One More Spooky Read

It is so frustrating when I’ve read a good book and then have nothing to say about it. Surely, I should be able to come up with something, one would think. Well, I’ve been trying to figure out what to say about The Island of Dr. Moreau for over a week now, and I’ve come up with… not much, even though there is clearly much to say and interpret. Very irritating!

In case you don’t know the story, it’s about Edward Prendick, who is shipwrecked and ends up on an island that is inhabited by a Dr. Moreau, his helper Dr. Montgomery, and various beings that are not quite human and not quite animal. Being a man of science, Prendick soon recognizes Dr. Moreau as a doctor who was forced to leave London because of his dark experiments with vivisection. Now, on this forgotten island, the doctor can do as he pleases, creating crossbreeds of various animals and humans. He forces these beings to follow a certain (human) code of conduct (walk upright, eat no meat, etc.), but right away it is clear that someone (or something) has broken these rules. The uprising is waiting to happen, and at times, the events on the island sent shivers down my spine. (Granted, I am easily frightened.)

The science used by Dr. Moreau clearly dates this book. There has been so much scientific progress over the last 100+ years, that the idea one could simply mix human and animal blood and reshape bones and flesh to create human beasts (or beastly humans) no longer works. We now know about DNA and all that other stuff, so to a modern reader, Dr. Moreau’s meddling might be laughable, though it shocked his contemporary readers—although they, apparently, would have preferred another book about the wondrous marvels of science, rather than the horrors of its misuse. But this is exactly what makes the book interesting today. The drive to recreate, or rather change, creation certainly still exists and I doubt will ever go away. (Check out this article about “designer babies” and gene editing in The Guardian.) I was surprised by how relevant the ethical problems brought up by Wells still are today—and not just the ones concerning genetics.

Whether you are looking for a mild horror/sci-fi read or something to make you think, this would be a good choice, I think. I listened to the audio version narrated by Gordon Griffin, and it was pretty much perfect. He sounded just like I imagine an English gentleman from the 19th century would sound.

 

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19 comments

  1. This is a book blogger problem we don’t talk about enough! Quite often I enjoy a book, but can’t think of much more than ‘Yeah, it was good.’ That’s when I try to pull in some loosely connected themes or ties to other books, or alternatively, just reach straight for the otter gifs and cat pics to bulk the thing out!

  2. I’m not sure this is for me – I would find all the vivisection stuff hard going. It does sound horribly relevant though, even if science has progressed beyond the plot details.

    It’s so odd how we can enjoy books but have nothing to say – I’ve sat down to write a post before now and given up after far too long staring at the keyboard!

  3. It’s interesting how these classics still have something relevant to say today. The context and specific details of the issues have changed but some of the fundamental questions remain broadly the same. Like Cafe Society, I thought of the Huxley – a great choice for book groups.

      • Good plan. I meant to say that I ought to read Dr Moreau at some point. There is a loose connection with a book I read earlier this year, The Invention of Morel, which I liked well enough but didn’t fully understand. (At least that’s the feeling I was left with.) Maybe reading the Wells would shed a little more light on it!

  4. Ha! I hate when I find I can’t think of anything to say about a book, especially one I’ve enjoyed, but you did great anyway! I read this recently and loved it, to my surprise – I thought all the vivisection stuff would be too much for me. But I thought the moral questions were terribly relevant, and my edition had a great introduction which put the book in its scientific and literary context (all of which helps when review-time comes along… 😉 )

  5. I read this a few years ago and enjoyed it but, looking back at my review, I don’t think I could find much to say about it either! Like you, I do remember finding it surprisingly relevant, even though the science is out of date.

  6. I think it’s often easier to find something to say about books I hate. But the worst is trying to think of what to say about a book that’s okay but nothing special.

  7. It is SO frustrating to not be able to come up with intelligent things to say about a book you liked… I know the feeling well! But I think that you did a great job, for what it’s worth! This is on my TBR, and I didn’t even think to choose it for RIP, but it’s a perfect fit.

    • Thank you, Laila. I think this is a good choice for RIP, especially when you are not looking for something that’s hardcore scary. Maybe I’ll try to think of fun ways to write really short reviews for those future books that leave me with little to say.

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