Much creepier than I expected and much smarter, The Island of Dr. Moreau, as with so much of H.G. Wells’ science fiction, addressed the ethical pitfalls of a scientific eventuality far too early to be anything other than prophetic, yet it still manages to be more entertaining than preachy.
Edward Prendick finds himself shipwrecked on an island with Doctors Montgomery and Moreau. The former a follower of the latter, who just happens to be a mad vivisectionist. Beyond these scientists, Prendick finds himself intensely weirded out by the other inhabitants of the island, frightening man-animals created by Dr. Moreau.
Moreau captures the island’s animals and painfully turns them into half-men, then forces them to live by strict standards that he believes will overcome their bestial natures. Moreau’s primary commandment is that they cannot eat meat. This is, of course, a recipe for suspense and horror, for how can one expect Leopard Men or Puma Men to curb their need for meat, when the humans conducting the experiments cannot curb their own bestial natures? It simply can’t be done.
Prendick finds himself becoming a participant, although not entirely willingly, in Moreau’s society of vivisection. And once the animals finally rebel, as we know they must, he becomes the last man on the island, watching the tortured animals return to their natures and throw off Moreau’s pseudo-society.
Even now, one hundred and thirteen years after it was written, The Island of Dr. Moreau is spooky enough to work as an effective horror/sci-fi story, but its still relevant thematic depth is what makes Moreau essential to anyone who loves books. Genetics (eugenics), animal experimentation, psychology, colonization, imperialism, patriarchy, scientific chauvinism, religion, and ethical imposition are seriously and intelligently explored. Wells’ implied conclusions may be unsettling at times, but The Island of Dr. Moreau will make you think.