SciFi Discussion – The Island of Dr Moreau

Island of Dr Moreau book cover First published in 1896, The Island of Doctor Moreau was written by legendary author H. G. Wells.

The text of the novel is the narration of Edward Prendick, a shipwrecked man rescued by a passing boat who is left on the island home of Doctor Moreau, who creates sentient beings from animals via vivisection.

Did We Like It?

Most people finished reading it and liked it. There were criticisms about the science of turning animals into people and the general dreariness of the story.

Is It SciFi?

The science was vague without any real explanation and some of us thought it was more of a horror story than science fiction. Despite these niggles we felt that, yes, it is SciFi. We also thought that The Island of Dr Moreau was a book that has stood the test of time.

We thought that it was topical at the time that it was written and made comparisons with Frankenstein.

We were horrified by the notion of animals being turned into humans and found the cries of pain that the puma suffered during vivisection very disturbing.

Of Men and Animals

The story was narrated by Prendick, a very straight man and a bit of a wet blanket. He seemed to observe rather than get involved with what was going on around him. When things upset him, his response was always to run away, so we didn’t feel much sympathy towards Prendick. The is typical of H.G. Wells’ stories and we wondered whether the author was actually taking the Micky out of his narrators. We did wonder, however, if there were more people like him at the time the book was written.

Vivisectionist Moreau was a bit sick, wanting to play God and not concerning himself with ethics or the pain that he was causing. Once he had finished making a beast man he would virtually discard him and concentrate on his next experiment. The isolation of the island allowed Moreau to undertake his experiments unchallenged.

We had empathy for Montgomery, a sentimental character who was trying to make the best of a bad situation.

We could not help but feel compassion for the beast folk, especially the dog man, who was our favourite character! The religion that Moreau gave the beast folk was quite sinister. Although one possible reason that the beast folk were given their religion was to stop them from attacking Moreau & Montgomery, which made us wonder why Moreau often worked on ferocious animals. We also wondered whether Moreau was trying to turn the puma into a woman for himself!

The reversion back to animals must have been confusing for the beast folk, who seemed to only stay human when their short term memory was constantly used to recite the law. Was the reversion a comment about evolution? In the end, Prendick had a hard time distinguishing between animals and humans and we reflected upon whether humanity is inherent and a learned trait, i.e nature versus nurture. At one point Prendick observed that “It takes a true man to lie” which was comment that we liked. Interestingly, Leopard man had a soul and at the time the book was written people did not think that animals have souls.

The Rise and Fall of…

After Moreau and Montgomery has were killed, Prendick was unable to keep the beast folk practising their religion. Prendick did not want to narrate the story of their decline. We thought that the story could have been much improved with the inclusion of a rise and decline of the beast folk.

Quote of the Evening

“Did lady pigs have a pink bow & lipstick?”

Essential Reading

I would like to encourage everyone who has read this post to download The Little Book of Cruelty Free which lists over 100 companies in the UK which have all been awarded the Leaping Bunny logo and guarantee their products are free from animal testing.

“No animal should have to suffer in cruel and out-dated tests for beauty and cleaning products.”
Michelle Thew, Chief Executive of Cruelty Free International.

Manchester Sci-Fi Book Club Contacts

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Next Sci-Fi Book:

  • August 21st – Embassytown by China Mieville

SciFi Books for Following Months:

Yet to be decided! We have a few suggestions, but please keep them coming in via Twitter or our Google Group. Once we have a reasonable choice we’ll set up a Doodle Poll and have a vote.

An Anomaly:

We have previously decided to read Reamde by Neal Stephenson, who also wrote Snow Crash. Since Reamde is a little on the long side, at over 1000 pages, we propose to discuss it on our January 15th 2013 meeting. Since there will not be a December meeting this will give us extra time to read it.

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