October 6th, 2011

kittiwake

Book 50 (Hurrah!)

"The Puppies of Terra" by Thomas M. Disch

My name is White Fang, though of course that is not really my name. At least not any more. My name is really Dennis White, now. I like the old name better; it is more in keeping with the image I have of myself. But perhaps such an attitude is just a hangover from the time I was a pet. Some people would say that once you've been a pet, once you've grown used to the Leash, you're never quite human again- in the sense of being free. I don't know about that. Of course, it is more fun to be Leashed, but one can learn not to want it so badly. I did. And this, in one sense, is the story of how I did it.

It is sixty-seven years since earth was invaded by aliens, and two generations of men have been kept as pets in the Masters' kennels, on earth and throughout the solar system. The kennels are campuses where pets are raised and educated in lovely surroundings, and bred by the Masters' who want to improve their pets. Outside the kennels the dingoes, human beings who refused to become pets or were rejected as unsuitable, try to keep things going. The Masters do not have bodies, and appear to be some kind of electromagnetic beings. One of their first acts after the invasion was to take over all electrical generation, and they love auroras and flock to earth when a good display is expected, but when an unusual surge of sun-spot activity knocks the Masters out temporarily it gives the Dingoes a chance to fight back and try to wrest control of Earth back from the aliens.

I liked that way this books was written in the form of the memoirs of White Fang, who was born and bought up in the kennels of the Masters. He explains that however unacceptable such terms are nowadays, he must talk of pets and puppies and the Leash since that is how he thought of things at the time. White Fang and his brother Pluto received their names due to a vogue among the first generation of pets for calling their puppies after famous dogs.

The cover picture doesn't really match the book's contents. It features a dog standing on its hind-legs, brandishing the broken chain attached to the metal collar round its neck, and two wolves sitting in the background. As the pets of the story aren't dogs but men, it is symbolic of the human pets breaking the mental Leash that controls them, but it still doesn't really work, since most of the pets were freed from the Leash unwillingly and would have preferred to remain pets. During the story we only hear of one ex-pet who plotted his own escape from the Masters and went Dingo.