Review: The Island of Doctor Moreau

The Island of Doctor Moreau
The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was wonderfully sorrowful. I thoroughly enjoyed the way that the story explored the way that fear turns to sadness and empathy turns to repulsion. This story is wrought with scientific impossibilities but that is not really the point and so it has a way of not mattering. The story of a scientist gone mad is a common plot and this one definitely falls in to that category. Interestingly, Moreau is not really a main character, though. The story is told from a retelling perspective from the character Pendrick. I find it extremely interesting that the story is told from such a step-away perspective. Had the story been told from a current perspective, I think that it might have had a more chilling feel to it. But because this is Pendrick later, we already know that he survives. We also get, from this, a very thoughtful version of his story. He has had time to think about things and gain some perspective before going back through the events.

I also think that this could be important on another level. (view spoiler)

• Pendrick claims to be an abstainer. But they never really explain that part of his back story much other than to explain why he and Montgomery don’t seem to get a long well since Montgomery is a lush. But I think it is something important from his backstory. We never know why he isn’t a drinker. Maybe there is a reason.
• He knew a little bit of Moreau before he came to the island. He could have been terrified by the wildlife and possibly suffered dementia. He could have had a number of different things happen that manifested into an amazing, impossible, tale half in reality and half in nightmare.
• This would seem all without merit on my part except that the animals reverted at the end. Before he left the island, the animals reverted to their animal selves. Like it never happened.

Anyway, the above theory isn’t important to the story, just a side note. This book has a whole philosophical subplot without opening up possible alternate theories. There is the whole humanity issue, what makes us human. There is the morality issue, harming and hurting another living creature, and turning it into something other than what nature intended. There is the whole nature vs nurture argument and what makes someone what they are – their genes and their instincts or how and where they are raised, their environment, and their outside circumstances. What makes someone loyal to their friends and colleges even when they go off the reservation.

I find it strange that Montgomery seemed to back Moreau so whole-heartedly but was obviously self-medicating and never really agreed with what went on there. So the question of why he stayed is an important one. Moreau seems without human quality, and a total lunatic with a God complex, but for some reason he has the loyalty of Montgomery. I also found it strange that they gave Pendrick a room right next to the House of Pain. If the complex was just too small to get away from it, that is one thing, but I got the impression that there were other rooms besides the one next-door to the cries and wails of the puma. It makes me wonder if Moreau is a more sadistic character and enjoys harming others for reasons other than science experiments.

I also find it very interesting that Pendrick’s perspective of fear and loathing changed dramatically when he discovers that these beasts were not once human, but are beasts remade in our image. Somehow, this is OK where the other is not. (hide spoiler)]

Needless to say, this book opens many questions and many possible discussions. Very interesting read. Totally understand why it is a classic. I absolutely recommend it to anyone who enjoys sci-fi or horror. This was my first time reading an HG Wells novel. I will absolutely read more.

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