Review: “The Resurrectionist” by EB Hudspeth

15799400Title: “The Resurrectionist”

Author: EB Hudspeth

Genre: Historical Fiction, Horror

Publication Date: May 21, 2013 (Quirk – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC/FC

Summary: Philadelphia. The late 1870s. A city of cobblestone sidewalks and horse-drawn carriages. Home to the famous anatomist and surgeon Dr. Spencer Black. The son of a “resurrectionist” (aka grave robber), Dr. Black studied at Philadelphia’s esteemed Academy of Medicine, where he develops an unconventional hypothesis: What if the world’s most celebrated mythological beasts—mermaids, minotaurs, and satyrs—
were in fact the evolutionary ancestors of humankind?

The Resurrectionist offers two extraordinary books in one. The first is a fictional biography of Dr. Spencer Black, from his humble beginnings to the mysterious disappearance at the end of his life. The second book is Black’s magnum opus: The Codex Extinct Animalia, a Gray’s Anatomy for mythological beasts—dragons, centaurs, Pegasus, Cerberus—all rendered in meticulously detailed black-and-white anatomical illustrations. You need only look at these images to realize they are the work of a madman.

☆: 3.5/5 stars – a gorgeous bestiary of mythical creatures past, and the downfall of one man into madness!

Review: There’s a lot going on in “The Resurrectionist”, guys. It’s not all pretty sketches of various people and mythical creatures (though those do make up a pretty big chunk of the book), but it’s also all about one famous doctor’s descent into utter madness. Or is it? Though this obviously draws a lot on historical bits of Americana (the vaudeville/carnie scene of the late 19th century/early 20th century) and Gothic atmospheric books like “Frakenstein”, his tale is short, and it kind of left me wanting more. If anything, it felt like a bit of a short summary of his life, and only really got detailed when he became obsessed with mythical creatures. Nevertheless, if you want to see some amazing pictures of what could have been our genetic ancestors (according to Dr Black) and be treated to a tale of evolving scientific academia, definitely give “The Resurrectionist” a try.

This is going to be a short review, because, well, this is a pretty short book when you take out the massive amount of sketches/bestiary appendix in the latter half of the book. My biggest complaint about this one was although we do get some gorgeous pictures and the story of a man going mad (or is he?), it felt like one big summary of his life. I felt that there wasn’t enough detail involved (especially when he starts in with the mystical creatures – only then do we get thrown a bone of sorts), and in parts, generally just felt dry in so many places within the prose. While it draws on famous stories like “Frankenstein” to give us that “mad scientist” feel to things, there were so many things missing. And that was disappointing.

But what we did get was great. Not many outside of the US (and hell, even in the US, for that matter) know about the Americana history that is vaudeville/carnival culture that hit its peak in the late 19th and early 20th centuries before it started its decline. We do get a fair amount of detail on that as it is a crucial part to the story, and as there’s not much out there in fiction (regardless of adult or YA in genre) that talks about that, I was really happy it was included. Traveling freak shows, genetic deformities, and so forth were apart of this vaudeville/carnival culture, and those details were included, giving us a mini history of how that whole scene came to be, and how important it became to American culture at the time, as well as American medical academia.

Other than that? This is going to be a really nice coffee table book. The sketches are breathtaking, but otherwise, I wish Dr. Black’s story had been a little longer and more detailed.  “The Resurrectionist” is out now from Quirk Books in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!


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