but I did gasp at Adam's sheer narrative audacity towards the end of the book. He pulls out quite a few postmodern stops (and a bit of deus ex machina) but still manages to guide the reader into almost believing, but certainly caring about the ending.
The only aspect of this novel that bothered me was that occasionally the author let his judgmentalism peep through an otherwise fair-minded narrative. For example, at times he feels it necessary to denigrate all anti-establishment radical types while sanctifying "honest" establishment types such as soldiers and christians in order to defuse criticism his arguably radically anti-establishment point of view regarding animal experimentation. This struck me as a sour note in an otherwise high-minded and otherwise successful satirical narrative, though you can tell that his natural impulse is not to rely on one-dimensional characterisations
Overall, I would rate this book's success slightly below that of Watership Down and Shardik among the works by Adams that I have had the pleasure to read, but I highly recommend it nevertheless.
on April 1, 2002
This is a good read. I read this shortly after reading "Watership Down," and was thoroughly pleased. The story takes place on two fronts: the animal and the human. These two points of view are weaved together nearly perferctly, creating a story that left me desperate to finish.
My only complaint - and this is why I rate it four stars instead of five - is that the story wanes in the last twenty pages or so. A dialogue between two humans seems more like a lecture on the evils of animal testing, and is directed at the reader rather than resmbling a realistic conversation (though I enjoyed the brief allusion to "Watership Down" in there). Also, I felt that the ending was artificial; whereas this book could have had a very moving, tragic ending, it left off on a high note, which is surely desireable, yet makes this novel somewhat forgettable.
Yet even so, I recommend this to everyone. It is adventurous, it is masterfully poetic, and, though it does not surpass "Watership Down," should be considered a remarkable achievement.
on September 3, 2000
From the novel written by Richard Adams. This is the heartbreaking story of two dog pals who escape from an animal concentration camp (oops), I mean a laboratory, where they are victims of heinous experiments. One has been slowly lobotomized, the other having been subjected to fatigue testing. The lab techs, referred to by the duo as "whitecoats," daily dump this poor pooch in a swimming pool and watch sadistically as he treads water until he exhausts himself and begins to drown, only to fish him out, revive him, and start the whole process over again. Once they escape, the two begin their adventure of searching out a fantastical place they have only dreamt of, but the evil whitecoats have put the word out that the dogs are infected with a plague so that, not only will no one help them but, they quickly become public enemy number one. This is one of the most powerful movies ever made, period. It is a prime example of what animation is intended for. Even with today's "Babe"-type talking animal effects, this film retains its' drama solely thanks to it being a "cartoon." You may be emotionally drained in the end, but this film will stick with you for a lifetime.
on May 20, 2002
I just recently finished this book and can say with much sincerety that Adams has created a wonderful piece of work in "The Plague Dogs." It's true that some of the dialogue is especially tough to get through especially being an American reader, but after a while I found myself going through it with a fair amount of ease once I was finally used to it. The best part of this book by far has to be the characters of Rowf and Snitter whom I found tremendously more interesting than any of the human characters. Their struggles and perception of the reality around them is quite remarkable. As far as how the message was presented I thought it was done quite fairly on both sides of the issue of animal experimentation. Finally, there's the ending which made the entire book worth the read.
on January 27, 2004
I found the book very slow. Infact I stop reading it altoghter. I thought it was another Watership Down. Dont get me wrong I did enjoy it once I got done reading the book. The books starts out slow but is slowly begins to pick up. The book is well set in which he gives wonderful descriptions of places, smells, (hey, half the plants and flowers I have never heard of)and locations. Like many of his books this one deals with man vs nature. The heros two dogs are living off their wits. One is a dreamer who feels that there is love in every mans heart and the other is truth, who knows what man is capable of doing. This book is well worth the time and the read.
on February 15, 2001
I really enjoyed the point of view of this tale, that is, the world (and humans) seen through the eyes of a dog. The dogs are not overly anthropomorphised; they have very doglike thoughts. Being a dog owner, I found much of it very amusing.
This book has one of the most creatively constructed endings I have ever read. The reader closes the book on one ending, with the understanding that the more likely ending to the story is one that concluded earlier, and you can take away what you like.
on December 28, 2013
Wonderful novel for anyone who loves dogs and understands their relationships with humans. Loveable and fallible, with about the right understanding of the world.
I was surprised and delighted by the ending.