Daryl Gregory’s The Album of Dr. Moreau combines the science fiction premise of the famous novel by H. G. Wells with the panache of a classic murder mystery and the spectacle of a beloved boy band.
It’s 2001, and the WyldBoyZ are the world’s hottest boy band, and definitely the world’s only genetically engineered human-animal hybrid vocal group. When their producer, Dr. M, is found murdered in his hotel room, the “boyz” become the prime suspects. Was it Bobby the ocelot (“the cute one”), Matt the megabat (“the funny one”), Tim the Pangolin (“the shy one”), Devin the bonobo (“the romantic one”), or Tusk the elephant (“the smart one”)?
Las Vegas Detective Luce Delgado has only twenty-four hours to solve a case that goes all the way back to the secret science barge where the WyldBoyZ’ journey first began—a place they used to call home.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.
This is a murder mystery novella about genetically modified furry boyband. Somehow, it’s really good.
The Album of Dr. Moreau inspired by 90s American boybands. I must first admit that as someone born at the turn of the century to immigrant parents, I know absolutely nothing about 90s American boybands. As an Asian American, what I do know is K-pop. It was only natural that every connection I made while reading this is reference from my familiarity with K-pop and said fandom shenanigans. From this novella, I’ve learned that 90s American boybands and modern K-pop have a surprisingly lot in common.
With how insane the premise is, I ended up live-blogging this to a group of friends and like any responsible boyband fandom, we immediately took arms over who to stan in the WyldBoyZ. Does Tusk give off RM vibes? Is Devin a Problematic Fave or Cancelled™? Does Bobby the ocelot count as the resident catboy? (of course he does WTF michael ocelots are cats) Somehow Matt was immediately adopted upon first appearance, while Tim was declared the group cinnamon roll and maknae. All of this is to say that despite the relatively large cast for such a sort novella, Gregory shows a master class in introducing, and developing, a whole set of interesting and memorable characters. Within just several pages, we’re shown their personality, background, and potential motivations for murdering their manager.
While I won’t go too much into the worldbuilding, given how so much of it is critical to plot itself, I will say that Gregory has managed to craft a surprisingly plausible setting and background given how outrageous the premise is. I was surprised by how much we learn about the fans of the WildBoyZ (their actions totally believable having read some outrageous saesang stories) and their WildBoyZ themselves have a surprisingly heart wrenching background. The book is sold as a reinterpretation of a famous HG Wells story, The Island of Doctor Moreau, which I have not read. Despite that, I never felt like I was missing information or that knowledge of said short story was crucial to understanding this one.
If I had one complaint, it would be that the the worldbuilding takes one step too far. Namely, the origins of the WildBoyZ are explained just a little too much, and with it all the spectacle and bizzare-ness of a GMO furry boy band loses part of its charm. More annoyingly, the whodunnit murder mystery goes from intriguing to, well, kind of deus ex machina. I can’t say much more without spoiling the ending, but if murder mysteries are supposed to be guessable, this one absolutely was not.
Overall, I rate this book a 4/5. The character work, the worldbuilding, and the sheer fact that I genuinely enjoyed a book about a group of genetically-modified furry boy band (though I admit my brain still cannot visually comprehend how these members look), make this novella amazing already. My one complaint would be how the ending is approached, but really, this book was a wild read and I had a ton of fun.
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