Vincent and the Dissidents, by Christopher Locke – Book Review by Fred Patten
by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Vincent and the Dissidents, by Christopher Locke.
Los Angeles, CA, Fathoming Press, April 2018, trade paperback, $14.95 ([x +] 335 pages), Kindle $3.99.
This is The Enlightenment Adventures, Book Two. When I reviewed Book One, published in February 2015, I said: “And this is only Book One of The Enlightenment Adventures. Those who read it through to the end will not be able to resist going on to Book Two.” Now, after a three-year wait, here it is.
In Book One, Persimmon Takes On Humanity, the raccoon Persimmon leads a tiny group of North American forest animals in an apparently hopeless drama of taking on all humanity to destroy its enterprises that exploit animals: commercial meat farms, fur farms, puppy mills, and especially circuses with performing animals. Persimmon starts out as an indignant but naïve protester against all human callous exploitation of animals for profit or amusement. By the end of the novel, she is a grim militant.
“She looks directly at the Rottweilers with a stern expression. ‘Listen to me very carefully. I want to help you, but there are two of you and thousands of minks, and they’re suffering immensely. I’ve heard horrible things about what they’re forced to endure. Right now some of them have open wounds. Some don’t have any water. And some are going slowly insane because they’re trapped in stifling, barren cages. It’s unbelievably cruel, and we’re here to put a stop to it. You’re either with us or against us.’” (Persimmon Takes On Humanity, p. 146)
Vincent and the Dissidents begins with a ten-page Cast of Characters and Synopsis of Book One, so the reader can drop running into the action. The Cast of Characters says about Vincent:
“VINCENT – A cunning mink whose fur is mostly black with a hint of blue. He lived a hellish life on a fur farm before he finally escaped. He then vowed to himself that he would rescue the minks who were still trapped on the farm. A few months later, he was lucky enough to meet Persimmon and her team. They joined forces and successfully rescued most of the minks. Little did Persimmon know that after she and her team had moved on to their next mission, Vincent began gathering his own army of animals who would rescue other animals using more aggressive tactics against humans than her own.” (p. [iv])
It’s more complex than that. Persimmon originally grandiosely dubs her animal group The Uncaged Alliance. In Book One, she constantly argues with Rawly, another raccoon, as to what tactics they should use and what their next mission should be. They end up splitting, with Rawly leading the remnant of The Uncaged Alliance (including Persimmon’s younger brother Scraps), and Persimmon starting afresh with a new title, The Enlighteners. Vincent has been organizing his own group, the Dissidents.
Chapter 1 starts:
“PERSIMMON OPENS HER eyes. The room is pitch black. Where am I? The confused raccoon starts to sit up, but suddenly the room begins to spin. Dizziness overcomes her, and nausea hits her hard. She closes her eyes to collect herself. She takes a deep breath. Breathe. Breathe. With her eyes closed, her hearing becomes more acute. She can hear other animals in the room – weeping, moaning. She quickly pops her eyes back open. They’re in pain. I need to help them.” (p. 1)
(This quote exhibits a peculiarity of The Enlightenment Adventures. Both books are written in the narrative present tense, not the past tense as is most fiction.)
Chapter 2 begins: “(two weeks ago)”, in happier times. Everything up to Chapter 22 leads up to Persimmon and other animals trapped in that room. The rest of the novel is what she does about it.
Another early quote illustrates part of the problem. Persimmon has led her Enlighteners to her Aunt Adelaide and Uncle Bennett for some Rest & Relaxation:
“Aunty Adelaide […] turns back to him and says, ‘Go see if you can catch some fresh fish for them.’
‘No! No fish.’ Persimmon immediately climbs up the tree, blocking her uncle from hopping down. ‘We don’t eat fish.’
Aunty Adelaide almot falls out of the tree, she’s so flabbergasted by this statement. ‘What respectable raccoon doesn’t like fish?’
‘Actually, we do like fish,’ Persimmon explains. ‘That’s why we don’t eat them.’
‘You’re speaking in riddles, dear. I can’t understand you.’
‘All of us have vowed to be compassionate toward other animals, which includes not eating them,’ Persimmon says.
‘But you’ll die of starvation if you don’t eat other animals,’ Uncle Bennett says.” (pgs. 8-9)
Persimmon has become a militant vegan. She won’t eat any animal, nor will she allow her followers including the carnivores to do so. That’s one reason her Enlighteners and Rawly and the others in The Uncaged Alliance split. The others consider that the ‘no eating other animals’ rule should have some obvious exceptions, such as for fish or chickens, while Persimmon says that not eating animals means no animals. Persimmon also wants to rescue animals without harming humans, while The Uncaged Alliance doesn’t mind harming humans if necessary to help other animals. Both groups are horrified by Vincent’s readiness to kill humans.
Well, most of both groups. Apricot, a housecat who remains with TUA, is as much a predator as Vincent is. She and Vincent praise Rawly for being willing to harm humans when necessary. Rawly, flattered, doesn’t realize at first that “harm when necessary” means “kill whenever possible”.
Vincent and the Dissidents splits into two alternating stories: that of Vincent and his Dissidents, with the increasingly reluctant alliance with Rawly’s The Uncaged Alliance, building an army of ferocious dogs to attack and kill humans when they are unleashed; while Persimmon and her Enlighteners try to liberate the chickens on a chicken farm.
Vincent may be ruthless, but he is not amoral. He is loyal to his fellow minks, and considers that killing humans is the only way to ensure the animals’ safety.
“Vincent sighs, thinking about his family, friends and all the other minks who were murdered at the Peterson fur farm. He thinks about his brother Frestin being skinned alive right in front of him. So many memories have faded with time, but that one – that horrifying experience never fades.
Vincent stomps the dirt to knock the memory from his mind. ‘And you’re telling me that Persimmon still thinks humans are redeemable despite the fact that they murdered all those animals, including two members of your team?’
‘How dangerously naïve.’ Vincent shakes his head, bewildered.” (p. 15)
Apricot, on the other paw, just considers killing humans to be fun.
The reader can see trouble coming. Animals can’t kill humans indefinitely without other humans retaliating en masse. Persimmon allows her followers in The Enlighteners the freedom to discuss, debate, and argue over her orders, which is fine for friendship and allowing all her group to express themselves, but as anyone can tell you, is a lousy if not fatal way to run a military operation. As the back-cover blurb gives away:
“Vincent and The Dissidents are conducting their own rescue operations, but their violent tactics against humans are quickly leading to catastrophic consequences. Meanwhile, just as Persimmon and The Enlighteners are mounting their most ambitious rescue so far, a tragic incident alters Persimmon’s life forever and jeopardizes the fate of The Enlighteners.”
Vincent and the Dissidents (cover by L. A. Watson) is a fit sequel to Persimmon Takes On Humanity. It is a sometimes humorous, sometimes harrowing read:
“That’s when Persimmon sees Rasha’s face – her horrifically mangled face. All the pain that this pit bull has endured is exposed right there in her shredded ears, chipped teeth, and chewed-up nose. Persimmon can almost feel the bite marks as if she had been there herself. What kind of ruthless human could do this to another animal?” (p. 333)
Locke says in an Afterword to sign up for his newsletter to know when Book Three is published. So there will be more.
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