Brad's Reviews > The Island of Dr. Moreau

The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells
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Aug 16, 11

bookshelves: sci-fi, mieville50
Recommended for: SciFi and/or Horror Geeks
Read in August, 2005, read count: 2

Much creepier than I expected and much smarter, The Island of Dr. Moreau, as with so much of H.G. Wells' science fiction, addressed the ethical pitfalls of a scientific eventuality far too early to be anything other than prophetic, yet it still manages to be more entertaining than preachy.

Edward Prendick finds himself shipwrecked on an island with Doctors Montgomery and Moreau. The former a follower of the latter, who just happens to be a mad vivisectionist. Beyond these scientists, Prendick finds himself intensely weirded out by the other inhabitants of the island, frightening man-animals created by Dr. Moreau.

Moreau captures the island's animals and painfully turns them into half-men, then forces them to live by strict standards that he believes will overcome their bestial natures. Moreau's primary commandment is that they cannot eat meat. This is, of course, a recipe for suspense and horror, for how can one expect Leopard Men or Puma Men to curb their need for meat, when the humans conducting the experiments cannot curb their own bestial natures? It simply can't be done.

Prendick finds himself becoming a participant, although not entirely willingly, in Moreau's society of vivisection. And once the animals finally rebel, as we know they must, he becomes the last man on the island, watching the tortured animals return to their natures and throw off Moreau's pseudo-society.

Even now, one hundred and thirteen years after it was written, The Island of Dr. Moreau is spooky enough to work as an effective horror/sci-fi story, but its still relevant thematic depth is what makes Moreau essential to anyone who loves books. Genetics (eugenics), animal experimentation, psychology, colonization, imperialism, patriarchy, scientific chauvinism, religion, and ethical imposition are seriously and intelligently explored. Wells' implied conclusions may be unsettling at times, but The Island of Dr. Moreau will make you think.

China Mieville says that Moreau is "a kind of fantasy echo of Shakespeare’s The Tempest." Could there be higher praise than that?
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Comments (showing 1-14 of 14) (14 new)

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message 1: by Werner (last edited May 17, 2009 01:09PM) (new) - added it

Werner One important dimension of this novel is the symbolism. Wells was a theistic evolutionist, who believed that humans evolved from lower animals (with all the bestial heritage that implies). Moreau symbolizes Wells' God; and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who the Beast Folk symbolize (even if we didn't have Prendick's description, at the end, of the fancy that sometimes now overtakes him when he looks at his fellow humans). This is probably Wells' most pessimistic work.


Brad It is, indeed, Wells' most pessimistic work (or his most realistic). I agree completely, Werner.

And Prendick's fancy about his fellow humans...he's definitely on to something.


Miriam Have you read Mervyn Peake's short story "Boy in Darkness"? It features a very creepy Lamb who turns men into Moreau-like half-animal creatures by bringing out their innate bestial traits.


Brad No. That sounds awesome. I've never actually read any Peake at all, though I have Titus Groan in the stack beside my bed.


Miriam Read that first! The short story is actually about Titus and would come... um... I read the trilogy years ago and am having trouble remembering how old he is in each book... he's 14 here so maybe between the 2nd and 3rd books?


message 6: by Brad (last edited Aug 16, 2011 08:51AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad I will, Miriam. It's one of those daunting books that I am afraid to crack, but want to badly.

I love that people have suddenly found this review. I wrote it way back in May 2009, and it went by almost completely unnoticed until now. Crazy how that happens.


message 7: by Miriam (last edited Aug 16, 2011 09:10AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Miriam The Gormenghast trilogy is a lot more daunting before you start it than after, if that makes any sense.

Peake has lots of short stories and even a picture book, if you want to dip your toe in before taking the plunge.


Daniel I'm with Miriam: read Gormenghast, like, yesterday. Together, "Titus Groan" and "Gormenghast" are the books that I adore most of any other that I've read.

Brad wrote: "I love that people have suddenly found this review. I wrote it way back in May 2009, and it went by ..."

I'm glad that I did come across this: you wrote an excellent review of an excellent book that creeped me out. It's crazy how well Wells nailed this one.


message 9: by Charles Dee (new)

Charles Dee Mitchell I was talking to a local children's theater group about adapting something for them. They had done just about everything imaginable and I thought Moreau was worth another look. Little did I realize it was one of the darkest, most pessimistic views of humanity ever written.


message 10: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad Yeah, that would be a decidely horror-ish story for kids.


Miriam Has your theater group done Lord of the Flies?


message 12: by Charles Dee (new)

Charles Dee Mitchell It's not exactly "my group." But that is an excellent idea. I will suggest it.


message 13: by Nathan (new)

Nathan Titus I saw the movie version of the Island of Dr. Moreau and didn't like it. Beyond the cheesy specail effects and bad acting, the whole thing was frankly God-Awful boring. I am well aware that movie versions are usually much worse than the book. Any comments on this particular case?


message 14: by Vheissu (new)

Vheissu Although an antivivisectionist tract, Dr. Moreau can also be read as an anti-imperialist story, the "white man's burden," Social Darwinism, and the dark side of utopianism.


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