After reading my first H.G. Wells book, Ann Veronica, in March I mentioned that I now felt ready to try one of his science fiction books. The Island of Doctor Moreau is the one I chose to read, and it certainly couldn’t be more different from Ann Veronica!
The story is narrated by Edward Prendick who, having been shipwrecked, is rescued by the crew of the Ipecacuanha. Whilst on board, he becomes acquainted with one of the other passengers, the mysterious Montgomery, who is transporting a cargo of wild animals home to the island where he lives. When the drunken captain of the Ipecacuanha attempts to have Prendick thrown overboard, Montgomery takes pity on him and invites him to accompany him to the island. Here Prendick meets the famous vivisectionist Doctor Moreau, who is carrying out some secret experiments on animals – and as the true horrors of Moreau’s island are revealed, Prendick begins to realise that his own life could be in danger.
I’ve never been a fan of science fiction and wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, but I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The opening chapters were a bit slow, but things became much more interesting when Prendick arrived on the island and after that the pages flew by.
I didn’t think the story was frightening, although I did feel a growing sense of disgust and repulsion. Some of Moreau’s nightmarish creations were truly horrible to read about. Whatever your personal views on animal testing may be, the way Wells describes the unnecessary pain and suffering Moreau inflicts on his animals is very sad and disturbing. Like Frankenstein and more recently, Jurassic Park, The Island of Doctor Moreau can be seen as a warning of the negative effects of science and the dangers of ‘playing God’. When this book was published in 1896, the kind of technology Wells described only really existed in fiction. But during the 20th and 21st centuries the advances scientists have made in areas such as genetic engineering and cloning mean that Wells’ ideas are no longer so far-fetched. And that’s what really is frightening!