The Island of Doctor Moreau – H. G. Wells

Island of Dr Moreau

Title: The Island of Dr Moreau

Author: H. G. Wells

Publication Date: 1896

Review Score: 8/10

After a collision with a derelict boat, the good ship Lady Vain has sunk and there remains but one survivor adrift in a dinghy. Edward Prendick is lost at sea and facing certain death when he is picked up by a vessel, carrying an unusual cargo of savage animals.

Nursed back to health by their keeper, Montgomery, Prendick soon finds himself on a mysterious island with his rescuer, a pack of strange beasts and the sinister Doctor Moreau; a genius biologist who’s radical experiments in vivisection have forced him from civilisation and perform his work on this uncharted island.

Hearing ghastly screams and discovering unthinkable creatures, it is not long before Prendick starts to piece together the horrific goings on of Moreau and the truth behind his experiments.

When thinking of H. G. Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau usually takes a back seat in the mind, with most of the praise being put upon The Time Machine and War of the Worlds, but this novel is equally ground breaking, radical and enjoyable.

Probably Well’s darkest and most twisted novel, The Island of Doctor Moreau paints a picture so vivid of these beast creatures that it is almost sickening to read at times. The book is not just a horror story however, playing on the idea of Darwinism, the novel delves into what it actually means to be human and the taboo around playing God with animals.

First published in 1896, The Island of Doctor Moreau was way ahead of its time, and even now makes the mind slightly fearful of scientific advancements in human biology and animal vivisection.

Creepy, chilling and yet incredibly clever, The Island of Dr Moreau is highly enjoyable from both a sociological and literary aspect, although it’s probably not ideal for the faint hearted reader.

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Foundation – Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov - FoundationTitle: Foundation

Author: Isaac Asimov

Publication Date: 1951

Review Score: 9/10

In the first of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, we are introduced to the great planet of Trantor that has sat at the centre of the Galactic Empire for hundreds of years, ruling the unified planets and growing mankind. The entire Galaxy believes in the strength and continuing prosperity of Trantor, well, all except Hari Seldon.

The greatest scientific thinker of his age, Seldon has deduced, through the science of psychohistory, that Trantor and the Empire will soon lie in ruins. Although ridiculed by many, Seldon cannot be ignored and so is given permission to set up the Seldon Project on a far of periphery planet where he can try and secure the future history of mankind.

When Isaac Asimov wrote this novel he probably didn’t realise just how perfect the title Foundation was. Inspiration for hundreds of sci-fi novels, films and comics, the Foundation Series is seen as one of the most influential pieces of sci-fi and in every chapter you can see clear elements that have been used in the likes of Star Wars and Star Trek and are now regular, household aspects of all science fiction.

And why has Foundation been so influential? Simply because it is superb! The ideas are mind bogglingly original, the descriptions are lucidly real and it is utterly gripping from first page to last.

Also, it is worth noting that when I first read Foundation I was by no means the sci-fi fan I am now. This was one of the first books of this kind I had read and although I went into it slightly dubious, it got me hooked.

This is not the cheesy aliens with green skin and big boobs type of sci-fi, this is a stunning work of fiction that has cemented its place in literary history not just as a classic piece of sci-fi but just as a classic.

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The Long Walk – Stephen King

The Long WalkTitle: The Long Walk

Author: Stephen King (Richard Bachman)

Publication Date: 1979

Review Score: 7.5/10

Set in an alternative dystopian present, The Long Walk is a grueling annual walking contest in which 100 boys compete to win anything their heart desires…but there can be only one winner. The rules are simple, just keep walking at a pace of 4 miles an hour, don’t interfere with your fellow walkers, no outside help and don’t try and leave the walk. Slow down too much or break a rule, you get a warning, three warning are you buy your ticket.

So the question is, how far would you walk to stay alive?

One of the four books published by Stephen King under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, it plays with similar ideas to one of the others, The Running Man, in that it takes reality game shows to a point where death is not just possible but it seen as the highest level of entertainment.

I think what’s so captivating about this idea is that it doesn’t feel as if it’s a million miles away from what is actually possible in modern society. No we don’t have people dying on TV, but give people the chance to win money and they will put themselves through hell. It makes you wonder, if this was real would there be 100 people out there willing to participate?

The story itself centers around a Walker named Garraty, who entered the competition against the wishes of his mother and girlfriend. He is joined by a group of characters who all appear to be on the walk for different reasons, and although some soon become close companions, it’s hard to remain friends when you’re all needing the other’s around you die.

