Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Book Review: The Island of Doctor Moreau, by H. G. Wells

Title:  The Island of Doctor Moreau
Author:  H. G. Wells
Genre:  Science Fiction
Rating: 3.75 out of 5

The Island of Doctor Moreau is truly a multi-genre tale.  It combines elements of Science Fiction and Horror.  It also acts as an allegory, mirroring aspects of society.  Beneath it all is one of Wells' favorite themes:  the horrible things that can come about by reckless meddling in science that should be left alone.

The Island of Doctor Moreau is written in the form of a journal of one Edward Prendick.  Through a series of unfortunate events, Prendick befriends some malcontents on a small merchant vessel and debarks to a mysterious island inhabited by horrible beasts.

These beasts are half animal and half human, and Prendick is immediately thrown into a struggle for his life as he fights against the master of the beasts, Doctor Moreau.  Throughout the novel, as the line between civility and savagery is blurred, Prendick is forced to rethink his preconceptions about good and evil, right and wrong.

This book was very fun to read, and really made me think about the undertones and themes that hide under the surface of the pages.  Doctor Moreau was written less than forty years after Darwin's On the Origins of Species.  Throughout the novel, Wells examines the qualities that separate humans from animals, and eventually comes to the conclusion that we may not be as different as the experts think.  Wells suggests that human and bestial qualities rest under the surface of all life, and only the shell of our flesh separates the species.  Moreau shows Prendick that it is quite easy to turn beasts into men, and we come to learn that it is even easier for men to act like vicious beasts.

The major problem that I have with this book is that it is so improbable.  Yes, I realize that I walk a thin line when I say things like that in reviews, as I write a blog abut fantasy and science fiction.  However, to me, a work of science fiction only works when the science feels like fact.  Wells asks us to believe that turning a beast into a man is as easy as plastic surgery, but this reader remains unconvinced.  The entire premise makes the book feel more like a long metaphor than an actual science fiction novel that one expects when thinking of the author's other works.

In the end, I really enjoyed The Island of Doctor Moreau.  Aside from a few preachy segments in which Wells' message comes through too clear, the novel was a fun ride through a haunted house of grotesque beasts and even more nefarious men.

3.75 out of 5 man bear pigs.

This review is a part of Dueling Monsters 2011


  1. Thank for being part of Dueling Monsters! Like you I had a hard time believing the story, but I think it's because science today is so far beyond where it was then. Still, it was a fascinating book!