1. The Island of Doctor Moreau by Wells
When Men Bring Out The Beast In The Animal
A shipwreck in the South Seas, a palm-tree paradise where a mad doctor
conducts vile experiments, animals that become human and then beastly
in ways they never were before--its the stuff of high adventure. Its also a
parable about Darwinian theory, a social satire in the vein of Jonathan
Swift (Gullivers Travels), and a bloody tale of horror. Or, as H. G. Wells
himself wrote about this story, The Island of Dr. Moreau is an exercise in
youthful blasphemy. Now and then, though I rarely admit it, the universe
projects itself towards me in a hideous grimace. It grimaced that time, and
I did my best to express my vision of the aimless torture in creation. This
colorful tale by the author of The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and
The War of the Worlds lit a firestorm of controversy at the time of its
publication in 1896.
I knew the high level concept of this book from allusions in other stories
and movies, but Id never read the original novel. It was a bit different from
what I expected.
2. The writing style is very accessible and fluid while also being jam-packed
with very vivid and detailed descriptions as well as some in-depth scientific
and moralistic discussions. The first few pages were a little slow, but the
rest of the book, except for a paragraph here and there, flew by and kept
me very hooked.
The story is presented as a written report from the point of view of a
narrator who finds himself stranded on the island for a time after some
disasters at sea. The narrator has some scientific background which lends
to very analytical and in-depth commentary.
Without adding any real spoilers, the summary is this: Doctor Moreau,
after being chased out of London for his practices, is living on an island in
the pacific conducting outrageous experiments. Our narrator, Pendrick,
finds the island populated with creatures that are neither completely
human nor completely bestial...they are aberrations....creatures partially
human and partially beasts....the face of a man with almost snout-like nose
and lips, pointed hairy ears, elongated torso and shorter than normal legs,
etc., etc., etc. The horrors and grotesque nature of the experiments are
explored in depth and naturally progress to some rather disturbing
I rather enjoyed the story and found myself immersed in the plot and the
concepts. My only real complaint by the end of the book was that it all
ended too quickly. I would have loved another 50 or 100 pages. Still, it is
a tightly woven tale with a lot of meet in it to leave you thinking.
Wells presents a thoughtful narrative addressing some of the social
concerns of his day through this science-fiction story. At that point in
history (late 1800s), this was all seen as fiction but based on the fears
people had of experiments in the medical community. Its even more
potent now, since some 30-50 years after the book, the Nazis engaged in
similar scientific experimentation during the Holocaust (not with the same
results, but with a similar type of horror upon society).
I really liked the way the book finished up. In the last few pages, we find
our narrator trying to sort through everything hes witnessed and come to
terms with it. I really enjoyed the way Wells shows him trying to recognize
humanity in people and distinguish between the human and the animal.
A great read.
4.5 stars (out of 5)
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