There's this guy named Prendick. He's decided to tell us his story and wastes no time getting to the good stuff. Right away, he barely survives the sinking of the ship The Lady Vain, escaping on a dinghy with two other guys. (In Wells's day "dinghy" was spelled "dingey". Prendick's dinghy was definitely dingy, but 'dingey'… weird. We'll leave the original spelling in quotes.) Low on food, water, and sanity, the other two dudes fight each other and fall into the ocean where a shark goes all Jaws on them. Prendick drifts for days, before being rescued by a passing ship, the Ipecacuanha.
On the ship, a man named Montgomery gives him the medical once-over, and the two quickly become friends. The same can't be said for Captain Davis though. When Montgomery and Davis argue over Montgomery's animal cargo, Prendick unwisely chooses to side with the guy who isn't the captain of the ship he's currently residing on rent free. This doesn't sit well with Davis, and once Montgomery and his cargo are off-loaded on the unnamed island, he promptly kicks Prendick's butt to the curb, erm... ocean.
Montgomery and his benefactor, one ominous Dr. Moreau, take pity on Prendick and invite him to their tropical crib. They warn him that certain areas of Moreau's house will be off limits. Red flags for Prendick? You bet…Still, it beats being adrift in the ocean again or staying at a Motel 6 for that matter.
The next day, Moreau begins experimenting on a brand new puma—sure, why not—and the blood-curdling screams of pain and suffering freak Prendick out so much he bolts it into the jungle… And we know from Lost that that can't be good. Still seriously spooked he explores the creepy island and discovers several creatures that look like mixtures between men and pigs. (Okay, that's weird...) While promptly getting lost, Prendick feels he's being followed, and the age old game of cat and mouse—or in this case big cat and man—begins. Prendick barely manages to escape by bonking the creature over the head with a stone.
The next morning, Prendick finds the door to Moreau's lab unlocked and enters. There he discovers Moreau and Montgomery cutting into and experimenting with a man while still alive. Fearing he's next, Prendick flees into the forest again—you know, because that worked so well for him last time.
This time he meets a half-man, half-ape creature creatively called Ape Man. Ape Man takes him to a village of other half-human, half-animal creatures collectively known as the Beast Folk. Prendick is inducted into their society by chanting the law with the Sayer of the Law. This law centers on the Beast Folk acting like humans rather than animals so as not to return to the House of Pain.
Moreau and Montgomery arrive at the village right as the musical number ends. Prendick flees again, but Moreau corners him on the beach and convinces him to come to the enclosure for an explanation. There, Moreau says he created the Beast Folk from animals (not humans as Prendick had feared) using vivisection. His goal is to make them fully human. Big shock: This isn't as easy as it sounds and Moreau has yet to produce one successful result. But he's confident he'll manage perfection one day, so points for gumption if not career choice.
The next day, Prendick and Montgomery go on a walk and find a dead rabbit. The two tell Moreau, and Moreau confronts the Beast Folk about the breaking of his law. (Because killing rabbits is not what humans do… oh wait…) The Leopard Man attacks Moreau rather than be sent back to the House of Pain. A hunt ensues. Prendick corners the Leopard Man, but he shoots the creature out of pity rather than let Moreau torture it.
Six weeks pass, and Prendick's stay isn't quite as relaxing as most Pacific vacations (go figure). While outside for a smoke, he is attacked by the puma as it escapes the enclosure. Moreau is in hot pursuit, leaving Prendick to deal with his newly broken arm himself. Montgomery arrives and sets Prendick's broken arm. The two head into the forest with Montgomery's loyal bear-dog-ox companion, M'ling, only to find that Moreau and the puma have killed each other.
That night, Montgomery finally breaks down and goes drinking with M'ling. While Montgomery tries to get the party started, Prendick sees the writing on the wall and prepares to leave the island. A kerfuffle breaks out on the beach, and Prendick hurries to see if Montgomery is all right. He isn't; he's dead. But the bad luck doesn't stop there, as the enclosure burns to the ground. On top of that, Montgomery used the only ship on the island for his party bonfire. Looks like Prendick's stay will be extended just a wee bit.
Prendick takes up residence with the Beast Folk. He gains a companion in Dog Man and an enemy in Hyena-Swine. He spends months on the island constructing a raft, but the thing falls apart the first time he tries to set sail. (Now we know where Lost got the idea.) Lucky for him, a boat washes ashore with two dead guys in it. With the Beast Folk returning to their wild and pre-Moreau selves, Prendick decides he'd rather take his chances with the ocean again than stay on the island.
Eventually, a boat picks up Prendick and returns him to London. But now Prendick can no longer stand to be surrounded by people. Whenever he goes to church or the market, he sees the Beast Folk in the movements and eyes of his countrymen. (Just wait until they invent nightclubs, Prendick old chap.) So he moves to the country, takes up astronomy, and lives his life in relative peace. He's had about enough excitement for one life.