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April 3, 2011 / alyssaw1

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?

References:

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)

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6 Comments

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  1. Aaron Cull / Apr 4 2011 1:55 am

    Quite an interesting short story – it reminds me of the Matrix series where humans are forced to hide from squiddy machines that have grown out of their control (instruments of our own demise as you put it).

    I like the way you summarise the story and point out the key areas of the plot. It’s hard to critique your work but perhaps the only disagreement I have is that I think the story ended where it should have. If the author had continued to describe the ensuing battle for the returning ship it would have turned into a fast-paced action story and consequently changed the plot completely rather than making it better or worse.

    Overall this is a well-rounded blog post and I enjoyed learning about your interpretation of the story.

    • alyssaw1 / Apr 5 2011 5:08 am

      Thanks for you comments, I had never thought of that matrix link before. I guess how you respond to the ending is going to be different for everyone. You are right, it could have complicated the plot a lot having a less open-ended resolution, however can we really be sure it would have evolved into a fast paced action story? There are many possible outcomes upon the return of the boat, and I believe this is what Dneprov wanted us to ponder. We cannot be sure what would have transpired if Dneprov had chosen to continue writing.

      Cheers

  2. Kohei Ishigami / Apr 5 2011 3:25 am

    Hi Alyssa.

    This story is amusing, and you summarized this story into dense and concise way. Good work!

    About the plot of this short story, I think the author could attempt improving this story much better way.
    Base of this story is a simple “Frankenstein complex” style, A creation of humans could rebel against us, but main point of this story is not story itself. A main theme of this story must be the Theory of evolution stated by C. Darwin, and the story is just a method of interpreting the idea.
    Author attempted fairly good, for instance, the researcher mentioned like this in the novel, “The more refined replicates will be those that quite
    accidentally accumulate peculiarities of design that will make them more
    viable. In that way, we will have generations of stronger, faster and simpler
    creatures.” In this short phrase, some essential ideas of natural selection have stated, such as “accidentally”, “generations of stronger “, and so on. However, explanation is not enough. The author used two characters, expert and learner, so they could be utilized more efficient way.

    In this story, the metal crabs evolved toward unwanted direction as an weapon, that they become inactive during the night. This occasion could be another good source of gaining further understanding for readers, because this kind of dead end is also popular in a process of evolution.

    Death of researcher is dramatic occasion, however, lack of interpreter left us unsolved enigma, so If I was the author, I’d kill the assistant instead.

    By the way fellows, Do you know the difference between Horror or Suspense story and Science fiction? Former group ends up in just emotional conclusion, so an enigma could be solved, but not ought to be solved. On contrary, Science Fiction must have reasonable and logical ending. So I think the author had to use Science Fiction style.

    Whatever is, as you mentioned, the author meant to provoke reader’s thought, in that mean, aim has done. It was enjoyable reading, and your post is also exiting!

    see you!
    kohei.

    • alyssaw1 / Apr 10 2011 1:30 am

      Hi Kohei,

      That’s interesting that for you the main point of the story was the theory of evolution. For me I found the theory of evolution was just a plot element used to develop the idea of the dangers of human inventions. Perhaps this is why you felt that the explanation of the theory of evolution wasn’t detailed enough, whereas I was satisfied with it because it was detailed enough to allow the plot of the story to continue. Is the purpose of this text to inform the reader about natural selection, to entertain them, or both?
      Re the death of the scientist instead of the assistant, it is true that this leaves as an ‘unsolved enigma’, but I believe that this was the intention of the author. By leaving it so open ended he provokes thought in the reader. It is true that science fiction generally does have a conclusive and logical ending, but must it always be so? It think what we’re looking at here is a science fiction/horror story that contains elements of both genres.

      Thanks for your comments, you raised some really interesting points. I was a little confused by some of your sentences though, I realise this is only a blog comment but there were some grammatical issues, especially tense, that I found obscured your meaning sometimes. Hope this helps for future comments/posts, your ideas were great and deserve to be expressed appropriately 🙂

      Cheers,

      Alyssa

  3. ankevaneekelen / Apr 5 2011 4:00 am

    Alyssa,

    I agree with Aaron. You have written a great blog on the story. A well articulated reflection on the techniques used to convey a thr/chilling story, which symbolises the well known concept of ‘survival of the fittest’ by Darwin.

    It seems that nowadays any story that incorporates violence and battles to conquer the world (or an island for that matter), will draw the attention of the younger generation. You only need to look at the plot lines of Hollywood blockbusters in the last few years. In that context, may be this story could be used as an effective script for a visual application in science communication for teens as well?

    Anke

    • alyssaw1 / Apr 5 2011 4:59 am

      Hi Anke,

      Thanks for your comment, you’re definitely right about battles and violence getting the attention of the younger generation, I hadn’t really thought about the story in modern context as it was written in 1958. That’s a very interesting idea about using it as a script, I would be very keen to see a short film or any other representation based on Dneprov’s story.

      Cheers,

      Alyssa

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