18 October 2011

Book Review: The Island of Dr. Moreau

Title: The Island of Dr. Moreau
Author: H.G. Wells
Publisher/Year: Dover / 1896
Date Finished: 3 October 2011
Source/Format: Bought / Print
Book #: 77

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

Challenges: Dueling Monsters

The Short and Sweet of It
After being rescued from a death at sea, Edward Prendick is cast ashore with his savior, Montgomery, on an island run by Dr. Moreau. Once there, he finds himself immersed in a mystery as strange cries are heard from beyond his doors.

A Bit of a Ramble
If anyone doesn't yet know, the main premise in this short novel is about playing god. The island is a medical compound-slash-dumping ground for Moreau's experiments which involve vivisecting animals in an attempt to make them more human, modifying both their physical appearance and mental workings. Moreau discounts the animals' pain and completely ignores his creations once he realizes they are not all he wants them to be, and hence he is slowly populating the island with animals which look and act primarily human. No matter the changes, nature overcomes and the modified creatures once again return to their natural habits.

I really enjoy thinking about the relationship between instinctual, more animal behavior and the civilized behavior of humans. The balance between our "civilized" and "animal" selves fascinates me. Looking at this issue through civilizing animals was a wondrous exploration, and while not explored in great depth, still touched upon the primary premise: our true nature will always win out.

The creation which forayed the furthest towards humanit was M'ling. He is the current servant/pet of Montgomery, Moreau's assistant. Montgomery alternately adores and abuses M'ling, in a sort of confused relationship which intrigued me as it confused me. He is, to me, the most pitiful of the characters in the story. Subservient, obedient, loyal, relatively intelligent, and rather adoring, M'ling seems to possess some of the best qualities of both human and animal. Caught between the two worlds, he seems more of a bridge than a confusion.

I read this alongside "The Call of Cthulhu" by H.P. Lovecraft (see yesterday's review), and I have to say this won out. I think it had an unfair advantage though in that I'm not a huge fan of short stories. Even this short novel felt rushed, and I wanted more depth, more time with the characters and the themes. I will say that Cthulhu is a much more fascinating monster, and a larger story based on the gods of that story would get my geek going more than Moreau did.

Have you read both these stories? Which do you prefer?

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  1. I've not read either of these. I really don't know where I've been all my life, but I should have read this when I was in high school. It does sound like it would break my heart. I find myself in visceral pain when people are mistreated like that.

  2. I have seen the movie, but to be honest, it wasn't all that good or thought-provoking, and I think the book raises a lot of issues that the movie just didn't incorporate well. Now you've got me wanting to read this and check it out for myself. Great review on this one today. You really made it sound very interesting!

  3. Um absolutely nightmarish for me. It made me instantly think of that awful movie The Human Centipede. Rather than use animals to make them more human, this mad scientist uses humans to make them into centipedes. If you don't mind having a vivid and unpleasant visual of this, you can watch the trailer on YouTube.

  4. Wow, I haven't read these either but these was a great review. Would love to check it out now :)

    Lah @ LazyGirl Reads

  5. Once again, I downloaded this one for Dueling Monsters but haven't gotten to it yet!

  6. I just read this recently also, but not as part of the Dueling Monsters, so I can't make any comparisons. I found if very thought provoking, and really enjoyed it, but certainly wouldn't have minded it being a little longer or more in-depth.

  7. Have not read either but would like too. Thank you for in-depth yet not spoilery review.

  8. I haven't read either but I saw the movie based on this one and it sort of ruined it for me. I really shouldn't judge the book by the movie, though.

  9. Once again, I downloaded this one for Dueling Monsters but haven't gotten to it yet!

    Vertical Jump Bible

  10. I thought it was rushed, too...although it also dragged (drug?) in parts. I didn't care much for the writing, although I did like the premise!

  11. I'm glad you enjoyed this one! It really is about playing god - how far can you take it, and can you create humanity? There is certainly a lot to think about in there ...


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