Monday, February 18, 2013

The Island of Dr. Moreau

I think this is the only famous H. G. Wells story that I have not read, so I thought I ought to fix that.  I didn't actually know the first thing about the story, except that there's an island, and I had a vague idea that an old Oingo Boingo song ("No Spill Blood") had something to do with it.   It's an early short novel--Wells' third--written after The Time Machine.  Wells famously called it 'a youthful piece of blasphemy.'

The story is told by Mr. Prendick, an accidental visitor to Dr. Moreau's island, and the the sole survivor.  He is something of an upper-class twit, but a traveling one, and he is forced to get off his ship at Dr. Moreau's island.  Prendick finds a nightmare society of animals turned into pseudo-men, ruled over by Moreau, a vivisectionist determined to create a human being of his own by means of surgery. 

It's all very Victorian and eugenics-y, with lots of meaning to discuss.  Wells wasn't kidding about the blasphemy, either.  It's quite effectively horrifying and I don't recommend it if you're an animal-lover type person.



I've never seen any of the movies made from this novel, though I love B-movies and have seen several knockoffs of the Dr. Moreau character.  He really became an archetype of B-movies and you'll find versions of him in awful films like The Killer Shrews.  

Penguin Classics has put an excellent introduction to this novel on their website.  It's by Margaret Atwood and seriously, you should read it.

4 comments:

jennysbooks said...

This is awful, but I think I've still never read anything by H.G. Wells. The closest I've come is listening to the Orson Welles radio broadcast of War between the Worlds, which to be FAIR is TERRIFYING and I can understand why everyone listening to it freaked out so bad.

Have you heard about this other book that's just come out recentlyish, that's an adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau? I'm kind of excited to read it, and maybe it will lead me to want to try the original.

Jean said...

No, what book is that? Is it less horrifying?

War Between the Worlds is not so scary on paper. I like The Time Machine best, it's great. The Invisible Man is OK too.

hopeinbrazil said...

I was pleasantly surprised with Time Machine, but haven't picked up any more Well's titles. Thanks for reviewing this one.

Rachel Bradford said...

I read this book many years ago, but don't remember very much about it. I certainly missed the subtleties of it. I should really read it again some day. I've been impressed by Wells' works lately.