Wells: The Island of Dr Moreau

What can you expect from science fiction book from 1896? I thought when I picked this book up in a Thalia store in Hamburg. When you think of sci-fi nowadays you often associate artificial intelligence, robots and distopian futures. But you can have it with just the right bit of blasphemy and animal cruelty as well.

Enter Prendick, a shipwrecked man, who gets rescued by strange men on a strange island. Doctor Moreau is "king" of the island and its inhabitants, supported by a loyal fellow named Montgomery. Moreau is very keen on "humanizing" various animals through vivisection, which cannot be hidden easily. The screaming animals leave no doubt about what they think of the torture they must endure.

Prendick is not amused either and a more than once either tries to escape or walk into the sea to end his misery. During his escape he encounters various "monsters", which are somewhat self-organized and follow a certain basic conduct that was given to them by Moreau. Unfortunately the human factor wears off after a while and tragedy overwhelms everything and everyone.

I had difficulties reading this book. At a time where people are at least somewhat aware of animal psychology and rights the suffering of the animals in this book is hard to tolerate. Also the language is difficult for non-native speakers and contains some old-and-forgotten vocabulary. Nonetheless I find this book is worth the trouble. The author is straight-forward and mostly neutral, which seems hard to maintain given the subjects of the book.


In case you consider reading the book: It makes sense to get a version with explanations of the old vocab and some background information on Wells and the time the book was written at.