I must say this was a truly gripping book, I struggled to put it down and blitzed through it much quicker than normal. The idea behind it is brilliant and as always with King the way he unravels the story keeps you on the edge of your seat. All the way through I was thinking that this was definitely going to be my first 10/10 on The Book Reviewer but then I hit the last 2 pages.

I don’t want to give anything away about the end, as I would recommend this book to anyone, but similarly to the the TV show Lost, it’s all about the journey, the end falls flat, is too abrupt and doesn’t do justice to the amazing story that precedes it.

I would definitely read it again, just for the journey, as that alone is fantastic but I won’t soon forget the disappointment I was left with at the end.

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The Black Cloud – Fred Hoyle

The Black Cloud - Fred HoyleTitle: The Black Cloud

Author: Fred Hoyle

Publication Date: 1959

Review Score: 9/10

Similarly to the last book I reviewed (The Day of the Triffids), The Black Cloud is a 1950’s Sci-Fi classic which takes humanity to the brink of extinction and wrestles with ideas of intelligence much greater than ours in the universe.

The story follows a group of astronomers and scientists who discover the existence of a black cloud that is coming straight towards earth and threatening to block out the suns rays, potentially destroying all life on the planet.

The group lead by the enigmatic and somewhat maverick Professor Kingsly are in a race against time to try and understand the cloud’s behaviour and the devastating implications for the human race that may come to follow, but the cloud doesn’t seem to play by the rules of science and suggests a greater intelligence may be at work…

When I first read the description of this book I instantly thought ‘cheesy Sci-Fi’ but once again, as so often happens with this type of classic, I was completely wrong! From start to finish the book had me gripped and kept me guessing right to the end.

Sometimes with this type of Sci-Fi I find that the author has spent so much energy developing the complexities of the story that the characters themselves get left behind and are merely there as a vessel to tell the idea, but with The Black Cloud I found the characters as entertaining as the plot itself, especially the satirical genius of Professor Kingsly.

The idea behind the book is brilliant, the writing style is engaging and and the characters are well developed, everything you want for a great book really. The only reason I haven’t been able to give this a 10/10 is purely down to the fact I just wanted more!

The whole story focuses on the small group of scientists and only occasionally alludes to how the rest of humanity is coping with what is happening and I just wanted more, I wanted to know what was happening in the real world, how the country coped, what the media made of it all.

It’s a relatively short novel and I think there was ample room to add in a lot more detail, but then again they do say ‘always leave them wanting more’ and it definitely doesn’t take away from the fact that this was an excellent book.

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The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham

Title: The Day of the Triffids

Author: John Wyndham

Publication Date: 1951

Review Score: 8/10

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham is a 1950s Sci-Fi novel in which the human race is brought to its knees and the brink of extension.

In typical end of the world fashion, the story begins with our main protagonist; Bill Masen, waking up blindfolded in hospital and surrounded by complete silence, with no one responding to his calls for help.

After taking off his bandages to find he has not been blinded by his latest sting in the lab, he ironically discovers that everyone else in the hospital has been blinded by a dazzling meteor shower that he, fortunately, was unable to watch the night before.

Outside it’s the same story, it appears the entire population of London and most likely the entire world have been blinded and now droves of people helplessly wander the streets looking for food, water and salvation.

With only a handful of people around the world able to see, civilization has descended into chaos and is now completely vulnerable to the Triffids; large, venomous plants that walk freely and feed on human flesh.

Although this book sounds like a ridiculously lame 2am horror film on channel 5, it is actually incredibly exciting, eerie and rooted in the not so ludicrous idea of biological warfare.

Given that it was written over 60 years ago it may seem a little dated and trivial to anyone who reads modern Sci-Fi novels, but that is exactly what I love about it! You not only get the thrilling story that has so blatantly inspired much of modern sci-fi but you get to enjoy it alongside the fast paced, sharp and witty vernacular of the 1950s.

The characters are classic, brilliantly portrayed and appear to have just stepped off the set of an Alfred Hitchcock film whilst the tale they are thrown into in is futuristic, apocalyptic and worthy of any Sci-Fi nuts appreciation.

All in all, The Day of the Triffids is an absolutely fabulous book that backs up the notion that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or in this case by the ridiculous sounding blurb on the back of it!

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