Ea Solinas's Reviews > The Island of Dr. Moreau

The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells
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Apr 30, 2011

bookshelves: science-fiction-fantasy

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.

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, culminating in the slow decay of everything on the island.

Prendrick is also perhaps the weakest link in the book. 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.

"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.
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