Rating: 3 Stars ★★★☆☆
I do not propose to add anything to what has already been written concerning the loss of the “Lady Vain”.
The story centres on the depraved Dr Moreau, who conducts unspeakable animal experiments on a remote tropical island, with hideous, humanlike results. Edward Prendick, an English-man whose misfortunes bring him to the island, is witness to the Beast Folk’s strange civilization and their eventual terrifying regression.
Our protagonist has some seriously bad luck. He embarks as a passenger on a ship, which is wrecked, escapes as one of only three people in a boat, where they start to starve. His companions kill themselves trying to kill each other (I think they wanted to kill one person and then eat them or something).
Luckily, he is picked up by a passing boat. It contains a menagerie of animals, a really strange, animal-ish servant and a pretty drunk doctor. The captain, also drunk, throws him overboard when they reach the island, destination of the animals and Doctor Montgomery.
“And now comes the problem of this uninvited guest. What are we to do with him?”
“He knows something of science,” said Montgomery.
“I’m itching to get to work again – with this new stuff.” said the white-haired man, nodding towards the enclosure. His eyes grew brighter.
“I daresay you are,” said Montgomery, in anything but a cordial tone.
There he is, kicked out of the boat and the good doctor doesn’t want him on the island either. Luckily, he relents. Unluckily for him, it’s the island where Doctor Montgomery and the titular Doctor Moreau perform terrible experiments, operating on animals until they look human – sort of.
And his bad luck doesn’t even end there. So yeah, the poor guy’s really screwed. But he survives, so I guess that makes him sort of lucky?
“You admit that the vivisected human being, as you called it, is, after all, only the puma?” said Moreau. He had made me visit that horror in the inner room, to assure myself of its inhumanity.
“It is the puma,” I said, “still alive, but so cut and mutilated as I pray I may never see living flesh again. Of all vile -”
“Never mind that,” said Moreau; “at least, spare me those youthful horrors. Montgomery used to be just the same. You admit that it is the puma. Now be quiet, while I reel off my physiological lecture to you.”
The concept of the story was fascinating. It’s an island populated by what looks to be human but in fact, are horribly tortured and mutilated animals, clinging to trappings of human society – barely. Any time, they could revert to their instincts.
The story has a very nice atmosphere of dread throughout and the characters were interesting. Psychopathic Moreau, who’s only interested in his work, Montgomery, who only finds solace in alcohol and our protagonist, who’s basically screaming inside his head all the time.
The “science” part, of course, is pretty outdated and the story doesn’t go into too much depth with the characters but it’s a really short story, clocking in at around 150 pages.
Interesting quick-read classic.