Plotting Crabs Take Over Island
by Alyssa Weinstein
I will never again be able to think of natural selection without imagining a researcher being massacred by a giant metallic crab of his own creation. “Crabs take over the Island” by Anatoly Dneprov is a fearful tale about the evolution of metal crabs that can replicate using scrap metal. An engineer invented the crabs as a war tool, intending the crabs to consume enemy metal (aircraft, tanks, etc.) in an effort to replicate themselves. The engineer takes his crabs to an island where they attempt to consume one another (because there is no scrap metal), and through natural selection he hopes that the ultimate weapon crab will evolve, thus testing Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Unfortunately the engineer has steel teeth, and is torn apart by one of his metal-hungry creations.
The story begins with and the engineer and his assistant (our narrator) unloading mysterious cargo onto an island. Immediately my sense of curiosity was aroused; what is the purpose of the strange cargo, and how is it related to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution? The introduction raises many questions, and the protagonist and the reader remain equally clueless. As the plot develops many of these questions are answered, however the reader remains rapt in the story because with understanding of the experiment comes apprehension.
Conflict arises in the plot when natural selection begins favouring larger crab types that would not be successful in sabotaging enemies’ armaments. The crabs are evolving for their own benefit, not that of their engineer.
The climax of the story occurs as one morning the engineer is rudely awoken by the sting of a mammoth sized crab. Much suspense is created, however despite the actions of our protagonist, the engineer meets his demise several sentences later.
The resolution is somewhat unsatisfying, after the death of the engineer our protagonist awaits the return of the ship on which they arrived. There is an ominous implication that the crabs are also awaiting the ship’s return. The reader is left wondering what will transpire when and if the ship returns.
The text was very engaging, action and suspense were created as questions were left un-answered, very emotive passages were used, and the reader became involved with the characters. Interesting sections of the story (eg. the demise of the engineer) were afforded much more detail than less interesting but nonetheless crucial plot elements, keeping the reader engrossed.
The plot is well structured. The introduction effectively sets the scene while engaging the reader, conflict then develops allowing the reader to share in the characters’ apprehensiveness. An action packed climax thrills (and also in this case chills) the reader, and the resolution provids a partial closure, although much is left to the reader’s imagination. A less open-ended resolution may have been more satisfying, however this would not necessarily make the story’s plot ‘better’. A good story does not have to fit the traditional plot structure. The author’s intention may well have been to provoke thought. Are we the instruments of our own demise? Do the crabs represent climate change and atomic bombs?
Crabs take over the Island by Anatoly Dneprov (taken from Negrete, A., & Lartigue, C. (2010). The science of telling stories: Evaluating science communication via narratives (RIRC method). Journal Media and Communication Studies Vol, 2(4), 98-110)