Doctor Rat gives voice to the horrors of the laboratory as seen from the eyes of the lab-animals. Driven insane by the experiments performed on him, many of them without anaesthesia, Dr. Rat encourages the other animals to do their best to be supportive of the torture they experience.
“He’s sensitive chap and it was his exquisite sensitivity that caused him to dream up the item that’s become the latest rage here at the lab: the fabulous removal of the eggs from a female rat’s body—to the tail, to the ear, to the stomach. And for the past twenty-three days, he’s been grafting them to their eyeballs!”
In 2014 one of the Nobel Prizes handed out was for showing why our brain is a GPS system. Two of those who won that prize were May-Britt and Edvard Moser.
In this video, the Moser’s look like nice people. They cuddle the rats and talk about creating lesions on their brains. As far as labs go, this lab is far from the worst. However, this video does illustrate the human position as apex predators.
One argument for experiments like the ones in Dr. Rat or the ones in the labs at NTNU goes something like this “What about medical advancement and further knowledge about improving lives?” I don’t buy that argument at all even though I have benefited and benefit from animal and human experiments. There is no good argument for humans treating lab animals the way cats treat their victims.
I could not read Dr. Rat in one go. Some of the other stories I read can be as violent, but Kotzwinkle‘s writing dug his claws of horror and despair into my brain. In the end, there is a balancing event against the torturers (not only researchers) that in no way makes up for the terrible lives of these animals. Not that such treatment surprises, or even shocks, me. This is the way many humans treat other humans. After all, humans are both predator and prey in our genetic make-up.
“What are they doing to me, Doctor Rat?”
“Let me just check my notes… yes, here we are. You’ll be the tenth rat this week to have his brains sucked out by a pneumatic tube.”
While Dr. Rat is horror, it is also humour, humour of the darker kind, the kind I like. As satire, the story does its job of criticizing society’s proclivity towards violence.
It was the cover that lured me in. Sometimes I am lucky and the cover actually presages the contents.
Dominic Green‘s Ant & Cleo series is as well-written and ridiculous as only British humor can be. These two young (12 years old) people go through experiences that are disconnected to reality as we prefer to believe it. Unless, of course, Britain, Russia (USSR) and the US have actually managed to get colonies into space. I suppose it is possible?
First, Antony and Cleopatra, the main characters. Their characters have little to do with the portrayal by Shakespeare but more in common with the originals. Ant seems to be bluff, passionate and a little simple-minded (and highly underestimated by Cleo), while Cleo is fairly intelligent and practical.
It all begins with a trip to the woods with Ant’s father. Forests are great places for adventure, though I doubt many people get to go into space with an alien from Lalande 21185. Strangely enough, this alien looks like a human:
“The new man looked tired and thin, and had a haircut that suggested he spent a lot of his time in prison. He was wearing neither a suit nor combat fatigues, but a pair of Levi’s which still had the label dangling from the back of them, and a maroon T shirt. The T shirt had aliens in flying saucers on it, along with the words SPACE RASTA.”
Mr. Green throws Ant & Cleo into situations that keep them wondering about the things they have learned in school. The spaceship they leave Earth in is their first clue to their ignorance. “Made in Britain by Hawker Siddeley Aviation” seems a bit far-fetched to them. But that is what the maker’s plate says.
Then they meet Americans (US) in space. What a parody of every prejudice non-US citizens have had of them. White-supremacy, a confederate flag and deep southern accents along with names like Billy-Bob, Billy-Hank and Wayne-Bob. A whole sleuth of movies go through my memories as I write this. The funniest thing about these stereotypes is that Hollywood is the worst perpetrator of the image (and early James Bond). Their new compatriots join them on that planet. Glenn Bob and Truman make an odd couple. One very curious and the other diligent in carrying out assigned jobs.
After the US, Ant & Cleo get to meet members of the Soviet Union. Yes. In space the USSR still rules and feelings between the US and Russians continue to be very cold (I guess a bit like today). Here, too, accents and behavior copies movie and television stereotypes. Mr. Green nails these stereotypes.
