‘The Daughter of Doctor Moreau’: fantasy, romance and science fiction in 19th century Mexico
Mexican-Canadian author Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s newest novel is filled with action romance, and monsters.
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Carlota Moreau is a young woman growing up on a distant and luxuriant estate, safe from the conflict and strife of the Yucatán peninsula. She is the only daughter of Dr, Moreau, a researcher who is either a genius or a madman. His biggest creation, "the hybrids" are a motley group of part human, part animal monstrosities. “Aa miracle or a curse made flesh” one never knows for sure, he says. There is one with eyes “golden and huge” and “razor-thin teeth, like the maw of an eel.” Others have snouts and rounded ears, resembling in coloration and features the jaguarundi,” or “black spots and streaks of an ocelot.”
Carlota, the 'hybrids' and her beloved father's lives coexist with Montgomery Laughton, a melancholic overseer with a tragic past and a propensity for alcohol. An outcast who assists Dr. Moreau with his experiments, which are financed by the Lizaldes, owners of magnificent haciendas and plentiful coffers.
All of them live in a perfectly balanced and static world, until is jolted by the abrupt arrival of Eduardo Lizalde, the charming and careless son of Dr. 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", the newest novel by Mexican Canadian writer Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Mexico, 1981) is both a dazzling historical novel and a daring science fiction journey that will take the reader to 19th Mexico amid the complex tensions of the Caste War, when “the native Maya people of the peninsula rose against the Mexican, European-descended and mixed population,” she writes.
Her new novel “immerses readers in the rich world of 19th-century Mexico, exploring colonialism and resistance in a compulsively readable story of a woman’s coming-of-age”, as reported by The New York Times.
Born in Mexico and Canadian by adoption, Moreno-Garcia has done what she already did in her previous books: pushing back against the stereotypes associated with Latin American culture.
‘I’m an abnormality,’ she told New Internationalist magazine recently. ‘It’s always been an uphill battle for me and my agent. The system isn’t designed to accept other points of view.’
The other points of view she is referring to are Mexican stories and perspectives which land outside the limited subjects the publishing world (and film and TV) think audiences want: stories about cartels and immigrants crossing the border into El Norte (The North). For example, Moreno-Garcia’s bestselling novel ‘Mexican Gothic’ is a historical horror story, about a young woman investigating her cousin’s claims that her husband is trying to murder her.
Through her books, she hopes readers will discover there is more to Mexico than common perceptions. ‘Nobody should use my book as an encyclopaedia,’ she said. ‘But so many people know so little about Mexico, and have such stereotypical images and a limited conception of the country, its history and people, so hopefully when I write about it they acquire something more expansive and eclectic.’
Moreno-Garcia’s is the author of Mexican Gothic (2020), Velvet Was the Night (2021), a noir, and ‘The Daughter of Doctor Moreau’, which will be out July 22.
She has edited several anthologies, including She Walks in Shadows (World Fantasy Award winner, published in the USA as Cthulhu’s Daughters). Silvia is the publisher of Innsmouth Free Press. Her fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies.
She has an MA in Science and Technology Studies from the University of British Columbia. Her thesis can be read online and is titled “Magna Mater: Women and Eugenic Thought in the Work of H.P. Lovecraft.” She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.