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The Plague Dogs: A Novel | [Richard Adams]

The Plague Dogs: A Novel

After being horribly mistreated at a government animal-research facility, Snitter and Rowf escape into the isolation-and terror-of the wilderness. Aided only by a fox they call "the tod," the two dogs must struggle to survive in their new environment. When the starving dogs attack some sheep, they are labeled ferocious man-eating monsters, setting off a great dog hunt that is later intensified by the fear that the dogs could be carriers of the bubonic plague.
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Publisher's Summary

Richard Adams, the author of Watership Down, creates a lyrical and engrossing tale, a remarkable journey into the hearts and minds of two canine heroes, Snitter and Rowf.

After being horribly mistreated at a government animal-research facility, Snitter and Rowf escape into the isolation-and terror-of the wilderness. Aided only by a fox they call "the tod," the two dogs must struggle to survive in their new environment. When the starving dogs attack some sheep, they are labeled ferocious man-eating monsters, setting off a great dog hunt that is later intensified by the fear that the dogs could be carriers of the bubonic plague.

©1977 Richard Adams (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Gripping...A compelling tale of emotional force and high suspense." (Wall Street Journal)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Ben Shrewsbury, United Kingdom 21/03/2012
    Ben Shrewsbury, United Kingdom 21/03/2012 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Heart Wrenching and Powerful"

    The Plague Dogs as a title seemed hardly to sum up this compelling novel until perhaps three quarters of the way through. A more fitting label may have been 'The Scars of Man' or something similar. For this is a tale of canine heroism, survival, mistrust, sadness, loss, hope, despair, longing and at its base; human cruelty.

    It is deeply depressing in places and uplifting in others. It is a more powerful book than Watership Down in my view. It explores the world of cruelty by human hands and the desperate necessity to stay alive. It also explores the affinity dogs have for man and occasionally, vice versa.

    I am not a sentimental person particularly but the constant confusion shared by Rawf and Snitter (especially by the latter) over their predicament and their inability to explain to themselves why some people are so cruel and misunderstanding, is a continuous, unrelenting and thoroughly effecting tug of the heartstrings.

    If you have a dog, you may well feel inclined to give it a cuddle, every chapter or so.

    Ben Waddams

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ellie Somerset, United Kingdom 29/04/2014
    Ellie Somerset, United Kingdom 29/04/2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    18
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    "Spoilt by narration"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    No-the narrators frosty,too English,BBC style narration spoiled the story for me.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Ralph Cosham’s performances?

    Definitely not-hated it-he gave me a headache-was not relaxing to listen to at all.


    Was The Plague Dogs worth the listening time?

    Story good but will read the book next time.


    Any additional comments?

    Too formal narration for me,I listen in bed usually,so like easy listen stuff.I found myself fast forwarding and reading the book instead to get it over with.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-2 of 2 results
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  • Jefferson
    Jonan-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Japan
    06/06/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Canine Spartacus and Fool in the Lake District?"

    A dog drowning in a tank full of water is pulled out by researchers just in time to be revived in order to undergo future such "experiments" to determine how long he can swim before drowning. After detachedly agreeing on the proper time at which to fish the dog out of the tank, Mr. Powell and his chief Dr. Boycott discuss a monkey who is to be indefinitely subjected to sensory deprivation in a cylinder. Business as usual at the Animal Research Scientific and Experimental (ARSE) complex situated in a national park in the Lake District in England in The Plague Dogs (1977) by Richard Adams.

    The drowning dog, Rowf, regains consciousness in his pen when his neighbor, a fox terrier named Snitter, wakes him up by saying something like "Rowf? They've taken away all the rhododendrons and replaced them with maggots." Snitter has received experimental brain surgery, leaving him with a "rakish" bandage cap, periodic nightmarish fits, and the belief that either everything is happening inside his own head or that everything he imagines comes true in the world. Snitter is by turns a sensitive and thoughtful dog or a mad canine seer in the line of Lear's Fool. In the beginning of the novel, the dogs manage to escape from their pens and embark on a Dantean journey through the circles of hell, a series of experiment rooms populated by cats with covered ears and eyes, guinea pigs with amputated limbs, homing pigeons with damaged sensory organs and brains, mice who've been injected with the urine of potentially pregnant women, rats who've been given cancer and then dissected, and so on. (Many more horrible experiments are described later in the novel, and probably no single real world laboratory complex could perform all the experiments undertaken by ARSE, and for that matter no research institute would ever name itself ARSE, but all of the experiments mentioned in The Plague Dogs have been and or are being done to animals.) Much more than in Adams' Watership Down (1972), we are here in the fearsomely human-dominated world experienced by animals.

