Edward Prendick survives a shipwreck and is picked up by another ship transporting a strange cargo under the direction of the disreputable Montgomery to a mysterious island in the tropics, home to Dr Moreau and his laboratory. Prendick finds out that Moreau is experimenting on animals, continuing work he started back in England but which appalled those in the know so much that he was forced to leave if he wished to continue his research. The callous disregard he has for the subjects of his experiments and the torture he puts them through does not end well, but what will it mean for Prendick?
Why did I want to read it?
The Island of Dr Moreau is one of those classics that you know so much about you think that you’ve actually read it and then of course you realise that you haven’t, and I thought it was about high time that I did. As you can see from the cover image from the edition I read I’ve had a copy of this since the release of the ill-fated and not terribly well-received 1996 movie version.
That’s how long things can moulder on Mount TBR round these parts.
What did I think of it?
I’m not sure it’s what I expected really, based on my only other Wells reading experience which is War of the Worlds, an exciting and pacy read. I thought this would be similar but it’s clearly trying to make more of a point in terms of its message on the price of scientific enquiry and the role of vivisection which has always been a contentious issue. Moreau himself has no redeeming features whatsoever and even Prendick is at times an ambivalent figure; he doesn’t seem to have a problem with the principles being applied, it’s Moreau’s methodology he takes issue with. The beasts themselves are for the most part not well developed and the social satire elements were lost on me.
I’m glad I read it as it is a classic which has influenced other works across a number of media; the song No Spill Blood by Oingo Boingo has just popped into my head and even my late lamented dentist used to refer to his surgery as the House of Pain. So many of the references are embedded in popular culture but I must admit that as a novel it left me entirely cold.
This was my first read for RIP IX.