The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Del Rey (Hardcover – July 2022) (Paperback – April 11, 2023)
320 pages; $16.60 hardcover; $18 paperback
Reviewed by Haley Newlin
Horror icon Vincent Price once said, “Science is frighteningly impersonal.”
What if the scientist’s work becomes his family, his children, in a way? Some argue this is evolution, a matrimony of a creator and his work. Others argue ethics.
But in The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s reimagination of H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, Carlota, the doctor’s only daughter, lives in a static and balanced world in the jungles of Yucatan alongside the human-animal hybrids. She is happy to assist her father with his research and befriends most hybrids, but despite the idyllic scope Moreno-Garcia introduces, there’s a lingering dread. Dr. Moreau punishes the hybrids for “losing control,” yet Carola believes her father would never truly harm anyone. He is reclusive and sometimes spends days mourning a lost love. This emotional side, however, is kept behind closed doors and never relayed to others.
Despite the genre shift in The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, compared to Moreno-Garcia’s horror releases, she maintains that sense of unease in the arrival of a young man and his comrades, Eduardo. Carlota engages in his courtship and longs for romance and marriage, unknowingly offering herself to his side, away from the hacienda. The doctor’s assistant and friend of Carlota senses that Eduardo’s proposal is merely transactional for him and the doctor, saying to society women are “butterflies to be pinned against a board.”
Meanwhile, Lupe and some other hybrids age and fall ill, in pain, and wish to leave. The constant sense of entrapment is enthralling and begs consideration of the morality of experimentation, the damage unleashed by colonization, and assigning a “lesser” species, sometimes simply meaning women.
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau layers on tension and complications that might trip up unseasoned writers, but Moreno-Garcia tackles it with her signature skillful and lush gothic style. On the surface, what appears to be a historical fantasy novel, flourishes into a coming-of-age tale that breaks societal structures and unmasks its often overlooked or normalized cruelties.
This one is not to be missed.