Just Finished Reading: The Island of Doctor Moreau by H G Wells
This is the classic SF horror tale from the author of War of the Worlds and The Time Machine.
Shipwrecked on a remote island the narrator (Edward Prendick) tells of his time spent with the mysterious and obsessed Doctor Moreau – a scientist shunned by the civilised world for his bizarre ideas and experiments on animals. Initially horrified and repulsed by the results of Moreau’s experimentation Prendick slowly acclimatises to his situation until his mind and his views of humanity are changed forever. For Moreau has become a God-like creator of men from the apparently infinitely malleable flesh of wild beasts blurring the line between animal and human. But the unexpected arrival Prendick starts a chain of events that eventually lead to death and destruction. Can he save his sanity and his humanity when all about him is in flux?
I’ve read quite a lot of Well’s work and have enjoyed most of it. The War of the Worlds is amongst my favourite classic novels. Moreau, despite its classic position, didn’t grip me to that extent. Saying that however, this was a finely crafted and thought provoking book. I found the final chapter particularly haunting in a chilling way and the feelings it provoked will stay with me for quite some time. It is easy to imagine how this probably disturbed the calm of its Victorian readership a mere 40 years after the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. I’m guessing that the displacement of man from God’s creation to that of a ‘supreme ape’ was still very much at the forefront of many minds when Moreau was first published in 1896. Moreau certainly read like a reinterpretation of the Christian Creation myth where an almost careless God, in the shape of the Doctor, fashions men from the beasts of the field only to cast them out as failures into the jungle/wilderness without further thought. A heavy feeling of resentment pervades this book as if the author is blaming God (or Darwin) for the fashioning of such incomplete creatures as ourselves - creatures with great potential but with the ever present taint of the violent slavering beast inside us just waiting to get out.