Posts Tagged ‘freaky’

Book #70: The Island of Doctor Moreau

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I started H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau. I knew it would be science-fictiony, but I wasn’t prepared for brutal genetic mutation and human experimentation.

It was definitely creepier than I expected, and much closer to something that could happen in real life than I typically prefer my creepy science fiction to be. A shipwrecked Edward Prendick winds up being rescued and brought to an island inhabited by Doctors Montgomery and Moreau.

Doctor Moreau is a vivisectionist trying to form animals into humans, complete with coherent thoughts and humanlike features. He has been largely successful, except for one thing – he can’t stop the half-men he’s created from reverting back to their natural, beastly state, no matter how hard he tries. Some will become “civilized” for a short amount of time, even able to speak and communicate, before reverting.

The island is a scary in-between place, with creatures struggling to remain men and men struggling to control and manipulate the creatures they have created. The pseudo-society on the island places Moreau as a malevolent god, ready to shoot any beasts who break his strict rules and revert back to their natural states, breaking with civilization.

The “civilized” society on the island is in a constant state of near-collapse; at any point, something could break, and all the Beast Folk, as they’re called, could revert to their animal state and overrun the island.

In a way, The Island of Doctor Moreau reminds me a little of a creepier, more unreal Lord of the Flies. In both, you can have a society that can easily degenerate into anarchy, with humans throwing off the mores of civilization and becoming like animals. The civilizations in both of these books ultimately do fall apart. The difference is that in Moreau, it’s animals becoming animals again. The trouble is that in the middle, those animals looked an awful lot like men.

For the scientific-minded, Wells’ book can call into question many moral questions about genetic manipulation, as well as the nature of humanity and science’s impact on society.

Rating: ****

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Book #46: Enduring Love

Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love is another pretty freaky read.

It’s basically about a stalker. Two strangers meet when they rush to help during a freak ballooning accident. When Joe Rose makes casual contact with Jed Parry, something changes. Jed thinks they’re in love. Filled with the idea that he and Joe are destined to be together, Jed begins following Joe around and leaving him frightening letters.

McEwan does a fantastic job of portraying the isolation and fear that comes with being stalked.* Joe’s partner, Clarissa, doesn’t fully believe him or understand just how frightening Jed is being. Joe goes to the police, who tell him that unless Jed is making obvious threats against him, there’s nothing they can do. The whole time, Joe constantly worries that Jed is watching him and planning to hurt him, but he can’t do anything about it.

McEwan holds us pretty close to Joe’s thoughts the whole time. The writing is very intense, which lets you feel the panic and terror he’s feeling. It took me just over a day to finish this book, and the whole time I was reading it, I had this slightly uneasy feeling like someone was watching me. For about a week after I finished the book, I was wary of making eye contact with strangers. Someone would sit across from me on the metro and I’d be like, “Ohgodohman, they’re going to follow me to my apartment.” I’d make eye contact with a stranger on the street and wonder if they’d find me later.

The freakiest was probably that I was reading Enduring Love at about the same time that a random homeless woman decided to start living in our stairwell. For 36 hours, every time I left or came back to my apartment, she was sitting in a chair in a semi-darkened corner. A tad frightening in any circumstance, but especially when you’ve just read a book about a stalker.

*I assume anyway. I’m lucky enough to have never had a stalker, so I suppose I don’t actually know what it feels like.

Rating: ****
Up Next: Parade’s End

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