I really did try to like this, but I just couldn't get through. I was far too freaked out by it and probably wasn't in the right mindset to read it. One day I may go back to it when I don't feel obligated by university, but as far as I can tell, it's just not my cup of tea.
When rescued shipwreck victim Edward Prendick falls foul of the ship's captain, he finds himself forcibly put ashore with the other passenger and his menagerie of animals. On a remote island, Edward is given shelter by the mysterious Dr Moreau. But who are the strange 'humans' who he sees around, and what does Moreau want with his assorted livestock?
Quite a horrible read, especially in the earlier part, with its focus on vivisection. Later it degenerates (in my view) into a bit of a second rate adventure story and failed to hold my interest. Harking back to Shelley's 'Frankenstein', there is, of course, a subtler sub-text, raising such questions as how far should scientific experimentation go, and what defines a human.
Won't forget the plot-line in a hurry though not the greatest read.
The mad scientist has been with us since the early 1800s. And while H.G. Wells didn't create the mad scientist stereotype, he certainly gave it a boost in his harrowing novella "The Island of Dr. Moreau" -- beast-men forced to live like humans, a crazy scientist carrying out mad plans, and a bland Englishman stuck in the middle of it.
After he is shipwrecked, the English gentleman Edward Prendick is rescued by a passing boat. The man who saved him, Montgomery, is taking a number of wild animals to a remote deserted island, where the creepy Dr. Moreau does some kind of research on the animals that are brought there. Naturally, Prendick is suspicious of Moreau's activities.
It doesn't take long for him to stumble across the products of Moreau's work -- grotesque hybrids of animal and human, who are surgically turned into humanoids and ordered not to act in animalistic ways. And with the laws of nature being horribly perverted, it's only a matter of time before Dr. Moreau's experiments lash out.
It's pretty obvious from this book that H.G. Wells was nervous about the ramifications of meddling in nature -- be it vivisection, evolutionary degeneration, or even just the idea that scientific progress could be used for horribly evil things. As a result, "The Island of Dr. Moreau" is perhaps his darkest, most horrific book. Not his best book, but his darkest.
The first couple chapters are rather stuffy in the 18th-century style, with Prendrick fussily noting everything that's happened to him. But the creepiness begins to enter once he arrives on the island, and explodes into weird, almost dreamlike scenes once he encounters the Beast Folk. It's like a strange nightmare that you might have after watching the Chronicles of Narnia. And all this ultimately culminates in the slow decay of everything on the island.
Prendrick is also perhaps the weakest link in the book... which is not a good thing, considering he is the main character. When the only other humans on the island are.... well, a mad scientist and his sidekick, you need a protagonist who really grips your imagination. But he's honestly kind of bland, to the point where any number of the beastly folk have far more presence and power than he does. And they certainly elicit more sympathy.
"The Island of Dr. Moreau" is a dark, eerie cautionary tale about science run amuck, and only its bland protagonist keeps it from fully engaging. Not Wells' best, but an intriguing horror/SF story on its own.
This classic from 1896 is thrilling from the very first page. It begins with three men afloat aboard a dingy after the sinking of their ship. One is the narrator, Edward Prendick, who eventually finds himself on another ship sailing to a nameless and isolated island. The island is populated by strange creatures and an enigmatic leader who he finds to be Dr. Moreau. This name is known to him as a scientist of ill repute run out of London years prior.
Prendick soon learns of Moreau's more recent experiments and the island's animal-turned human population. Wells' imagination provides a terrifying but engrossing menagerie including the Leopard Man, the Hyena-Swine, the Swine Folk, the Ape Man, Bull Men, Horse-Rhinoceros, Wolf-Bear, Ocelot Man, Dog Man and the Monkey Man.
It is at this point that the book finds its meaning as Prendick is introduced to the Law governing the behavior of these beings: "Not to go on all-fours; that is the Law. Are we not Men? Not to suck up Drink; that is the Law. Are we not Men? Not to eat Fish or Flesh; that is the Law. Are we not Men? Not to claw the Bark of Trees; that is the Law. Are we not Men? Not to chase other Men; that is the Law. Are we not Men?"
This intonation creepily delivered by the beast-people raises the moral and ethical question that Moreau never considered, "Should we manipulate science, genetics, and biology?". All Moreau is interested in is 'can we?' without full entertaining the implications and impact of his efforts. In addition to this theme of progressive science, Wells raises the differences between man and animal, class distinctions, and religion as central organizing principle of a society.
This is what makes it a great read. It can be consumed for its thrills and chills or one can analyze it much deeper (or in my case, both). I am glad I finally got around to reading it and believe it would make for a great book club discussion.