Dr. Rat
William Kotzwinkle
book reviews:
· general fiction
· chick lit/romance
· sci-fi/fantasy
· graphic novels
· nonfiction
· audio books

Click here for the curledup.com RSS Feed

· author interviews
· children's books @
· DVD reviews @

win books
buy online


for authors
& publishers

for reviewers

click here to learn more

Buy *Dr. Rat* online Dr. Rat

William Kotzwinkle
Marlowe & Company
244 pages
Copyright 1971, 1976
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

previous reviewnext review

Charlotte's Web this ain't. William Kotzwinkle's backlist novel Dr. Rat combines a cautionary dash of Orwell's Animal Farm with the rancid horror of Sinclair's The Jungle to tell a blackly funny, savagely critical tale of humanity's mistreatment of the other animals sharing our world. Dr. Rat goes for the throat with appalling accuracy, clawing at the emotional core we try to protect with logic and reason. This novel forces us to look at the cruelly seamy underside of animal experimentation, slaughtering houses and overhunting. Told with a savage humor that does nothing to cushion the blow of confronting our own barbarism, Dr. Rat stands out as a masterpiece of recognition and rage.

Curled Up With a Good BookThe title character is a laboratory rat long mad from running the maze. Dr. Rat rants insanely about the glories of the research scientists who perform torturous experiments on Dr. Rat and his fellow captives. "Death is freedom," he shouts again and again. But the lab animals are being swayed by revolutionary images from a newcomer to their prison, a stray dog used for a heatstroke study:

It's so hard to get their interest. The dog's program is more subtly suggestive. It works on the weakness of my fellow rats. They don't realize that we're the friends of man, that we're here to serve humanity selflessly in every way we can. For only in man does one find the divine spark. The rest of us live in darkness, without souls.

"You're all just basic models, fellow rats! Don't you understand the meaning of that? A basic model has no feelings, has no spirit. Man is able to twist us and starve us and cut off our tails because that's the law! Haven't you read St. Thomas Aquinas? Animals have no soul!"

But while Dr. Rat gaily recites the gratuitous atrocities performed on his fellows by the Learned Professor and his graduate assistants -- "Nobody knows exactly what he's doing, or why. It is sufficient that each month we mention cancer and a new kind of plastic." -- the revolution brewing inside the lab mirrors a great gathering of every sort of animal in the outside world. The story flashes to the mind of a different creature for a chapter, either one suffering at the hand of man or one beginning the trek to the mustering, then flips back to Dr. Rat's lone stand against the rebelling research subjects.

All the animals of the world are gathering to become the One Animal, to experience themselves as the soul (so to speak) of the world. At last representatives of every species are present at the great meeting, except for one: man. The animal world stands in silence, waiting for the appearance of the one holdout. When humans finally show up, the One Great Animal will, at least for one shining moment, come back into being, but the fallout will be unspeakable, catastrophic, apocalyptic, but not for even an instant surprising.

The power of the pen in the hands of this great modern satirist is considerable. Rage flows out of the prose like red-hot lava, incinerating everything in its path. Dr. Rat ignites emotions that most of us are less than comfortable experiencing; all the more reason to read this book and to open your eyes.

More books by William Kotzwinkle:

buy *Dr. Rat* online
click here for more info
Click here to learn more about this month's sponsor!

fiction · sf/f · comic books · nonfiction · audio
newsletter · free book contest · buy books online
review index · links · · authors & publishers

site by ELBO Computing Resources, Inc.