Friday, September 9, 2011

The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells

Author: H. G. Wells
Originally Published: 1896
Length: 160 pages
Source: Library
Challenge(s): R.I.P. VI

Personal Enjoyment Factor: 4/5

Poor brutes!  I began to see the viler aspects of Moreau's cruelty.  I had not thought before of the pain and trouble that came to these poor victims after they had passed from Moreau's hand.  I had shivered only at the days of actual torment in the enclosure.  But now that seemed to be the lesser part.  Before they had been beasts, their instincts fitly adapted to their surroundings, and happy as living things may be. Now they stumbled in the shackles of humanity, lived in a fear that never died, fretted by a law they could not understand; their mock-human existence began in  agony, was one long internal struggle, on long dread of Moreau--and for what?  It was the wantonness that stirred me. 

I find that I am developing and unlikely "thing" for H.G. Wells.  It's rather curious to me, because his writing itself doesn't seem like it would do much for me. The prose can be somewhat mechanical and plain and underwhelming, but then he takes it to another extreme with melodramatic scenes and campy images of horror.  However, as with a recent reading of The War of the Worlds, I find myself relishing it, and craving more.

In The Island of Dr. Moreau, Edward Prendick, a man who has "taken to natural history as a relief from the dullness of [his] comfortable independence" gets quite a break from the boredom when he is shipwrecked and ends up on an island where Dr. Moreau gets his kicks cutting up animals and giving them human characteristics.  They are given anti-bestial laws to follow, and are taught to deify their creator.  But their true nature is undeniable, and things end up getting pretty ugly. 

Speaking of ugliness, by the end of the book I wanted to cut Dr. M. up and give him a few more humane characteristics, but, alas, another fate awaited him. Other than fantasies of vivisecting the good doctor, this short novel brings to mind other thoughts.  How far should mankind reach in the name of science?  Do we "play God" for the sake of progress?  What distinguishes man from beasts?  What makes us human?  How strong are the effects of socialization?   Where can I get my hands on a scalpel so I can cut up this guy and give him a taste of his own medicine?

A more immediate question I'm asking myself now:  Which of Wells' books should I read next?  The Time MachineThe Invisible ManThe First Men in the Moon?  I can't wait to dive into another sci-fi vision (or nightmare) conceived over 100 years ago.


  1. Great review. I read this book when I was young (10-11) but am looking forward to reading it and getting an adult perspective.

    I'm a new follower :)

  2. Great review. I haven't read this or his other works, but now I would like to look into the book. Thanks!

  3. My favorite Wells is the Invisible Man, I remember being fascinated by it when I first read it as a teen, thinking yes, that must be exactly what it's like to be invisible! I did read and enjoy Eight Days but that was so long ago and I wasn't really a very discerning reader back then, not sure if I'd enjoy or have the patience for it now. And I'm not at all certain whether I've read The Island or not; maybe I've just wanted to for so long and read so many reviews of it that I think I have!

  4. I read The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells earlier this year. I am looking forward to reading more from him in the future.

  5. I can't recommend from the others because I've only read one of them but you're reading with an open mind and I'm sure you'll enjoy whatever you choose to read.

  6. Sounds wonderful! I want to read The Time Machine since forever!! I read War of the Worlds around the time that movie came out, and I loved the book. The Invisible Man, I read in school, and I found it weirdly fascinating This seems like a great read too! Nice review!!

  7. Great review. This one's been on my list forever. Sometimes I look at these classic books and wonder why on earth I never read them when I was younger. This is one I do want to get to at some point. Wells obviously has that something that makes his books continue to be popular to this day. I need to actually take the time to read him.

  8. Always saw H. G. Wells as the British Verne, although Wells tends to go more into ethical debates. I vote for The Time Machine.

  9. I actually plan to read this in October, I believe. I am looking forward to it. The only thing I have read by him so far is The Invisible Man. It was pretty good.

  10. I've just read this for an online course I'm doing at the moment, it was a lot better than I had expected & I really enjoyed it. I agree, the Doctor more than deserved his fate