    After Rowf and Snitter escape from ARSE, they struggle to survive among the farms, fells, tarns, and mountains of the Lake District. Should they try to find a good master like Snitter's recently deceased man? Should they go wild and live by a kill or be killed code? Or should they return to the "white coats" (researchers) like obedient dogs?

    In addition to the unempathic white coats, Adams introduces a cast of human characters affected by the escape of the "plague dogs," an unethical investigative newspaper reporter, no-nonsense local farmers and shop keepers, and some self-serving politicians. None of them care about the dogs as fellow living beings. As Rowf repeatedly tells Snitter, "The world is a bad place for animals." The dogs want to believe that the world is like that due to some unknown human motivation, that men must have a good reason to "destroy the natural world and replace it with a wilderness" and to hurt so many animals. The novel depicts dogs (like most animals) as slaves or holocaust victims of humanity.

    The Plague Dogs would be unbearably grim were it not for two balancing virtues, Adams' humor and varied style. The book is often very funny, even amid the grueling suspense of Rowf and Snitter's attempts to survive outside ARSE and the horrible experiments going on inside ARSE. And Adams writes in a variety of registers and styles for a variety of purposes, among them caustic satire (targeting scientific research, the media, and politicians), existential comedy, surreal madness, scatological humor, sublime natural beauty (especially of the Lake District), Lake District dialects, doggy songs and poetry, and allusions to literature by the likes of Shakespeare and Sherlock Holmes. Adams even pokes fun at himself when some naturalist animal experts debate the virtues of enthusiasts like Adams who over-anthropomorphize animals like rabbits (in Watership Down).

    Snitter often utters a Fool-like patter like this: "Perhaps you're not out at all. You're drowned. We're dead. We haven't been born. There's a mouse—a mouse that sings—I'm bitten to the brains and it never stops raining—not in this eye anyway." And when excited, he may indulge in a cracked canine rap like this:

    "The white coats dyed a mouse bright blue
    And stuffed his ears with sneezing glue.
    They shone a biscuit in his eye
    To see what lay beyond the sky."

    And he's often given to canine idiom, like this: "That remark's in very poor smell."

    If Rowf and Snitter are too articulate for dogs, they have appealingly canine perspectives. They tend to think that every mysterious thing that happens is a result of some man doing something somewhere, from turning on a light in a lab room to cutting away pieces of the moon each night. They even tell tales of a benevolent Star Dog who created all the animals and then the world to give them a home and then made man to take care of the animals while He was away on other business and who cursed man with never being able to live in the moment after he began abusing his charges.

    Ralph Cosham gives his usual unassuming and perfect reading of the novel, handling the northern dialects so smoothly that it's easier to listen to them than to read them, making his Rowf speak slightly deeper and his Snitter slightly higher, and generally enhancing the novel in all the right ways.

    Adams's anger with animal experimentation burns through his satiric riffs and sarcastic asides. He pulls no punches about how awfully we treat animals. Proponents of experiments on animals for the supposed future benefits to science, humanity, and animals might feel defensive and resentful reading this novel, while opponents of such experiments might become enraged and nauseated. At times Adams lays it on too thickly, with a bit more sarcasm or satire than the truth requires, and some of the parts devoted to unpleasant people last a bit too long and repeat too much information. And I love and worry about Rowf and Snitter so much that I nearly thought about putting the book down when their plight becomes unbearable, but finally I am glad to have read this novel.

    19 of 19 people found this review helpful
  • Stephen
    Red Bluff, CA, United States
    08/05/14
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    Story
    "Both a very sad and very happy experience"

    I owned this book, the paperback version for about 20 years and never read it. Now that I have listened to the story of these two dogs I'm happy I did. I love dogs and this truely is a dog lovers book. Highly recommend.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Robert
    Egg Harbor City, NJ, United States
    10/10/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brilliant!"

