Saturday, July 6, 2013

Book Review: The Island of Doctor Moreau

THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU: Addressing the ethical issues concerning science a hundred years too early

This book, as with other H.G. Wells books, portrays the drawbacks of humanity’s immoral scientific undertakings. Taking into account that this book has been published in 1896, its portrayal of diminishing ethicality is rather prophetic, as modern humanity addresses the very same issue today.

The story is about Edward Prendick, who finds himself on an island with two mad doctors. As it turns out, these doctors are performing vivisections to animals, giving them humanlike characteristics. This plot point, however, is not executed mindlessly. It has been told in a way that creates an air of mystery, and so when it has been revealed, it gives the overall story a suspenseful and horrific flavour. What makes it more interesting is the doctors’ implication of authority over these beast-men. It tackles humanity’s desire for power, or, should I say, godhood. The suspenseful and horrific themes are further exploited when the bestiality of these specimens start to resurface. They start to rebel against the authoritative doctors, and Edward Prendick finds himself in the middle of all the commotion. In the end, everybody suffers greatly from the doctors’ immoral undertakings.

Even though the prose is somewhat flat, for the descriptions are rather direct and uninspiring, the readers will find themselves diving deeper into the story. There are enough major and minor conflicts that will keep them going -- and what makes these conflicts interesting is their incorporation of how Mother Nature’s laws are beyond humanity’s alteration. In truth, even without the minor conflicts, the protagonist’s exploration of the island and its peculiar inhabitants is already intriguing in itself that it will keep the readers interested. The beast-men’s attempts to create a society -- just like that of the human’s -- have been a successful attempt in making the island’s foundation more solid and interesting. Add the ethical impositions that H.G. Wells has incorporated between the lines, and the readers will find themselves in an interesting, gripping story of science and morality.

H.G. Wells, without a doubt, is one of the fathers of modern science fiction. He has been influenced by Darwinian ideas, and he depicts in his books how these ideas will get to influence humankind -- for better or worse. The Island of Doctor Moreau is no exception to this, for it is a book that cautions us about the possible consequences of humanity’s immorality towards science. Like The Time Machine, it is really incredible to know that this has been written in the nineteenth century.

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