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Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Island of Dr. Moreau

by H.G. Wells
audiobook: 5.25 hours
narrated by Simon Prebble

About the Book

Edward Prendick is rescued from a life raft at sea by a ship ship carrying an odd cargo that includes myriad wild animals and two unusual men named Montgomery and M'ling. After a series of confrontations between the crew and the two odd men, the captain arrives at their destination, a solitary island in the middle of the sea. The captain is only too glad to rid himself of the animals and the men, and forces Edward to leave the ship at well. Once on the island Montgomery introduces him to Dr. Moreau, a scientist who uses the island as the base for his experimentation. Over time Edward learns the details of Moreau's experiments on the other inhabitants of the island and he must decide for himself whether Moreau is brilliant or insane.

Why I Read It

I chose this book as my side of this year's Dueling Monsters challenge because H.G. Wells fascinates me. I don't always love his writing but I am constantly amazed by the ideas in his stories.

My Thoughts

This is one CREEPY story. From the very first time Edward steps on board the rescue ship I had the feeling that things were Not Right even though I couldn't put my finger on what exactly was wrong. Once on the island things got even weirder for Edward, and for me as the reader. I had an idea of what Moreau was up to before I started this book but I didn't have the details right.

*** SPOILER ALERT #1 ***
I didn't realize that Moreau was experimenting on animals and turning them into people. I had thought he was grafting animals parts onto human bodies. Although both are horrible, Moreau's actual experiments were worse than what I thought ahead of time. The idea that he could CREATE humanity - and that he does so with some success - is so beyond what I can accept that I had a hard time with this part of the book. Still, the issues it raised are valid ones: At what point is someone considered human? Can one loose one's humanity? If animals could communicate in our language, would we grant them humanity? 
*** END SPOILER #1 ***

As Edward learned the details of Moreau's experiments I became more and more horrified. For me it wasn't the actual experiments that got to me - it was the abject cruelty involved.

*** SPOILER ALERT #2 ***
Moreau performed vivisection on his subjects with no anesthesia, and continued his experimentation for weeks on end, sometimes until the subject died. His justification was that the more evolved one is, the less pain matters. 
*** END SPOILER #2 ***

And that, for me, is the scariest part of this book. It isn't the creatures that Moreau creates that scare me. Rather it is the fact that Moreau can literally torture other living things without a single care. He has no greater purpose - not that it would justify his actions - and he doesn't see anything at all wrong in what he is doing. The cruelty of humanity scares me more than just about anything else in this world.

I can't say that I'm a huge fan of Wells' writing style and my experience with this book didn't change that. However I am fascinated by the issues he raises and will continue to read his books as they always give me a great deal to think about.

Your Thoughts

If you read this book for the Dueling Monsters Challenge this year be sure to link up to your review here. I'm posting a list of all the reviews on Halloween so don't miss out!


Anonymous said...

Yeah, yeah...but I still don't see any Moreau slippers!

Ryan said...

I haven't read the book before, and quite honestly not sure I want to. I think the movie adaptation with Marlon Brandon and Val Kilmer ruined it for me.

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