Friday, 25 March 2011
The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells
Synopsis: Edward Prendick is stranded on an island with the sinister Doctor Moreau, who uses a painful process of vivisection, transfusions and classical conditioning to 'humanise' animals, turning them into beasts that can walk and talk.
This was obviously a book with many different levels. On the most simple level, it was a very good story with lots of action. Although it was easy for the modern reader to guess what was happening very early on and to guess how things would turn out, that probably wouldn't have been true for when the book was first published.
On to the more complex levels - much of the text seemed to be an argument about nature versus nurture. Dr Moreau altered the brains and bodies of the animals but with time their animal instincts started to win against the new human ones. Wells also seemed to be making the same point about human character.
I really enjoyed the science parts, especially when Dr Moreau was having his long monologue about why he would do that to animals and how he did it. It was definitely part Dr Mengele but some of his remarks foreshadowed science - for example that the brain is more plastic than the body and that the brain can be 'retrained'. I studied neuroscience at university so the geek in me loved those parts.
One criticism I would make is that it was very much an 'idea' or 'issue' book, at the expense of story and character. Prendick is just a plot device to expose Moreau to the reader, not a real fully formed person. Although the story is easy and enjoyable to read with lots of action, it is very simple without many arcs.
Verdict: I sci-fi book I actually really enjoyed!
Score: 4 out of 5