“I’m on page 47 of 215 of Doctor Rat: I’m honestly not sure how much more of this book I can take. The purpose is clear, but the presentation is disturbing, as it’s obviously meant to be. Not what I’m looking for in my entertainment.”
When I finished typing that update, I realized that I was putting myself through this book for no good reason. I’m already against animal testing and for animal rights. It’s possible that this book might have something to teach me, but whatever that lesson might be isn’t worth the discomfort suffered to get there, and that would be nothing next to the discomfort of some of the creatures in this book.
When I started Doctor Rat, I was aware that it was going to be an uncomfortable read. Written in the 1970s when all of the nasty secrets of animal testing were first coming to light and before there was much in the way of legislation or even social conscience in the area of animal rights. Going in, I understood the book to be pointed satire, a blazing light on the horrific practices in laboratories across the western world.
And maybe I should have taken a hint at that point, before I started reading. Horrific is absolutely the right word, but it’s only a place to start. Much of the story is told from the point of view of the titular character, Doctor Rat, a long-term survivor of experimentation and firmly in the corner of the so-called scientists as they work to further “knowledge”. The good doctor extols the virtues of the methods used and the various inhumane acts of violence, vivisection, and torture performed on rats, dogs, and other animals.
In the meantime, there’s a kind of animal revolution going on in the outside world, somehow sparked by the dogs.
Overall rating: 1 star. Even if it wasn’t a DNF, I can’t see pushing the rating higher. There’s not a single comfortable moment in the scenes narrated by Doctor Rat. And while there’s not supposed to be, this isn’t what I’m looking for in my entertainment. Make me think, make me question, make me work to understand new or different ideas. But I’m not looking to be disturbed and I’m not looking for nightmares. If I’d finished the book, those might have been on the way.
I had to remind myself that this came from the same author who just a few years later would write the novelization of E.T., otherwise there probably wouldn’t be any chance of my picking up anything by Mr. Kotzwinkle again.by