Review: The Daughter of Doctor Moreau

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was not familiar with the original (The Island of Doctor Moreau Illustrated), but my wife tells me the plot is fairly similar (based on her recollection of the Marlon Brando movie). What we get out of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s retelling is a recontextualization that explains a bit more about the intersection of capitalism and Dr. Moreau’s research. The doctor needs funding for what we would today call genetic engineering as well as for his living expenses since he wants to dedicate himself to his research. Moreno-Garcia places the story in the late 1800s in Mexico when Mayans were rebelling against the indentured servitude ( and in some cases outright slavery ) they had been subject to since The Conquest. So the doctor is able to get money for his hybrid research on the promise that he will provide workers that are even better than humans (for their animal traits) and which do not have any rights whatsoever for being animals. For, while the 1800s does have “science” behind the idea of the white race being superior, there is still some call for ending slavery for non-Whites still being humans (even if lesser humans).

Moreno-Garcia employs a story-telling technique I’ve enjoyed since I first encountered it in Middle School – alternating points of view with each chapter. We go back and forth between Carlotta (Doctor Moreau’s natural daughter) and Montgomery Laughton (the majordomo as Moreau’s research lab). Carlotta has the naivete of having been secluded at the research lab and being only 14 years old when the story opens. Laughton has had a very rough life, leading to his indentured servitude (despite being British – therefore the country on top of the world at this time). Conflict comes from Moreau having been taking too long to produce viable hybrids.

This is one of those stories where, in some ways, “nothing” happens for most of the story and then suddenly happens for the climax. It works very well in this story, given the journeys that Carlotta and Laughton are on.

This book had a lot of hype behind it last year and I found that I agree with it. It was a great read and a solid retelling of the HG Wells classic.

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