It is more than 100 years in the future and the horrors of factory farming, combined with the widespread abuse of antibiotics, have led to mass extinctions. The majority of all mammals, birds, and fish that humans have eaten for millennia no longer exist. Add to that an ever-widening gap between rich and poor and an overtaxed healthcare system. Those not fully capable — the handicapped, those with birth defects and congenital illness — are deemed undeserving of an equal share of scarce medical resources and are ...
It is more than 100 years in the future and the horrors of factory farming, combined with the widespread abuse of antibiotics, have led to mass extinctions. The majority of all mammals, birds, and fish that humans have eaten for millennia no longer exist. Add to that an ever-widening gap between rich and poor and an overtaxed healthcare system. Those not fully capable — the handicapped, those with birth defects and congenital illness — are deemed undeserving of an equal share of scarce medical resources and are ultimately classified as less than human. As paranoia about our food supplies spreads, a forceful new logic takes hold; in the blink of a millennial eye the disenfranchised have become our food.
Don LePan’s powerful and compelling novel shows us a world at once eerily foreign and disturbingly familiar. It follows the Stinsons — Carrie, Zayne, and their daughter Naomi — and the dramatic events that unfold within their family after they take in an abandoned mongrel boy. In the sharp-edged poignancy of the ethical questions it poses, in the striking narrative techniques it employs, and above all, in the remarkable power of the story it tells, Animals proves itself a transformative work of fiction.
At the center of this dystopian novel lies a philosophical premise: that the line between human and animal is too unclear to justify inhumane treatment of the latter--whether pet or farm animal. In a twenty-second century America, a combination of mass extinction and economic hardship has led people to look for an alternate source of meat: disabled human beings, stripped of their humanity, who are either kept as pets or farmed, with cruel efficiency, as food. Sam is one such person, a deaf child abandoned by his mother and adopted as a pet. The "found manuscript" that tells his story, and the accompanying scholarly commentary, paint a convincing picture of moral decline and ethical inconsistency on a devastating scale. Though at times heavy-handed, Animals nonetheless has the moral clarity and narrative drive of the best of the genre. LePan's vision is extreme, and though he focuses more on the evils of factory farming than on vegan evangelism, some may find it off-putting. But even those who might disagree with his thesis will be compelled by the implications of this well-plotted and formally audacious tale. (Jun.)
Cannibalism is standard First World practice in this debut novel, a futuristic satire whose target is today's factory farming. It's the early 22nd century, and yurn (human flesh) is on every menu. LePan's novel moves forward on two tracks. There's the story proper, about a victim and his two families; and then there's a didactic essay by one Broderick Clark, which provides context for the victim's horrifying ordeal. How humans came to eat their own flesh has two explanations. The first is economic. After the so-called great extinctions of farm animals, caused by disease, demand arose for another protein-rich food source. Supply was at hand. Little by little, the handicapped came to be seen as subhuman; this shift in perception explains our willingness to eat them. They were renamed mongrels. The cute ones became family pets, to replace disappeared cats and dogs. The rest became chattels on special farms; around age nine, they would be harvested (slaughtered). Which brings us to little Sam, born deaf into a poor family. His loving, distraught mother is forced to leave him on the porch of a better-off family, whose only child, Naomi, insists they adopt him as a pet. All goes well until her mother Carrie, alarmed by Naomi's close involvement with the creature, pays a facilitator to take him off their hands. After that it's the chattel farm, where Sam's fate is sealed. There is suspense and pathos in his story, but periodically we are jerked back to Broderick's overview, a clever pastiche of a footnoted academic paper. A more skillful writer would have integrated the essay and narrative. As LePan makes clear in the afterword, the barbaric conditions in the chattel pens mirror today's factory farms, though the attraction/repulsion of human flesh-eating distracts from his propagandist's point that our solicitude for pets and wild animals should encompass farm animals too. An awkward hybrid, with an overly oblique message, but it has its moments.