This classic from 1896 is thrilling from the very first page. It begins with three men afloat aboard a dingy after the sinking of their ship. One is the narrator, Edward Prendick, who eventually finds himself on another ship sailing to a nameless and isolated island. The island is populated by strange creatures and an enigmatic leader who he finds to be Dr. Moreau. This name is known to him as a scientist of ill repute run out of London years prior.
Prendick soon learns of Moreau's more recent experiments and the island's animal-turned human population. Wells' imagination provides a terrifying but engrossing menagerie including the Leopard Man, the Hyena-Swine, the Swine Folk, the Ape Man, Bull Men, Horse-Rhinoceros, Wolf-Bear, Ocelot Man, Dog Man and the Monkey Man.
It is at this point that the book finds its meaning as Prendick is introduced to the Law governing the behavior of these beings: "Not to go on all-fours; that is the Law. Are we not Men? Not to suck up Drink; that is the Law. Are we not Men? Not to eat Fish or Flesh; that is the Law. Are we not Men? Not to claw the Bark of Trees; that is the Law. Are we not Men? Not to chase other Men; that is the Law. Are we not Men?"
This intonation creepily delivered by the beast-people raises the moral and ethical question that Moreau never considered, "Should we manipulate science, genetics, and biology?". All Moreau is interested in is 'can we?' without full entertaining the implications and impact of his efforts. In addition to this theme of progressive science, Wells raises the differences between man and animal, class distinctions, and religion as central organizing principle of a society.
This is what makes it a great read. It can be consumed for its thrills and chills or one can analyze it much deeper (or in my case, both). I am glad I finally got around to reading it and believe it would make for a great book club discussion.