Monday, February 03, 2020

Book review: THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU by H. G. Wells

THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1896) by H. G. Wells

In THE TIME MACHINE, H.G. Wells speculated about human evolution reaching into the distant future.

But in THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, he took Darwin's discovery directly into the present (the story takes place in the 1880s) - and the result is a tale somewhere in the borderland between science fiction and horror.

Darwin's theory of evolution made a profound impact on Western society, and was met with a furious opposition from the religious establishment. The opposition lost, and the ancient notion that humans were fundamentally apart from other animals - that only humans had a "soul" - shattered forever.

In THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, the protagonist literally and existentially struggles with the consequences of this (to him) new reality, where the "boundary" between human and animal is blurred.

There are some truly profound scenes in this novel that are simultaneously science fiction, horror, satire and allegory. In that respect it may be the best novel Wells ever wrote. Read it and you'll see what I mean.

Recommended as an unforgettable classic of science fiction, horror and psychological literature.

I have a cynical anticipation that some people are going to wilfully misinterpret this novel as a work about simplistic "racism." (That is, to assume that the "beast people" of the story are nothing more than symbols for non-Western or non-"white" peoples.)

But that would be to profoundly miss the point. Evolution is for everybody. Or, to quote the novel: "None escape!"

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