Friday, Jul 28, 2023

Review by Abe Ziesing

It takes a brave soul to take on the masterpiece of an all-time great, and reimagine it into an original work of your own, as Silvia Moreno-Garcia has done in THE DAUGHTER OF DOCTOR MOREAU.

I went into this skeptically despite having read, and enjoyed, other works by this author.  Additionally, H. G. Wells' THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU creeped me out in a way that didn't make me want to revisit its subject matter, with half human/half animal abominations and their horrific conceptions.  I found it perplexing that Garcia-Moreno would want to write this book at all; however, after only a few chapters I was hooked.

The truth is that TDODM is only loosely related to the Wells classic.  The Doctor and his 'scientific' work are essentially the same - mad scientist creates hybrids of animal and man in an attempt to play God in his isolated Eden - but the similarities end there for the most part.  Instead of on an island, this story takes place in Yaxaktun, a small hacienda in the marshy jungle of the Yucatan Peninsula, where Dr. Moreau has been contracted to create a workforce of docile, humanoid creatures that would be ideal to serve as cheap labor on sugar plantations.  His daughter is Carlota, a mysterious and exotic beauty with an unusual skill set.  She is the main protagonist, along with Montgomery, the dispirited, alcoholic mayordomo of Yaxaktun.

The third person point-of-view shifts back and forth between Carlota and Montgomery in alternating chapters, titled with their names.  Often we get to see the same events described from both of their perspectives in a very entertaining and well-rounded way.  

When the doctor's employer, threatens to shut down the whole operation for failing to achieve its purpose in a timely manner, Dr. Moreau and Carlota are faced with difficult choices in order to keep their picturesque lifestyle in tact.  One option is that Carlota marry the employer's son which creates a complicated love triangle, with Montgomery pitted as the loser in this triad.  Things rapidly spiral out of control, in a confluence of violence, lies, sex and murder.

This book is a wonderful balance of thrilling action, mystery and romance, that lead skillfully up to the kick-ass climax.