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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

The Island of Dr. Moreau

The Island of Dr. Moreau - H.G. Wells “Not to go on all-fours; that is the Law. Are we not Men?"
“Not to suck up Drink; that is the Law. Are we not Men?
“Not to eat Fish or Flesh; that is the Law. Are we not Men?
“Not to claw the Bark of Trees; that is the Law. Are we not Men?
“Not to chase other Men; that is the Law. Are we not Men?”
"You gotta fight for your right to paaaaarty!"

Sorry for a spoiler so early on but yes, The Beastie Boys are to be found on the unnamed – but titular – Island of Dr. Moreau. Sort of.

Interestingly The Island of Dr. Moreau begins with a brief introduction by "Charles Edward Prendick" – nephew of the novel’s protagonist Edward Prendick – explaining the background of his uncle’s first hand account of his shipwreck and the uncle's records of the time he spent on this mysterious island. From then on the first person narrative is switched to the original Edward Prendick and Charles is never heard from again. So basically what we have here is a precursor to the “found footage” trope often used in modern movies like The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity etc. As a literary device this it seems to have gone out of fashion, nowadays we even get first person narratives written in the present tense which does not make sense when you think about it, but makes perfect sense if you just accept it as the author’s chosen narrative technique.

Basically Edward Prendick is shipwrecked, rescued by an associate of Dr. Moreau and taken to a mysterious island where he finds a bunch of man-beasts living there. How did they come to be? Well, there is a scientist living there, the creatures worship him, and he is a few sandwiches short of a picnic, so all that should be fairly indicative! Prendick spends about a year on this island until one day “the fit hits the shan”. That is all the synopsis you need I think.

This book is what I would call “sci-fi horror”, it is probably Wells’ most horrific book, with all the vivisections, gore and violence. In my previous reviews of H.G. Wells’ books I mentioned that he pioneered at least three standard sci-fi tropes: time traveling, alien invasion and genetic engineering. That last one is a reference to The Island of Dr. Moreau of course, but back then I have not reread this book yet and I forgot an important detail. There is no genetic engineering in this book! Animals are turned into imitations of men by Dr. Moreau through the process of vivisection, chemical injections, blood transfusion and brain surgery. It is a little like cutting and pasting in word processing I think. If “Frankensteining” was a verb you can probably apply it to mad Moreau’s process. I find the science in this book is less convincing than Wells’ [b: The War of The Worlds|8909|The War of the Worlds|H.G. Wells|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320391644s/8909.jpg|3194841], [b: The Time Machine|2493|The Time Machine|H.G. Wells|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327942880s/2493.jpg|3234863] and [b:The Invisible Man|17184|The Invisible Man|H.G. Wells|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388639080s/17184.jpg|1326579]. It is hard to believe Moreau is able to create intelligence or sentience through brain surgery and his technique of replacing and grafting limbs to animals seems more likely to make a mess than an anthropomorphized creature able to run around. The pain he depicts is convincing and disturbing though.

Characterization is a little thin in this book, the human characters are fairly two dimensional, even Doc Moreau is your standard issue cranky and obsessive mad scientist. That said some of the “manimals” are quite adorable, like the dog-man who is loyal to Prendick to the last and a little sloth-like creature that Wells describes as repulsive but still sounds pretty cute to me. Wells is clearly against men playing God, slicing and dicing animals just to see what happen. All in the name of science and progress of course, morals can get in the backseat and keep quiet. This short novel is very fast paced; if you are inattentive for a few seconds you are likely to miss some important plot points. That should not be much of an issue though as there is never a dull moment in the book.

The Island of Dr. Moreau is well worth a read of course, H.G. Wells always is.