Friday, 25 March 2011

The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells

I really want to love sci-fi.  I love the ideas behind sci-fi books but usually when I get around to reading the actual books, I'm disappointed.  As the only sci-fi book I've ever really enjoyed is The War of the Worlds, I decided to give The Island of Doctor Moreau a go.

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


  1. I've read a lot by H.G. Wells, but not this one. I think I should check this one out! Thanks for the thoughts.

  2. I have this one on my TBR list and I'm quite looking forward to reading it.

  3. i have the exact same feeling towards sci/fi. I have even been really jealous of some of my die hard sci/fi customers who know everything about the genre and have read everything. Most of the books seem so interesting but I've tried to read some and i just get confused by all of the characters and the extensive creations of worlds. :(

  4. Like Annette, I've read H.G. Wells but this one went right past me. I'm going back now and trying to read at least once a month a book I read in my childhood.

  5. i love this book and even love the movie although many did not!

  6. Michelle, I'm a bit jealous of die hard sci-fi fans too. The same goes for fantasy. I want to like both, but it's hard.

    Man of La Book - It's always nice to revisit childhood favourites - the reading experience is so different as an adult.

  7. Another classic I've not read...but from the sounds of things I should add it to my list!
    I like some science fiction but it very much depends on the extent of the science in the world...I've never really got into the hard sci-fi despite trying Alaistair Reynolds and Iain M Banks. I find I'm working too hard reading those books and mostly I just want to be entertained!

  8. I loved this story. If you liked it and War of the Worlds, you should read The Time Machine too. It is nothing like the movie.

  9. Wells was a big believer of Darwin's theories, and it was really obvious in The Time Machine. I find it highly interesting that he managed to inject different aspects of his beliefs into The Island of Doctor Moreau. I should really read this one soon. :)

  10. I am not much of a sci-fi reader, but to push myself last year I read a few things in that genre, including H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man, which I really liked.
    I think I may give this one a go after reading your review - thanks!