Book Review: The Island of Dr. Moreau

A review of H.G. Wells’ “The Island of Dr. Moreau”

Hola, Reader!

Today I am sharing my review of another one of H.G. Wells’ books, The Island of Dr. Moreau.

This one is one of the more disturbing books I have read.

Although the story is about the scientist, Dr. Moreau, the main character is actually the passenger of a sinking ship. The main character’s name is Prendick, and he is, after some time dying alone at sea on a raft, rescued by a passing ship with strange cargo. Namely, an overly drunk captain, a bunch of somewhat exotic animals, an odd “doctor” named Montgomery, and a strange “devilish” humanoid creature.

The strange other passengers are headed to an island that is not, quite, on any map. This is the island to which the creatures are going, and it is “the island of Dr. Moreau”.

Dr. Moreau is a scientist who was thrown out of London’s scientist clique because of his vivisection of animals. (In the book you learn that “vivisection” is taking pieces of other creatures and surgically fusing them into or onto another creature. Dr. Moreau cites the example of drawing and receiving blood in order to heal people.) Dr. Moreau, of course, takes his vivisected creatures to an uninhabited island, where he sets up his own “laboratory”, which is somewhat primitive due to his limited resources. It is here that he takes vivisection to the extreme, seeking to splice pieces of animals together in order to make his own intelligent “humans”.

I’m sure you’ve realized by now what disturbed me about this book.

Dr. Moreau inhumanely tortures creatures to turn them into his own version of humans, constantly seeking a way to make the animals more and more intelligent. He partially succeeds with some creatures, only keeping them in check by instituting his own religion on the island (he makes them believe he is the lawgiver, the lifegiver, and the judge who will execute severe punishment if they do not obey). He doesn’t even have pity for the animals or guilt for what he has done, doing it all in the name of “science”. But what is the purpose of his vivisection to create “humans”? Prendick never finds out.

There are, of course, a few things you can draw from this book. One is the correlation between Dr. Moreau’s vivisection and today’s GMOs, and the question as to how far one should meddle in genetics.

So there is a good side to his books–the comparisons he makes (rather like Jonathan Swift) by taking certain ideas to their extremes, to help you think about the subject.

But I think that, and how he manages to keep the book’s main character not who or what the story is actually about, are the only two things that keep this book at a passing grade of 3 out of 5 stars.

I personally did not enjoy a story this disturbing; I only liked the discussion that would arise from this book, and his skill in writing POVs (Points-of-View). So I would only really recommend this book for a study on writing POVs and for the discussion of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms).

However, this book was pretty clean; I only recall a few swear words, and no sexual content. The violence/gore wasn’t overly detailed, but I would not recommend this for young readers.

So, what did you think? Have you read The Island of Dr. Moreau before? Do you know a comparable book/author? What kinds of books do you like to read? What do you think about GMOs and how far/whether they should be used?

Let me know in the comments below, and have a great week!


A Book Review: The Time Traveler

Ever read The Time Traveler by H.G. Wells? Check out my review of the book!

Hola, Reader!

These past few days I have been reading a collection of science fiction stories by H.G. Wells.

So far I have completed two, and am on to the third one. The first one is The Time Machine, which is what I will be reviewing today.

I must say that these are rather curious stories.

I had heard that Wells’ science fiction novels were classics and some of the best, and I wanted to read them; so when I saw a six-in-one hardback edition of his novels for $15, I bought it.

And at first I was not very impressed.

The Time Machine began well; describing a mysterious, hectic experimentalist in the late 1800s who was attempting to create a time machine. This man tries to explain his theories to a small audience (which doesn’t, of course, always understand him), and then shows them his new time machine. He then goes on an adventure in his machine to test it, and tells of his journey upon his return.

The beginning of the book and its premise were interesting and rather likable. I would also say that the style of this book, and the style of C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet trilogy, are very similar. Perhaps Lewis based his book’s style off of Wells’.

However, while I did enjoy Out of the Silent Planet–even though it takes a little bit to get into–this book just didn’t seem as good. When the Time Traveler travels 800,000 years into the future, he enters into a future earth where the “upper world” is beautiful, but the humans have mentally degraded to the extent that they can barely speak, and have the demeanor and attitude of cute puppies. The society is apparently socialistic–everyone has equal housing (which though they were mansions, are now ruins) and clothing. But there is no form of government or creativity in this society; just these small, chittering creatures, dancing in the daylight in their nice robes and doing nothing else except eat and sleep.

In the “lower world” is an extensive tunnel system of servant-like creatures, who are another form of degraded humanity; but this time they look like white, furless monkeys, who have even less of the mental ability than the “upper-world” creatures. These “white monkeys” live in the dark, are mostly blind, and have turned to the cannibalism of their upper-world fellows, as their underworld food supply had been used up.

Wells certainly writes these creatures well; making you sympathetic to the small, delicate upper-world creatures, and fearful of the dark and the accompanying blind under-world creatures. He communicates this fear very well, even though he never clearly states the fear. It is through the empathetic fear of the upper world creatures and the terror of the time traveler’s experience with the lower creatures that the reader feels this fear.

However, I did not connect with this story, and it was outright strange and weird to me. Yes, science fiction will have–and is free to have–weird and disgusting elements in it, but this book was a little too weird for my taste, and a little too dry or over-descriptive. And the ending was abrupt–a simple mention that the time machine broke during a second attempt at time traveling, and the traveler hasn’t been seen for the past 3 years; presumably trapped in whatever time he traveled to.

As for the historical element–while this book seemed to be set in the late 1800s or early 1900s in London, it never said so. It is left to the reader to guess. I liked the slightly historic atmosphere, but I can not say if it is accurate or realistic (as again I don’t know its setting). If you are a history person, please read the book and tell me what you think!

So overall, I would rate this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. While the fear and mystery elements were well-written, it was too dry, too weird, and had too abrupt of an ending for my taste.

(Also, why does all science fiction have to go forward thousands of years into a depraved and degraded society? I’m not asking for a perfect society, but I’d like something unique. Maybe a future where everything’s the same. Maybe a science fiction novel that goes back in time. Maybe something that’s not all about aliens.)

Even though this book wasn’t personally my favorite, I recommend that you pick it up and try it out. Perhaps you end up enjoying it, or coming out with a new perspective. Leave your thoughts on the book (and/or this review) in the comments below!

Have you read The Time Traveler or another book by H.G. Wells? What was your favorite book by him? Do you have a favorite science fiction book/series? Let me know in the comments or via email!

Have a good week, and God bless!