What happens when we finally figure out how to make non-human creatures into better slaves by giving them implants to help them speak? Or genetically engineer them to have human-like intelligence? One thing is for sure: they aren't likely to be thrilled. In fact, science fiction about "uplifted" animals generally represent the newly-brainy creatures turning into violent revolutionaries, running away, or killing themselves. If you're intrigued by the idea of creating non-human intelligence here on Earth with our fellow fauna, read our list of some of the best tales in the genre.
We3, by Grant Morrison with drawings by Frank Quitely. I'll admit it: This comic book is so emotionally powerful that it made me cry. In fact, just looking at pictures from it gets me kind of choked up. It's the story of a dog, cat, and rabbit who are given brain implants and body armor and forced to become secret assassins for the military. Of course, they hate it — the cat calls all the humans "stink boss" — and eventually a sympathetic scientist helps them escape. The book follows their bloody adventures as they flee the military and a giant, evil cyber-pitbull. Quitely's drawings are incredible, and Morrison's spare, urgent dialog is heart-wrenching. Do not read this in public if your heart is made of a material softer than tungsten.
The Uplift Series, by David Brin. Humans have "uplifted" monkeys and dolphins, giving them human-like intelligence. The second and third novels in the series center on spaceships piloted by monkeys and dolphins respectively. What galls is that Brin's creatures are always in danger of slipping back into their "animal" natures, something that humans supposedly don't do. Yeah, right. (Note that there is an uplifted dolphin in William Gibson's "Johnny Mnemonic" too.)
The Lives of the Monster Dogs, by Kirsten Bakis. This is quite simply an incredible book about dogs given human-like intelligence and upper-class manners by an early-twentieth-century mad Austrian. It's gorgeously written from the point of view of the Vanity Fair reporter assigned to cover the dogs' story when they come to live in New York. What's brilliant about this novel is that the dogs feel like aliens not so much because they are humanoid canines, but because the United States is so modern compared to the tiny backwoods berg where they came of age. So they feel like anachronisms, early twentieth-century creatures thrust into a contemporary world of cell phones and televisions that they can never understand. Step inside Bakis' gothic dog world and you won't be able to leave until the novel is done.
Planet of the Apes. As we learn in the fourth movie, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, humans "uplifted" apes in order to make them into janitors and lab assistants. This movie, while it suffers from the cheese factor, is nevertheless an interesting portrait of an oppressed group of uplifted animals as they revolt against their human masters. It's pretty obvious that the filmmakers, lensing in the early 1970s, were obsessed with the civil rights movement of the 1960s and modeled their ape revolutionaries on Malcolm X.
Tank Girl. Among the mutants in this comic book (and movie) are humanoid kangaroos who apparently make the best lovers. Tank Girl's boyfriend is a kangaroo, and some of her best friends are too. Because society has already fallen, there isn't much revolting against evil human masters here. It's just anarchist, interspecies love.
The Mount, by Carol Emschwiller. This is a terrific reversal of the usual uplift fare — here, invading aliens turn humans into animals. The tiny, weak-legged aliens fit perfectly onto human shoulders and use people as "mounts," breeding them for speed and muscle. The story focuses on one young mount, bred to be ridden by a prince, and his dawning realization that maybe freedom is better than a warm stall and a few pats.
Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes. A strange spinoff of the animal uplift genre is this novel, made into a drippy movie called Charly, about a drug that allows a developmentally-disabled guy to become a super-genius for a short period of time. Yeah, there's some creepy stuff here with low-IQ humans being treated like animals — just like in real life. There is actually a whole subgenre of tales in this vein, including Lawnmower Man and an awful episode of Star Trek: TNG where a dork named Barkley merges his brain with the ship.