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Penguin Classics on The Island of Dr Moreau

Throughout Into the Unknown, in partnership with Penguin Classics, we’ll be presenting a series of book club events each focussing on an iconic title from Science Fiction.

In the second in the series – H.G Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau.

Simon Winder, Publishing Director of Penguin Random House, chairs a discussion between leading academics Professor Deborah Bowman of St George’s, University of London, and Professor Roger Luckhurst of Birkbeck, University of London.

A classic of early science fiction and one of H.G Well’s best known books, here’s an introduction to the novel ahead of the book club…

About The Island of Dr Moreau

Edward Prendick, the sole survivor of a shipwreck in the south Pacific, is picked up by a mysterious vessel carrying a menagerie of savage animals. He’s nursed to recovery by a man called Montgomery, who gives him a dark medicine that tastes of blood . . .

Wells wrote The Island of Doctor Moreau in 1896, drawing on contemporary anxieties around the ethics of animal vivisection and the implications of Darwinian evolution, in particular a fear that civilisation could be degenerating and humans devolving into beasts.

Jorge Luis Borges called the book an ‘atrocious miracle’. The sinister Dr Moreau lives on a remote island, conducting grotesque experiments on living animals with the aid of his assistant Montgomery. Prendick arrives with a new delivery of creatures and soon encounters the horrific results of the doctor’s scientific endeavours. The novel descends into a nightmare in which the laws of nature are overturned and the line between man and beast dissolves, a disturbing allegory for late Victorian Britain and the human condition itself.

The ethical, scientific and philosophical problems raised by this haunting novel continue to disturb over a century after it was first published. You finish reading, like Prendick, possessed by a ‘restless fear’ and a distrust of other human beings, a post-traumatic condition induced by the horrific experience of visiting the island of Dr Moreau.


Buy your copy of The Island of Dr Moreau, published by Penguin Classics – with a limited edition Barbican inspired front cover – from the Barbican Shop. Browse the full set of covers here.

Penguin Classics Book Club: The Island of Dr Moreau takes place on Thursday 6 July

Into the Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction takes place 3 June–1 September