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.