Well before the pulp era, the giants of the science fiction genre were writers of novels such as Verne and Wells (Mary Shelley, as well, of course, but it seems she was inserted into the SF canon years later, when the true significance of Frankenstein was understood).
Of these, Verne clearly wasn’t concerned with any of the bad things that progress might bring. He seemed more of the kind of man who delighted in imagining what the future was going to look like. The conflict in his novels is either man against man or man against the elements. Man against progress didn’t seem to be his thing.
Wells,on the other hand, always gave his speculations a much sharper edge. He had a brilliant imagination, more than capable of asking what if? but he was also willing to go that extra step and say… what if we took it too far? And then answer the question to the best of his ability.
Today, mad scientists (and Bond villains) are expected to have their lairs hidden on isolated tropical islands, but when Wells wrote The Island of Dr Moreau, he was breaking new ground: creating a place isolated from society where that society’s nightmares and anxieties could be given palpable shape.
So Moreau, though less well-known than much of Wells output such as The Time Machine and War of the Worlds, is equally influential. Perhaps more than the other two in many senses.
And it’s definitely this one that really shows Wells’ true colors. Was he enthusiastic about science? Probably. But he was also deeply concerned about the possibility of abuse, and this novel is perhaps the most palpable expression of that fear. If only for that reason, it’s a must-read.
A word about the edition that I read: it’s an Easton Press edition which is just as pretty as the ones we spoke of a couple of months ago. We probably should have added this one into that post, but I already had an Easton book there, and it would have seemed like shilling. Still, most used bookstores have these for sale at reasonable prices, so might not hurt to ask!