Another classic from the Master. I have to say I am really digging the HGW this year. I'm adding The Time Machine to the list and may get to it sooner than some other candidates that have been on the list for a longer time.
This story is told with a narrative frame of "this is someone else's story that I am relating." In this case, the narrator is Charles Prendick, but the story is framed by his nephew.
Charles was a passenger on a ship that catches fire and goes down in the Pacific. He boards a life raft and is rescued by a passing ship. He slowly recovers from his ordeal and manages to see some of the ship that rescued him. It's a filthy mess because the deck is jammed with animals in cages. Prendick meets Montgomery, the man who saved him, and Moreau, the doctor who has brought the animals on the ship. He also meets M'Ling, the attendant to Montgomery.
After they are dropped on Moreau's island Prendick realizes he is on for a long stay, perhaps even as much as a year, depending on when a ship happens by the island. Soon after that Prendick gets a glimpse of Moreau's twisted experiments.
Afraid that he is to be one of Moreau's specimens, Prendick makes a run for it. He leaves the huts that Moreau and Montgomery live in, and finds himself in the thick, leafy jungle. Almost as soon as he is clear of the huts he realizes he is being followed. What he sees terrifies him even more - a half man half beast creature.
After a long chase Prendick takes refuge with the monster and learns that the island is populated by all sorts of mixed human/beast kinds of animals of varying shapes and intelligences. Soon Montgomery and Moreau catch up with him and rescue him from the beasts.
Back at the huts, Moreau explains that he has created these beasts in the name of science, in the pursuit of the godlike power of creation by metamorphosis. Moreau explains that he works on raw (natural) animals and tries to turn them human by way of surgical and chemical manipulation.
Is it so far from our own genetically modified foods like square tomatoes to better fit our sandwiches, or non-seed bearing corn (thank you Monsanto!), or hormone manipulated cows (more milk!), or cloned and hyper-drugged animals we eat?
Prendick understands even though he thinks it's twisted and everything is calm.
Until one of the animals busts loose and goes on a rampage. The power structure (between beasts and humans) of the island is threatened. Prendick, Montgomery, and Moreau's lives are in danger.
I skipped over a lot of the intricate details, but I'll leave you there.
What I find amazing about Wells is his fantastic imagination. His foresight is impressive, taking the science of his day and drawing conclusions that bear out in our day.
I definitely recommend this book and I'm very much looking forward to The Time Machine.