"The Island of Dr. Moreau" by H.G. Wells
When Edward Prendick is rescued from shipwreck in the South Seas he is thankful for a second chance at life. But his rescuer isn't taking him home. Instead he is taken to an island paradise where behind the palm trees and beaches lies a sinister secret. A mad doctor who has been shunned by society is conducting terrifying experiments, attempting to turn animals into humans and letting the beasts live wild on the island. Prendick's only hope lies in getting off the terrifying island.
The Island of Dr. Moreau, written in 1896 by H.G. Wells, is an enduring work of science fiction and horror. The book was written a few decades after Darwin's famous Origin of Species when the world was deeply concerned with the matters of the natural world, human nature and God. It's most shocking theme is that of human interference with nature and the results.
I imagine that for those of us reading this book today, it isn't as horrifying or scary as it was when it was published. With the current popularity of zombies, vampires and horror movies, this book may seem a little tame. But I can only imagine what it was like for those reading it around the time it was published. Moreau's practice of vivisection - dissecting a creature that is still alive - was popular at the time for scientific discovery and there were no laws governing the practice. The ethics that surround it, as discussed in the book, were in hot debate. And without the salience of science fiction movies and books we have today, this was probably at the top of the list of horrifying possibilities.
However, while the horrors of the island may not give present day readers a good scare compared to other contemporary works, one only has to consider our present day experiments with genetic engineering to see how this novel could still hold true today. There may not be an island run rampant with hybrid beasts, but the capabilities our science labs possess can be quite scary! And when we think of it this way, we can see why this book would have been so terrifying at the time.
What makes this book a classic to me is its commentary on human nature. The book asks the questions about what makes us truly human and what it is that separates us from animals. It makes readers consider the role of science, the powers that it possesses and the responsibilities that come along with it. I think it's important to keep in mind Darwin's theories when reading this book as it seems to have influenced this book.
It is easy to see why this is one of the more popular and enduring classic novels. While the book gives us a glimpse into the time it was written and wonderfully captures the concerns of the time, the themes still hold up today. It is highly engrossing, the language isn't difficult, and it is fascinating to see what captured the minds of people over a century ago.