    Hard to say which was better - Richard Adams' writing or Ralph Cosham's narration!
    Just a brilliant tale. Heartbreaking but redemptive, this was the best listen of the year for me...
    Mr. Cosham MUST be hired to narrate Shardik. Seriously, this must happen!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Gabby
    05/02/15
    Overall
    "A golden oldie"

    I had read this book many years ago and was enthralled anew by this audio version. It is beautifully written. Gives one much food for thought. I loved it

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Joshua
    United States
    30/12/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Watership Down, except with bitter, bitter satire"
    Where does The Plague Dogs rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I'd put it around the middle.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    That's a tough one. All the characters contribute to the story in some way, but if I had to choose, it would be the tod. I do have some fondness for Digby Driver though, despite the fact that he's the pretty much the villain.


    What about Ralph Cosham’s performance did you like?

    He's OK. His reading wasn't anything special, but it was competent. I'd have no objection to listening to another one of his readings.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The "interaction" between Snitter and the hunter who tries to befriend him. Also, the scene where he tells the story of what happened to his first master. Poor doggie can't catch a break.


    Any additional comments?

    It's a lot like Watership Down when it follows the dogs, but it shifts to satire and black comedy when we follow the humans. There is a certain absurdity to this book. This is a world where a guy named "Dr. Boycott" does experiments on behalf of (A)nimal (R)esearch, (S)cientific and (E)xperimental. If you're in favor of animal experimentation, this might not be the book for you, as Adams can be quite bitter in his satire. However, it's made clear by the end that he's only against pointless and sadistic testing, as opposed to legitimate medical work.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Skipper
    California
    09/12/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not as good as Watership Down"

    This book was originally published in 1977, in part to counteract the horrible animal experiments done in the name of progress at an infamous laboratory in England. The lab in the book is based on a real lab, Lawsen Park -- a converted farm, also known by the acronym ARSE (Animal Research, Scientific Aand Experimental), aka "Buttocks" (hehe).

    The story is good but not great (grim and so sad at times, with tortured animals, mauled sheep, etc). Only one decent human character. A fairly promising ending, though.

    Basically, this is the story of two dogs, Rowf and Snitter, who escape that torturous laboratory and flee across country. Starving, and terrified of "the white coats" they go feral. Become cynical. Bitter. A sly red fox (the tod) helps them for a while. Digby Diver, a journalist, exploits their suffering for a headline. He writes that they are carrying bubonic plague. Everyone hunts them. Snitter's kind owner looks for him.

    Cosham's narration, while flawless, is difficult to understand at times, because the fox speaks in a dialect like cockney. Also, I didn't care for the rhyming passages. For me, this book is best read, rather than heard.

    I do love Richard Adams. Watership Down is a big fave, superbly narrated by Ralph Cosham.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Elizabeth
    United States
    14/03/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Author of Watership Down has more"
    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    How the author has to get in "dog mind" instead of human mind. Those of us who have had dogs can relate to why the author wanted to do it.


    What does Ralph Cosham bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He's my favorite reader for relaxation, tone, and style. Without him, I wouldn't have tried it at all.


    If you could rename The Plague Dogs, what would you call it?

    Escape From Experiment: Two Dogs Go Rogue


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • NWBuyer
    16/01/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Wow! Heartbreaking then uplifting!"

    This book made me sadder and sadder then from the depths of despair the ending was what I hoped for! I really liked it!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Beverly
    GREENBRAE, CA, US
    14/01/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Animal Rights Is A Major Theme"

    I like animals, so this book was hard to listen to. The main characters, two dogs who escaped from a research clinic that experiments on animals in extremely cruel ways. The author writes descriptions beautifully, but the book is slow in parts. The reader did an excellent job doing the different voices. It is a good book but not a page turner.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • james
    Richmond, Vatican City State (Holy See)
    14/01/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "You must read to the end‼️ loved it♥️"

    Hard to listen to without wanting to cry. But so worth listing all the way to the end!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Love it

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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