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The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells

The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896)

by H. G. Wells

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,2061381,274 (3.63)1 / 415
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Showing 1-5 of 131 (next | show all)
Classed as "scientific romance" at the time, this is on the surface an adventure novel. The protagonist Prendick survives a shipwreck and finds himself on an island filled with curious creatures. Pendrick, like Wells himself, studied biology under Darwinist Thomas Huxley, and this forms the scientific backdrop. Like Lord of the Flies, The Island of Dr. Moreau has many layers. There's an underlying mockery of organized religion, a blurring of lines between human and inhuman, suggestions of a link between ethnicity and culture. The characters are flawed and malleable, changing with their environment. Their interaction represents the base around which the story revolves.

A couple of possible influences, suggested by Margaret Atwood in her 2005 introduction, are The Tempest and Treasure Island. If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy Atwood's own MaddAddam Trilogy. ( )
  jigarpatel | Mar 14, 2019 |
I found this to be quite a fun read. That's a great compliment since I'm not really a fan of science fiction. However, I thought I'd give this story a go since I had previously found The Invisible Man, by the same author, very entertaining,

In The Island of Dr. Moreau, a man named Prendick, ends up on an island inhabited by only two other men, one of who is a doctor intent on making animals into humans by vivisection. The results of his experimentation abound on the island as well as a rule of order known as The Law. Circumstances happen which change the status quo. It's interesting to follow along on this man-animal continuum to see how everything plays out and to learn if there us any chance that Prendick would make it off of this strange island alive. ( )
  SqueakyChu | Feb 22, 2019 |

“Before, they had been beasts, their instincts fitly adapted to their surroundings, and happy as living things may be. Now they stumbled in the shackles of humanity, lived in a fear that never died, fretted by a law they could not understand; their mock-human existence, begun in an agony, was one long internal struggle, one long dread of Moreau.” - H.G. Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau

The Island of Doctor Moreau is H.G. Wells’ 1896 classic tale of a mad scientist creating nearly two hundred hybrid beings resembling humans by way of vivisection on animals, a work judged by critics at the time as too blasphemous and too disturbing to warrant publication. Hey, why not take such harsh reaction as a great reason to read this short novel sooner rather than later.

Let me tell you folks, The Island of Doctor Moreau is one humdinger of an adventure story to keep you on the edge of your seat from the first page to last, with elements of Frankenstein, The Fugitive, Lost and Survivor. The entire novel is a written account of events as recorded by Edward Prendick, an Englishman educated in biology at university. Young Prendick survives days on a dingy following a shipwreck and is picked up by another ship scheduled to make a first stop at an obscure Pacific island. While onboard, Prendick is brought back to health by a passenger with a background in medicine, a man by the name of Montgomery.

Turns out this gruff, one-time Londoner is joined by his strange, bestial servant, M'ling. And Montgomery also has a host of animals aboard. The frequently drunk Captain doesn't like the grotesque M'ling or the animals on his ship and lashes out at Montgomery. Prendick tells the Captain to "shut up" - a huge mistake he confesses in retrospect. When they near the island, the Captain forces Prendick off his ship and back on his dingy. Montgomery takes pity on the naturalist and brings him along to his island. Prendick eventually meets Doctor Moreau and becomes, by degrees, more aware of the many horrifying experiments conducted over the course of years in island isolation.

And many are the questions raised by those experiments and the underlying methods and ideas concocted by Doctor Moreau. The most obvious question pertains to the very act of dissecting live animals for the purposes of experimentation. Nowadays, of course, we oppose such practice but back when the novel was written vivisection was still a hotly debated topic. However, we still debate related biological issues such as gene splicing which is a specific example of the longstanding concerns hovering around the dangers of science.

Prendick’s interactions with such diverse creatures as Leopard Man, Saint Bernard Dog Man, Ape Man, Swine Woman, Silvery Hairy Man and a Bear-Bull cry out for our reflection on the differences between savagery and humanity, nature and civilization, order and chaos, freedom and control. And what about Doctor Moreau's explanation on how the experience of pain, a characteristic of our animal nature, has held humans back in their development, how, in order to become less animal and more fully human, pain must be transcended? Recall the popularity in England in the late nineteenth century of the philosophy of utilitarianism as articulated by such thinkers as John Stewart Mill, a philosophy placing a premium on seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution was very much in the public mind and H.G. Wells certainly took Darwin seriously. Among other aspects, The Island of Doctor Moreau is aligned with Darwinian theory respecting how humans are different not in kind from animals but only in degree.

In keeping with the animal nature in man, H.G. Wells forces Edward Prendick to deal with those base qualities even before stepping foot on Doctor Moreau’s island. There’s the crisis in the dingy where Prendick and two other men are dying of thirst and hunger. The drawing of lots is proposed to determine who will die so two may live. Prendick refuses to participate, brandishing a knife to ward off attack. The other two men draw lots and when the stronger seaman loses he refuses to abide by the rules. The two grapple and tumble overboard to their death. A second foreshadow: that drunken captain declares himself the law and master ruling over all on his ship. If he says Prendick is to leave his ship then Prendick will leave his ship, even if it means the certain death of the young man – no question of humanity, decency or ethics comes into play.

Control of the Beast Men on the island centers around Pavlov-style conditioned reflex reinforcement. Obey the law and act more like humans or it is back to the House of Pain, that is, Doctor Moreau's operating table. Also added into the mix to enforce control and human-like behavior is chant and prayer. One can imagine the reaction to the novel from pious nineteenth century religious folk. In order to assert his own control and order, at one point Prendick even appeals to the existence of Moreau's second body in the sky looking down on the Beast Men once the doctor's physical body is dead. The philosophical dimensions of the tale go on and on and on.

