this is a gothic-historical science fiction rework of The Island of Dr. Moreau, set in 1871-1877 and transplanting the broad outline of wells’ classic tale of messin’ with science to the yucatan peninsula, a region rife with conflict and rebellions.
carlota moreau has spent her whole life on her beloved father’s property where, along with gloomy-drunk overseer montgomery laughton, she cares for the human-animal hybrids her father has created and she considers extended family.
these hybrids are not brute beasts—although their appearances are shocking, with their animal features and abilities, they are capable of speech and higher thought, and help run the estate; a beautiful, sprawling property, isolated for reasons.
dr. moreau’s experiments are financed by his wealthy patron hernando lizaldes, who has supplied money to fund his own desire for workers more manageable than humans, but he is becoming frustrated by moreau’s lack of progress in that department.
mistakes were made. secrets were kept. and when lizaldes’ bratty son eduardo arrives, falling for carlota and getting in the way of montgomery’s unexpressed, unrequited love for her, things are bound to go badly.
like Mexican Gothic, this is a spectacularly atmospheric character-driven set piece, and it contains many paradoxes—it’s a fast read that builds slowly toward its conclusion, where it explodes with an unexpected, tho’ somehow also inevitable, revelation.
if you’re into retellings and genre mashups with sweeping social and psychological themes, this one’s a keeper.