“Glorious Soviet Yutopia does not kyill wyomen and chyildren”
OMG, non-russians speaking English with Russian accents drive me crazy. Finally, Ant & Cleo get to meet and talk with the British. Their poor kidnapper has been unconscious ever since their spaceship broke Earth’s orbit, so they do not know who he is and where he is from. He is British. Here again, Green nails every stereotype. These are the British who shake their head and carry on with the job even when they are severely wounded, wring sweat out of their long underwear to make water and express strong feelings by saying things like “Golly”, “Gosh” and “Bally good”.
Nothing is realistic. Well, except that quite a lot of it is. Tension between countries, secretive and lying governments and people who try to follow the propaganda they have been brought up are all things Green portrays as is. Propaganda, my goodness, what a great examples of propaganda and the brainwashing citizens are put through and accept.
I enjoyed this book immensely and think it would be appropriate for people from around 10 years old and up. Adults might have to explain some of the references, but with the I-net available to many, they might not.
Terry Pratchett is God. Or perhaps he is Moist von Lipwig. What a name. Seriously! Pratchett has a way with names that I have never seen outdone.
I loved Raising Steam. Goblins are my new favorite race. These people keep on knocking over the expectations of other races time and again. Their freedom from being eaten, chased, beaten and downtrodden (at least in theory) has led to them outdoing many of their old masters.
Perhaps this is the main reason Pratchett has caught my heart. He isn’t afraid to address problems in society, and he does it in a manner that helps me see them in a new light. Moist von Lipwig is an excellent conduit for that message. He races through the story having to face himself ever so many times. Facing myself is not my favorite pastime but it is one that I try to make time for daily. One of the advantages of limited mobility is that I can no longer run from whatever parts of me I might wish to run from. Moist tries but Mister Of the Twilight the Darkness keeps him on track.
In Raising Steam those tracks are technology and the steam engine. But I guess like so many of Mr. Pratchett stories, Raising Steam is about our fears. Facing our fears. In this case our fears take the shape of racism, fear of technology, fundamentalism and basically fear of any person or thing that is not within our scope of experience.
We are all frightened little shites trying to muddle our way throughout life without realizing that all of the others around us are also frightened little shites. For this reason I truly love Pratchett. He shows us our fears, and our fears are many. What we need is a Vimes who asks us difficult questions and at the same time helps us realize that we are dumber than bread in persisting in our fears.
Like von Lipwig, Pratchett is my enabler. He helps me see what needs to be faced and leaves me feeling graced by his presence. No wonder he is my god.
1) “If you want earrings count ’em one, two three,
if you want to wear no skivvies just like me,
if you want to drink a beer when the day is hot,
then a Godforsaken Mormon is what you are not.”
Count the restrictions, what you cannot do,
worse than a baconburger if you are a Jew,
give your money, do your tasks, wear a suit and tie,
or in the outer darkness you are gonna cry.
2) Don’t touch your little factory, don’t you date a black,
or from the good ol’ bishie you will take some flak,
Shouldn’t show your shoulders or go in the lake –
that’s the devil’s hangout, for goodness’ sake!
3) Funeral potatoes, oh my heck,
all that flippin’ stuff makes my hips a wreck!
Fast Sunday makes me hungry but what is worse
is kiddie testimonies, oh what a curse!
4) They stammer and they lisp that the chuwch is two
but it sure don’t cut the ice with me or you.
If you’ve had it up to here and “Enough!” you say,
than write that flippin’ letter and do it today!
5) They take our hard earned cash and they build a mall,
but if we are in need, who’re we to call?
There’s money for investments and for the Brethren too,
but there is nothing but frustration for me and you!
6) Count your aggravations, count them one by one,
then pack your bag, my friend, and prepare…to…run!
Count your aggravations, count them one by one,
then pack your bag, my friend, and prepare…to…run!
Feudalism: You have two cows. Your lord takes some of the milk. (Anonymous)
Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor. (Silas Strawn, 1935)
Pure socialism: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else’s cows. You have to take care of all the cows. The government gives you as much milk as you need. (Anonymous)
Bureaucratic socialism: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else’s cows. They are cared for by ex-chicken farmers. You have to take care of the chickens the government took from the chicken farmers. The government gives you as much milk and as many eggs as the regulations say you should need. (Anonymous)
Communism: You have two cows. You give them to the Government, and the Government then gives you some milk. (Silas Strawn, 1935)
Pure communism: You have two cows. Your neighbors help you take care of them, and you all share the milk. (Anonymous)
Applied communism: You have two cows. You have to take care of them, but the government takes all the milk.
