|Cloggie: science fiction: Gutenberg Reviews 3: The Island of Dr. Moreau|
The Island of Doctor Moreau
H. G. Wells
Originally published in 1896
approx 79 pages
This is the second of Wells' scientific romances and another one that has been filmed a number of times. With a bit of goodwill one can say that this is the forefather of all tales about genetical engineering, creation of new races of intelligent beings and such. Like The Time Machine this story is still eminently readable even if the science is suspect. In general, I think all of Wells' scientific romances are still worthwhile to read, not just out of duty, but for the sheer pleasure of it.
The story tells how one Edward Prendick got shipwrecked, then picked up by a tramp schooner and set overboard with the ship's passengers at a small, volcanic isle 1 degree S latitude and 107 degree W longitude.
Those passengers are a queer duo: one, Montgomery is an ex-medical student from London, who hints at some sort of scandal in his past, the other a brute, whose face seems familiar somehow. On the island he meet other, strange men, men with something bestial in their nature, misshapen, brutish...
On the island there is one other, normal man: an elderly white haired man to whom he's not introduced, but one time Montgomery let's slip this is Dr. Moreau. At night, he's kept awake by hideous screams from the puma Montgomery has brought along.
The next day, he goes and explores the island and comes upon a small group of hideous people. He suddenly sees what offended him about most of the island's inhabitants: they're humans mixed with the bestial.
Prendick then realises that Moreau and Montgomery commit vivisection upon men, mixing them with animals. He flees into the forest on the island and comes upon the small village of the beastmen. There he's brought to the hut of the Sayer of the Law.
Every day the beastmen repeat the laws:
"Not to go on all-Fours; that's the law. Are we not Men?"
"Not to suck up Drink; that's the law. Are we not Men?"
"Not to chase other Men; that's the law. Are we not Men?"
The beastmen consider him one of their own and force him to repeat the laws along with them. It's clear they see Moreau their god and they fear his House of Pain, were they were made.
After Moreau and Montgomery catch up with him they explain the reality of the situation: how Moreau has created men out of animals, not the other way around. How they keep backsliding into bestiality and how the Laws are used to keep them in order.
Moreau's latest creature will be the puma, but one day she escapes and kills Moreau, not long after which Montgomery dies as well. Prendick then lives amongst the beastmen in a precarious truce, but knows that they're reverting to their animal types. He has to escape and sooner rather then later.
His change comes, ironically, when a small boat drifts by, which belonged to the ship he was forced off in the first place. Picked up by a merchant ship, he feigns memory loss, because he knows nobody will believe him, but ever since his experiences, his fellow men have become repulsive to him.
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Webpage created 16-09-2001, last updated 15-01-2002