Saturday, October 22, 2011
The Island of Dr. Moreau: Review
The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells is the second half of my readings for for this year's Dueling Monsters Challenge--hosted by Heather at 30+...A Lifetime of Books (Island by H. G. Wells) and Softdrink at Fizzy Thoughts ("The Call of Cthulhu" by H. P. Lovecraft). And the goal is to decide which is the biggest nightmare.
And I have to say that, hands down, Wells writes a nightmare like nobody's business. John at Pretty Sinister Books called it when he read my-less-than-chilled-to-the-bone review of Lovecraft--The Island of Dr. Moreau thoroughly creeped me out. Living in the modern age I hate to think of science gone wrong and, boy, has Dr. Moreau taken science down a dark path.
The story begins with a shipwreck. The Lady Vain has collided with a derelict ship and a small number of the crew is rescued by another boat. It is supposed that the men who escaped in the dinghy were lost, but we find out that one man, Edward Prendick, was also rescued by a ship carrying Montgomery--a medical man, his servant, and a cargo of animals. After an altercation with the ship's captain, Prendick is forced to leave the ship when Montgomery and his menagerie reach their island destination. That's when Prendick's real adventures begin.
He finds himself an unwanted guest on an island where ghastly experiments are performed--accompanied by the screams of the "guinea pigs." He soon discovers that the island is populated by man-beasts and he fears that he will become another of the scientist's unwilling participants. It is unclear whether Dr. Moreau, the resident mad-scienctist, is taking men and making them into beast or making deformed men out of beasts. Either way, Prendick is quite sure he wants no part of it. But it will be a long journey through a dark nightmare before he can get himself away from the island and its horrible inhabitants.
Wells has done the job. Seriously creeped me out. He uses exactly the right mix of description (telling us about the what the creatures look like, describing their cries as the doctor works on them, giving us a bit of atmosphere) and action (Prendick's adventures in the woods, his interactions with the man-beasts, giving us active reasons for his building terror). Perhaps because I have an affinity for the late-Victorian era, it was easier to slip into this time period and understand what it was like. Vivisection itself is a very distressing idea--taking that to an extreme to create such horrible creatures is even worse. I'll be shivering for quite some time. Well done, Wells. Well done.
Last year I wound up siding with Softdrink in her choice of Dorian Gray as the bigger baddie. This year, I'm going to have to join Heather and say that The Island of Dr. Moreau is gonna give me the worst nightmares. Oh...and four stars out of five!