Friday, April 03, 2009

Review - The Island of Doctor Moreau

The Island of Dr. Moreau (Dover Thrift Editions)I knew the high level concept of this book from allusions in other stories and movies, but I'd never read the original novel. It was a bit different from what I expected.

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 conclusions.

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. It's 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 he's 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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