Fascism: You have two cows. You give them to the Government, and the Government then sells you some milk. (Silas Strawn, 1935)
Militarianism: You have two cows. The government takes both and drafts you. (Anonymous)
Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. (Silas Strawn, 1935) Then put both of them in your wife’s name and declare bankruptcy. (Pat Paulsen, 1968)
Nazism (dictatorship): You have two cows. The Government takes both and shoots you. (Silas Strawn, 1935)
New Dealism: You have two cows. The Government takes both, shoots one, buys milk from the other cow, then pours the milk down the drain. (Silas Strawn, 1935)
Environmentalism: You have two cows. The government bans you from milking or killing them. (Anonymous)
Totalitarianism: You have two cows. The government takes them and denies they ever existed. Milk is banned. (Anonymous)
Pure democracy: You have two cows. Your neighbors decide who gets the milk. (Anonymous)
Representative democracy: You have two cows. Your neighbors pick someone to tell you who gets the milk. (Anonymous)
American democracy: The government promises to give you two cows if you vote for it. After the election, the president is impeached for speculating in cow futures. The press dubs the affair “Cowgate”. (Anonymous)
British democracy: You have two cows. You feed them sheeps’ brains and they go mad. The government doesn’t do anything. (Anonymous)
Singapore democracy: You have two cows. The government fines you for keeping two unlicensed farm animals in an apartment. (Anonymous)
Anarchy: You have two cows. Either you sell the milk at a fair price or your neighbors try to kill you and take the cows. (Anonymous)
Political correctness: You are associated with (the concept of “ownership” is a symbol of the phallocentric, warmongering, intolerant past) two differently-aged (but no less valuable to society) bovines of nonspecified gender. (Anonymous)
Counterculture: Wow, dude, there’s like… these two cows, man. You have got to have some of this milk. I mean totally. (Anonymous)
Surrealism: You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons. (Anonymous)
Russian company: You have two cows. You drink some vodka and count them again. You have five cows. The Russian Mafia shows up and takes however many cows you have.
Californian company: You have a million cows. Most of them are undocumented immigrants.
US Company: You have two cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why
the cow has dropped dead.
Greek company: You have two cows. You borrow lots of euros to build barns, milking sheds, hay stores, feed sheds, dairies, cold stores, abattoir, cheese unit and packing sheds. You still only have two cows.
French company: You have two cows. You go on strike, organise a riot, and block the roads, because you want three cows.
Japanese company: You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.
You then create a clever cow cartoon image called a Cowkimona and market it worldwide.
Italian company: You have two cows, but you don’t know where they are. You decide to have lunch.
Swiss company: You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you. You charge the owners for storing them.
Chinese company: You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity.
You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.
Indian company: You have two cows. You worship them.
British company: You have two cows. Both are mad.
Iraqi company: Everyone thinks you have lots of cows. You tell them that you have none. No-one believes you, so they bomb the ** out of you and invade your country. You still have no cows, but at least you are now a Democracy.
Australian company: You have two cows. Business seems pretty good. You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.
New Zealand company: You have two cows. The one on the left looks very attractive…
United nationism: You have two cows. France vetoes you from milking them. The United States and Britain veto the cows from milking you. New Zealand abstains.
Frisbeetarianism: You have two cows. One of them flies up on the roof and gets stuck. You hope the government provides cow ladders.
Intel Pentium 60 – A80501-60: You have 2.0000000056987983 cows.
In the marketing department: Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of two thousand millicows!
Argentina’s INTA governmental research body has developed cow backpacks that use a tube from the cattle’s rumen leading to a bag, to trap the methane they produce in order to turn it into green energy. You’d think this a joke, till you realize its 250 liters of methane a day. Question. At some point do they float away? Or by accident rocket away?
“Saving the world is Bob Howard’s job. There are a surprising number of meetings involved.” (The Atrocity Archives)
I have an admission to make. I do not believe I have ever read any Lovecraft but the Chtuluverse reaches far and wide and has many incarnations. Another admission. I am beginning to see that I do not understand what horror literature is. My placing it in this category relies solely upon what Charles Stross himself has said about his novellas.
