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Review: Our Hideous Progeny

Updated: May 19

3/5 stars (ish)

If I did half stars this would be a 2.5, but I'm rounding up to 3 because this is a debut novel and McGill is only 23 years old (damn her!), and I think it's super impressive given those two factors.

This novel is a revisiting of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, featuring main character Mary, great-niece of Victor Frankenstein. Mary is an orphan, having grown up with her cold, withholding grandmother on a remote island off the coast of England (1850s era). She is deeply fascinated by science as a child - in particular, paleontology - and eventually makes her escape from the island and her grandmother by marrying a fellow scientist, Henry Sutherland. Although signs clearly point to her being attracted to the same sex at a young age, she's happy with Henry for a while, as they seem to be partners in their scientific endeavors. Soon, though, it's pretty clear that Henry is actually a bumbling, spineless idiot, while Mary is sharp and ambitious, but can only gain purchase by being the wife of someone else.

After Henry delivers a disastrous presentation to London's scientific community, he and Mary are desperate for some kind of project that will prove their scientific prowess. When Mary comes across her great-uncle's journals detailing his experimentation and creation of "a monster," she, Henry, and a third not-so-silent partner, Clarke, undertake to duplicate the experiment. But this time, using pieces from different animals, they'll create a dinosaur. They pack up and head to Scotland, to the home of Henry's reclusive sister, Maisie, to start their work.

This book was sloooooow to start, with a lot of backstory and repetition. Once it picked up, I enjoyed it more, except for when I was seething with anger at Henry and Clarke for being such horrible, sexist pigs who try to undermine and diminish Mary every chance they get. Henry is also horrible to his sister, though Mary and Maisie form a close bond.

I think this story could have done a lot more with fewer words in it's themes of women in science (or society in general), their anger and ambitions, their grief and resentment. Ultimately, I give this a 3/5 for effort and ideas, but a 2/5 for execution.


UP NEXT: The Parliament, by Aimee Pokwatka

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