This novella has become more than just another Victorian sci-fi story. The central idea is a kernel that has been revisited in so many popular characters, perhaps most notably Marvel’s “Incredible Hulk.” The titular characters often feature in books, movies, and stories that use the Victorian literary world as their stomping grounds (e.g. “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and “Van Helsing.”)
It’s hard to imagine that anyone doesn’t know the gist of this story. [Spoiler, if you’ve lived under a rock your entire life.] Dr. Jekyll succeeds in splitting off his dark side, and soon comes to regret it. Whereas Mr. Hyde is usually portrayed as gargantuan on film, in the book he’s dwarfish—representing only a part of the whole. It’s telling that it’s impossible to get to reading this book without knowing the twist from a million references to it in pop culture—e.g. the Looney Tunes cartoons.
Still it’s worth reading the original. It starts with a lawyer telling one of his friends a ghastly tale in which a vile, little man—Mr. Hyde–runs into a girl, and then stomps over her body as he makes his exit. The lawyer becomes concerned when he learns that his good friend and client, Doctor Jekyll, is leaving all his worldly possessions to the dastardly Hyde for reasons the lawyer cannot fathom. The book may not be action packed by today’s standards, but it does have good pacing and revelation of information. The descriptions of grotesquery are also gripping. The story is also told in a manner that is very different from how it would likely be told today, and that also makes for interesting reading. Furthermore, it’s short–less than 100 pages over 10 chapters.
I’d recommend this book for anyone who is interested in the classics of science fiction and speculative fiction.