The Island of Dr Moreau – H.G.Wells


Reviewer: Ms Oh Waily

TIODMThe Island of Dr Moreau was first published in 1896 and is another slim work at around 130 pages, requiring only a small investment of time to read.

The story is an unusual tale told by Edward Prendick of his shipwreck from the Lady Vain and the year that follows on from this.

After being adrift in the dinghy with two other survivors, who fight and perish as a result of doing so, he is spotted and collected up by the schooner Ipecacuanha.
He is nursed back from the brink of death by a passenger on board, Montgomery.  The captain is a drunkard and unpredictable.  When they reach the island where Montgomery, his very unusual manservant and his cargo of animals are being disembarked, the captain decides to set Prendick adrift once more.

Prendick finds himself, eventually, once more rescued by Montgomery and another man who in time we find is the eponymous Dr Moreau.  He lands on the island and is taken to an outer room of a compound that he finds is locked to him.

I followed him, and found myself in a small apartment, plainly but not uncomfortably furnished, and with its inner door, which was slightly ajar, opening into a paved courtyard.  This inner door Montgomery at once closed.  A hammock was slung across the darker corner of the room, and a small unglazed window, defended by an iron bar, looked out towards the sea.
This, the grey-haired man told me, was to be my apartment, and the inner door, which, ‘for fear of accidents’, he said, he would lock on the other side, was my limit inward.

Neither Montgomery nor Moreau explain anything about the animals, the ‘people’ that he observes, nor what keeps them in isolation from the rest of the world.  But it doesn’t take long for his observations to become concerns as he recognises Moreau’s name as belonging to that of a notorious vivisector and work begins within the locked enclosure on one of the cargo animals, a puma.  Prendick sums up his confusion thus,

What could it mean?  A locked enclosure on a lonely island, a notorious vivisector, and these crippled and distorted men? …

Indeed, what could it mean?  Well, you will have to read the novel to find out.

Yes, you will have to read it.  For me to give more information or specific quotes would take away some of the uncertainty and suspense that Wells builds up very nicely throughout the novel.

While I cannot say that I enjoyed reading the story, as it is not a salubrious topic, it was certainly gripping despite the scientific inaccuracies that are glaring to a modern eye.  In our minds, though, we could easily substitute the 19th century version of vivisection with other modern scientific ethical issues.  I think that is what makes this story such a timeless classic and fully deserving of its place on the 1001 list.
The ethical questions it raises, the statements it makes about how easily the abnormal can become normal, and about just how far is too far to go in the name of scientific curiosity, are still ones we confront today.

It is a quick and untaxing way to spend a few hours while also being immensely readable.  Fewer appearances of the word ‘incontinently’ makes it a vast improvement over The Time Machine, to be going on with, and more serious in it’s questioning nature makes it both interesting and thought-provoking.  All in all, I am happy recommending this to you.

Happy reading!


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