Fast-paced adventure and a slew of lively probing questions along the way. There are many excellent reasons why this classic work is included as part of SF Masterworks.

H.G. Wells, 1866-1946
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
This was a good book. It was pretty interesting, but there were a few parts where the story lagged and I found my mind wandering. This is my third Wells book, and I honestly found it not to be as good as the other two I've read so far (The Time Machine and The First Men in the Moon). ( )
  Borrows-N-Wants | Sep 22, 2018 |
For such a short book, it packs a powerful punch. Simply as a story it is fascinating enough, but it is what Wells was trying to convey, and the time in which he so boldly dared do it.

The story deals with vivisection, the practice of performing operations on live animals in the name of science, but that's not all. Wells writes of a mad scientist who uses no anesthetic during the procedures, and who is creating something quite sinister in the name of science. But it is what Wells intended to convey through the storyline that made the book so controversial, and considered blasphemy among many who read it.

"The Island of Dr. Moreau is an exercise in youthful blasphemy. Now & then, tho I rarely admit it, the universe projects itself towards me in a hideous grimace. It grimaced that time, & I did my best to express my vision of the aimless torture in creation." ~H.G. Wells

I am glad that I finally read The Island of Dr. Moreau. Beyond it's interesting history, there is so much more. It is a thought provoking story, especially today as we make advances in science that come into moral question. Also, and probably one of the most impressive things to me is just how well the story is developed and how well the characters are defined for such a short book. Mind you, it would have been so much better if it had been longer and more developed, but it's a nice little drink of classic science fiction / fantasy. ( )
1 vote StephLaymon | Aug 12, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (46 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wells, H. G.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aldiss, Brian WilsonAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Atwood, MargaretIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
De Michele, RossanaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harris, MasonEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kent, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kindt, AnnemarieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McLean, StevenNotessecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parrinder, PatrickEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"I do not propose to add anything to what has already been written concerning the loss of the Lady Vain."
Das Schreien klang draußen noch lauter. Es war, als hätte aller Schmerz der Welt eine Stimme gefunden. Und doch - hätte ich gewußt, daß im Nebenzimmer solcher Schmerz zugefügt wurde, und wäre er stumm ertragen worden, ich glaube - so habe ich mir seither gedacht -, ich hätte es ganz gut aushalten können. Erst, wenn das Leiden Ausdruck findet und unsere Nerven erbeben macht, quält uns das Mitleid.
[Kapitel 8, letzter Absatz - S. 41 in der Ausgabe Das Neue Berlin 1988]
All diese Geschöpfe trugen trotz ihrer menschlichen Form und trotz der Andeutung von Kleidung in sich, in ihre Bewegungen, in den Ausdruck ihrer Gesichter, in ihr ganzes Wesen hinein verwoben, das unverkennbare Zeichen eines Tiers ...
[Kapitel 9, 15. Absatz - S. 45 in der Ausgabe Das Neue Berlin 1988]
Aber, wie gesagt, ich war zu aufgeregt und - das ist wahr, wenn auch jemand, der die Gefahr nie gekannt hat, vielleicht nicht daran glaubt - zu verzweifelt, um zu sterben.
[Kapitel 13, 1. Absatz - S. 68 in der Ausgabe Das Neue Berlin 1988]
"Bis auf diesen Tag hab' ich mich um die Ethik der Angelegenheit noch nie bekümmert. Das Studium der Natur macht den Menschen schließlich so gewissenlos, wie die Natur selbst ist."
[Zitat Dr. Moreau in Kapitel 14, 28. Absatz - S. 79 in der Ausgabe Das Neue Berlin 1988]
Vorher waren sie Tiere gewesen; ihre Instinkte waren ihrer Umgebung angepaßt, und sie selbst so glücklich, wie lebendige Wesen nur sein können. Jetzt stolperten sie in den Fesseln der Menschlichkeit dahin, lebten in einer Angst, die niemals starb, von einem Gesetz gequält, das sie nicht verstanden; ihre halbmenschliche Existenz begann in Qualen, war ein einziger langer, innerer Kampf, eine einzige lange Furcht vor Moreau - und wozu? Die Nutzlosigkeit regte mich auf.
[Kapitel 17, drittletzter Absatz - S. 102 in der Ausgabe Das Neue Berlin 1988]
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Haiku summary
Doctor Moreau
made animals human
but this goes wrong

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553214322, Mass Market Paperback)

A shipwreck in the South Seas, a palm-tree paradise where a mad doctor conducts vile experiments, animals that become human and then "beastly" in ways they never were before--it's the stuff of high adventure. It's also a parable about Darwinian theory, a social satire in the vein of Jonathan Swift (Gulliver's Travels), and a bloody tale of horror. Or, as H. G. Wells himself wrote about this story, "The Island of Dr. Moreau is an exercise in youthful blasphemy. Now and then, though I rarely admit it, the universe projects itself towards me in a hideous grimace. It grimaced that time, and I did my best to express my vision of the aimless torture in creation." This colorful tale by the author of The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds lit a firestorm of controversy at the time of its publication in 1896.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:43 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Dr. Moreau, a scientist, finds an isolated island that gives him the freedom to create hideous creatures with human intelligence.

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Reading Group #30 (The Island of Dr. Moreau) in Gothic Literature

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014144102X, 0141029153, 0141389397

Tantor Media

2 editions of this book were published by Tantor Media.

Editions: 1400100534, 1400111145

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