Those readers who love science fiction, or maybe just get a kick out of the strange and bizarre, might be familiar with H.G. Wells’ novel The Island of Doctor Moreau. First published in 1896, the book features a brilliant but somewhat misguided (a.k.a. completely insane) scientist who experiments with animals in an attempt to make them act and think more like human beings – because everyone enjoys spending their free time on an isolated island creating half-human beasts, right?
Wells’ original novel is disturbing on a number of levels and touches on a lot of great topics like morality, religion and isolation. However, as is the case with most books written over a century ago, it isn’t exactly as accessible to modern readers as newer sci-fi favorites like The Hunger Games or Divergent. Luckily for us 21st century readers, the story has been given a modern face-lift thanks to Megan Shepherd’s book The Madman’s Daughter.
As you can probably guess from the title, the protagonist of this version of Moreau’s story is the doctor’s 16-year old daughter, Juliet, who was abandoned by her father at the tender age of ten when rumors of his ghastly experiments on animals forced him out of London and, presumably, to his death. But when a late night visit to her father’s old surgical wing leads Juliet to believe that Doctor Moreau may still be alive, she quickly gets caught up in an adventure that will take her half way around the world and put her face to face with romance, danger, and truth about her father’s past.
For those who have read Wells original, it’s a lot of fun to see how the author has inserted her heroine into the story and the surprising directions she takes her version of the novel. For those who haven’t plunged into the 1896 book – no worries! The novel tells its own unique tale and has a lot of great features that aren’t present in the original like an exploration of family, a complicated love triangle, and a strong female protagonist forced to survive in a male-dominated society.
You might’ve guessed that there is some more mature subject matter in The Madman’s Daughter and you’d be right. Apparently, it’s tough to write a book about a madman’s medical experiments for all ages. The book features some disturbing scenes of gore, violence, and general unpleasantness. However, if you’re not too faint of heart, this is a great read filled with adventure, romance and… you know… part human / part animal creatures. Plus, the sequel, Her Dark Curiosity, based on another classic sci-fi story, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, is hitting library shelves now. Check them both out!
Reviewed by J.J. at Beechview