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The Island of Dr. Moreau – Curious abominations

H. G. Wells published The Island of Doctor Moreau in 1896, and though it isn’t as well known as The War of the Worlds it has been in print almost continuously since its first appearance. This brief novel is readily available from libraries and new or used bookstores. Several audiobook versions have been released, and it has been adapted to film several times. The most recent film was released in 1996 and featured Marlon Brando as Moreau, though for a darker feeling you might prefer the 1932 release with Charles Laughton, entitled The Island of Lost Souls.

Film and television adaptations notwithstanding, I really suggest that anyone involved in furry fandom read the original. The book is not long, and can be finished in an evening or two. You will come away with an understanding of the peculiar revulsion that some people feel about furries and anthropomorphics, based on its roots in the morality and religious attitudes of Western culture.

Edward Prendick survives a shipwreck only to end up in a dingy on the South Pacific, without food or water, and doomed to an unpleasant death. At the end of his endurance, he is picked up by a mysterious ship that carries a cargo of live animals under the supervision of a medical man named Montgomery. Montgomery cares for and revives Prendick, but when the ship arrives at an island port of call to discharge the cargo, its drunken captain also dumps Prendick into his dingy again and abandons him. Eventually the dingy and Prendick arrive on the island, where he is decidedly unwelcome to the master of the tiny dwelling there, the mysterious Dr. Moreau.

Moreau, we learn, was exiled from civilized society (meaning England) for his experimental abominations. Soon he is explaining himself to Prendick in an effort to win the Englishman over to his side, and the protagonist views those experiments in surgical modification of animals to make them more “human” as utterly blasphemous. This is of course the view taken by most of Judeo-Christian tradition: the animals were created for the service and convenience of humans, and only humans were made “in God’s image.” This makes Moreau’s attempts to construct humanity from animal flesh utterly horrifying, even without the concerns Prendick seems to feel about the pain inflicted on the animals in the process.

When he ventures out into the wilds of the island, Prendick observes and becomes entangled with many of Moreau’s experimental subjects, some of whom are nearly successful, while others are dismal failures. The story draws to a rapid and suitably moralistic conclusion in which the guilty parties receive their deserved end, though there seems to be no happy ending for the many experimental subjects.

Wells spins an entertaining tale, as always, and will hold the reader’s attention readily enough. I suspect that most furries will not agree with the attitudes expressed by Edward Prendick or the author, but will find themselves rooting for the various underdogs, undercats, and so forth. This is a novel that might well be retold from a different viewpoint by a modern, furry-sensitive writer. It will also give you second thoughts if you’ve ever considered whether you’d allow medical science to “make a real furry” of you.

Rating: 3 of 5 possible apples appleappleapple

H. G. Wells
The Island of Dr. Moreau
Many editions and publishers, public domain
(Available from Project Gutenberg free of cost)

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