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Friday, April 06, 2012

THE ISLAND OF DR MOREAU BY H.G. WELLS

H. G. Wells
















BOOK REVIEW
The Island of Dr. Moreau
by H.G. Wells
published in 1896
Project Guternberg EBook #159
Read on Ipad/Ebook

   Mostly people just know the Marlon Brandon starring film that is based on this novella.  Who can forget that creepy little guy up above?

  I think it fair to observe that Wells is the author who put the "science" in the term "science-fiction" in that he invented a category of fiction drawing inspiration from science as supposed to social interactions between rich people, history, or the renaissance era tradition of written wit.

  Today, science fiction and fantasy are lumped together as a single genre, or two sub categories- see Amazon where the category is "Science Fiction & Fantasy" and the sub-categories are Science Fiction, Fantasy and "Gaming."

  If The Time Machine is H.G. Wells contribution to the "time travel" category of sci-fi, The Island of Dr. Moreau is his contribution to the "bio-horror" category- best known today through the Sigorney Weaver Alien series of films.  Like The Time Machine, The Island of Dr. Moreau is a novella- about 150 pages long.

  On the whole, The Island of Dr. Moreau is more interesting the The Time Machine because the biology based man-animals of Dr. Moreau are more relevant then the class based evolution  featured in The Time Machine.  What is amazing is that both themes remain relevant to the point where they've been divorced from important source material in literature.

  Unlike The Time Machine, The Island of Dr. Moreau has some fairly indelible images- Wells' description of the man-beasts being foremost among them.  It's important to recognize that "horror" tropes related to the treatment of "monsters" were becoming well established in the late 19th century- Bram Stoker's  Dracula was published three years later(based on semi-published source material written by Lord Byron that dated back to the time Frankenstein was written by Mary Shelly), and Frankenstein itself had been out for more than half a century.  Poe had been out for more then a half century.

    The division of course, being between monsters of science and monsters of the supernatural- Frankenstein and Dr.  Moreau's creatures on one side of the room, Dracula, Werewolves and Ghosts on the other.  You get that kind of expansiveness in the word "monster" because in it's original meaning it covers all things not found in nature- including both the supernatural and any successors.  Monsters of science obviously succeed the monsters of the supernatural, but you would have to say the supernatural retains an upper hand with the Audience because of the strong association with Religion.

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