The Atrocity Archive has to be a math/computer lover’s dream. It mixes real and imagined theories with abandon and we end up with things like “The Church-Turing Theorem”. Even I have heard of Alan Turing. The theorem itself is, of course, fantasy – or is it? Perhaps there really is an organization out there trying to protect us from reaching into the unknown and dragging out brain-eating monsters from parallel universes.
In the case of The Atrocity Archive this parallel universe is illustrated perfectly by Leighton Johns on Deviantart. As you can see, the worship of Adolph Hitler reached new heights over there. But the lovely monster who has taken over the Nazi-universe wants in to ours, and we really do not want that to happen. Unless you belong to the Order of Null.
As a first field assignment I have to say that Bob Howard has his work cut out for him. Although Angleton (boss-man) did not KNOW what kind of mess he was putting Bob into, he had to at least have an inkling of the extent of the problem. Exactly who or what Angleton is remains a mystery. I find myself curious enough about the man to want to get more of the Laundry series so I can find out more about him.
And that is just Angleton.
I have to say that Charles Stross has a wonderful way with the names of his characters. Scary Spice for one. I just about died when Scary was introduced. Then we have Bob’s flat-mates, Pinky and Brain. Pinky and Brain are uber-intelligent guys whose creative genius (and idiocy) are on par with Leonard of Quirm.
Perhaps this is the main reason I really like Charles Stross. His writing has the exact zing it needs to be both funny and painful. Stross excels at the astoundingly difficult art of satire and I love the way his intelligence radiates his writing dragging me along for the ride.
The Concrete Jungle is of the same quality. In these surveillance times it makes perfect sense to read about CCTV security cameras being taken over to wreak havoc in an area. All in the name of politics. Who cares if a a few people die along the way? You know, proper politics. Oh, the bite.
Once again, Bob Howard is called upon to save the day. Along the way he manages to show me my own “Laundry”. And so I conclude with the words of the master himself:
“The Laundry squats at the heart of a dark web, a collision between paranoia and secrecy on one hand, and the urge to knowledge on the other. Guardians of the dark secrets that threaten to drown us in nightmare, their lips sealed as tightly as their archives. To get even the vaguest outline of their activities takes a privileged takes a trickster-fool hacker like Bob, nosy enough to worm his way in where he isn’t supposed to be and smart enough to explain his way out of trouble. Some day Bob will grow up, fully understand the ghastly responsibilities that go with his job, shut the hell up, and stop digging. But until then, let us by all means use him as our unquiet guide to the corridors of the Fear Factory.” (The Atrocity Archives)
The Bloodhound Files was created by Mr. Barant as a social satire. I had no idea of that when I bought the novel. In fact it was not until creating this review that I discovered that fact. However, the feeling of social criticism was there throughout Dying Bites.
No doubt about it, Dying Bites is an action-filled mystery with a whole lot of dark fantasy/science fiction to it. We are talking about a parallel world with an alternate history and lots of paranormal creatures and magic.
Jace Valchek fits into the gung-ho main protagonist mold without all of the gooey romance that some fantasy/science fiction novels glory in – the kind that I never seem to understand. The closest we get to romance would be a couple of thoughts about Cassius and Dr. Pete and some action with Tanaka.
DD Barant uses vampires, werewolves, golems and humans to create a world where racism is based on races rather than silly things like color. In my head it becomes easier to understand the concept of racism. Several of the scenes where Mr. Barant shows us the less pleasant sides of our world become incredibly clear. Two of those scenes are the post-sex scene with Tanaka and the nazi-camp. I found that dialogue well-done.
Other dialogue that I enjoyed greatly was between Jace and Charlie, her partner, and any conversation including Eisfanger. Eisfanger is a wonderfully nerdy person whose greatest assistant is a rat skull called Wittgenstein. I found myself wanting to sit down with Eisfanger and have a chat. Being a nerd myself along with being married to one and having two sons who are nerds makes me predisposed toward nerdy characters – if they are well-written.
Dying Bites was great entertainment with a serious undertone and lots of humour.