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Book: “The Daughter of Doctor Moreau” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Publishing Info: Del Rey, July 2022
Where Did We Get This Book: We received eARCs from NetGalley and Edelweiss+.
Book Description: From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic and Velvet Was the Night comes a dreamy reimagining of The Island of Doctor Moreau set against the backdrop of nineteenth-century Mexico.
Carlota Moreau: a young woman, growing up in a distant and luxuriant estate, safe from the conflict and strife of the Yucatán peninsula. The only daughter of either a genius, or a madman.
Montgomery Laughton: a melancholic overseer with a tragic past and a propensity for alcohol. An outcast who assists Dr. Moreau with his scientific experiments, which are financed by the Lizaldes, owners of magnificent haciendas and plentiful coffers.
The hybrids: the fruits of the Doctor’s labor, destined to blindly obey their creator and remain in the shadows. A motley group of part human, part animal monstrosities.
All of them living in a perfectly balanced and static world, which is jolted by the abrupt arrival of Eduardo Lizalde, the charming and careless son of Doctor Moreau’s patron, who will unwittingly begin a dangerous chain reaction. For Moreau keeps secrets, Carlota has questions, and in the sweltering heat of the jungle, passions may ignite.
THE DAUGHTER OF DOCTOR MOREAU is both a dazzling historical novel and a daring science fiction journey.
It is basically guaranteed at this point that if Silvia Moreno-Garcia has a book coming out, no matter what the genre, I am going to read it. I have enjoyed practically all of her books and her chameleon-like ability to merge into practically any genre as though she is a master of it. And while I haven’t read “The Island of Doctor Moreau”, I know enough about it that the idea of her taking it on was incredibly tantalizing. Especially since she decided to set it in the Yucatán during a volatile time in Mexican political history. And lo and behold, even though I wasn’t super familiar with the source material, and even though I’m not generally a Sci-Fi fan, “The Daughter of Doctor Moreau” worked wonders for me.
I think that it’s really the setting and the descriptions that gave it the extra kick for me. Moreno-Garcia has never been shy when it comes to addressing various social aspects of Mexican culture and history, and lord knows that Spanish colonialism and imperial oppression are themes that fit right into the original story of the Other and men who believe themselves to be able to play God. We have Dr. Moreau and his daughter Carlotta, who are living in isolation as Moreau creates ‘hybrids’, beings of combined animal and human genetics, which he does in pursuit of science. But funding has to come from somewhere, and therefore the wealthy Spanish descended benefactors intend to give Moreau money in exchange for laborers for their plantation. So we already have one central caste system with our main characters (as well as an outlier of Montgomery, an English doctor who is the overseer of the hybrids who is trying to escape his own dark past), one that reflects foreign influences, Spanish imperialism, and those perceived as less than. I liked seeing how Moreno-Garcia explored these themes, through the eyes of both Carlotta but also Montgomery as they have to face realities about their complicity, as well as things about their own identities. The historical aspects are on point, and Moreno-Garcia always has some great insights to explore through the genre conventions.
The streak continues for my love of Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Even if you are unfamiliar with the original tale, “The Daughter of Doctor Moreau” will have a lot to offer. Do yourself a favor and dive into Moreno-Garcia’s works if you haven’t yet, and here is as good a place as any to start!
I think there are a few things you can now expect from a book authored by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. First, she’ll have stellar characters and the story will be told from the perspective of several of them (even more unique to her, the “villain” of many of her stories will also have a perspective point). Second, the story may be a slow-burn as far as the overall tempo of the story, but if you have faith, things will very much get moving before long. And third, you can never expect what genre you will find yourself in with this author. She has an uncanny ability of weaving together a variety of seemingly completely different concepts and themes and somehow…magic happens! We’ve already seen a mixture of the classic Gothic horror story with a Mexican setting and themes of colonialism. And here, we have a reimaging of the “The Island of Doctor Moreau” set in the Yucatan peninsula during the 1800s. It’s horror, it’s science fiction, it’s historical fiction. All at once!
I only knew the most broad points of the original tale, so I can only confirm that this story was approachable as new-comer. I was able to get a pretty decent understanding of that story, but having not read it myself, I can’t say what details may or may not match up. What I can say is that Moreno-Garcia uses the platform offered up by this story (a grieving doctor and his “monstrous” creations) as a platform to explore themes of identity and otherness, and the combination works really well. Our main character, the titular daughter of the doctor, brings a unique perspective to the story, as a young woman coming into her own in a very isolated and strange environment.
As I said, one of the best things about this story is how it blends the science fiction and horror elements with the historical backdrop of this region during this time period. Like the original story itself, I didn’t have a ton of knowledge of the politics and parties involved during this time period, but the book does an excellent job introducing readers. The author also includes a great note at the end of the story that speaks to her research into this period of history. I definitely recommend this book to science fiction/horror readers, and to anyone who has enjoyed Moreno-Garcia’s books in the past!
Kate’s Rating 8: A science fiction tale that steeps in literary description and a lush historical setting, “The Daughter of Doctor Moreau” is another enjoyable read from genre jumper Silvia Moreno-Garcia!
Serena’s Rating 8: Another unique entry by one of the most reliable (but genre unreliable) authors of the day. Should be a hit with a wide range of readers!