My life in outer space

Moreau’s Other Island – Brian W Aldiss (1980)

Moreau's Other Island

‘New Master, New Man…

He stands very tall, long prosthetic limbs glistening in the harsh sun, withered body swaying, carbine and whip clasped in artificial hands. Man-beasts cower on the sand as he brandishes his gun in the air…

He is Dr Moreau, ruler of a fabulous, grotesque island, where humans are as brutes and brutes as humans, where the future of the entire human race is being reprogrammed. The place of untold horrors. The place of the New Man….’

Blurb from the 1982 Triad Granada paperback edition.

Aldiss wrote three (at least) of these posthumous sequels one of which, ‘Frankenstein Unbound’ was filmed with John Hurt in the title role.
This is an updating of the HG Wells ‘Island of Dr Moreau’ and set in the then near future of the Nineteen Eighties. A World War is underway, Man has a base on the moon, the Soviets have invaded Japan and a US Undersecretary of State has escaped from a plane which crashed in the Pacific and ends up on an unknown island which has a giant letter M carved into the cliffs.
The castaway, Calvert Roberts, is picked up in a boat by the surly South African, Hans Maastricht and his strange companion George and taken to the island.
There he first meets the odd natives of the island, strange beast people with a grasp of language but a low IQ.
The ‘Master’ of the island is one Mortimer Dart, who has inherited the legacy of the legendary Dr Moreau (in actuality a Dr McMoreau, with whom Wells, so Dart tells us, was acquainted and used as the model for his legendary novel.)
Dart, it transpires, is a thalidomide victim, having only rudimentary arms and legs and ‘a penile deformity’. This has led him to create prosthetic arms and legs, some of which have tools or weapons instead of hands.
Roberts, initially disturbed and horrified by both the hybrid creatures who have been living on the island since Moreau’s time, and the way Dart treats them, is desperate to get away. Fate seems to taunt him since his actions bring about only chaos and death. It appears that Roberts is losing his own humanity as the beast people are gaining theirs, as when, in leaping from a cliff to avoid being killed by the animal mob, he ends up with a group of thalidomide Japanese ‘seal’ people and their normal human four year old daughter. Roberts is seduced into a group orgy with the entire family, actions which seem perfectly acceptable to him in that context. The seal-people, as Dart’s assistant Hans has already told him, were humans who had been made into seal-like flippered creatures by the effects of thalidomide and perhaps moving back to an innocent state of animal-like grace.
It is interesting that the action takes place in isolation while a World War rages across the rest of the planet. Roberts then discovers that not only does the government know about the island, but that his own department has sanctioned and supported Dart’s work.
Dart’s true work is to produce a ‘replacement’ race that can survive the fall out from a nuclear war.

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