The island was just the beginning…
In H G Wells’ 1896 novel The Island of Dr Moreau a shipwrecked traveller finds himself alone on an island ruled by a mad doctor and inhabited by creatures who are at once both beast and human. He escapes to civilisation only after the scientist is dead and the beast-men have taken absolute control. Yet this is not the end of the matter. The peoples of the island are not done with humanity. Now the conflict between the two has begun in earnest.
I very much enjoyed H.G. Wells work and The Island of Dr Moreau is definitely among the favourites. So when I saw this appear on Netgalley I Had to get my hands on it… especially after enjoying what J.S. Barnes did in his Dracula’s Child.
I did read Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Dracula’s Child back to back, which really made the way J.S. Barnes made Stoker’s writing style his own stand out. I haven’t read the original of Dr Moreau in quite a while now though, so I can’t quite make that comparison. The writing style in City of Dr Moreau is quite distinctive though, so I dare to say Barnes gave it a good try at least. It did take me a bit to get into, but once I was (after 10% or so) it was an easy enough read.
And I really enjoyed what he did with this story. The story after what happens on the island certainly takes some interesting twists and turns, and I really hadn’t anticipated the extend to which it all would go.
But… the way Barnes choose to sturcture this book didn’t really work for me. Again, it was distinctive and interesting, but for me it resulted in disengagement. Prety much every chapter is told from a different character’s perspective… a character with its own backstory, motivations and knowledge of the situation. But because we only spend a chapter following them there is not enough time to get to know them. This in some cases even lead to confusion on my part, where for example some major event for said character would happen but because we didn’t know them or their backstories, we didn’t know why this would be so important to them.
There are also some big time jumps between the chapters… and again no explanations given to us as to how the world has changed in those 15 years. Some big plot points and developments happen of the page, and I was just a bit lost in it all. We jump around between characters and events but the thread connecting it all seemed to be missing.
I loved how Barnes extended on Wells story and how far he managed to take it. The way he decided to tell the story is interesting and has the feel of a classic, but I personally needed a bit more explanation which lead to me never really getting sucked into the book as much as I would have liked.