I was very excited to receive The Resurrectionist by E. B. Hudspeth from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. I love a good fantastical nonfiction that brings to life and reality all of the fun fantasy critters we adore ;-). However, I found my expectations were somewhat misplaced, since The Resurrectionist is not a book about dragons and satyrs being real and dug up. Instead it is a story about a mad “scientist” who constructs mythical creatures from tortured animals and humans in his desperation to be right about their existence. While The Ressurectionist might appeal to those who love a macabre premise and some pretty illustrations, it was not my cup of tea.
Note: I received a copy of The Resurrectionist to review through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.
Goodreads | Amazon | LibraryThing
Title: The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black
Author: E. B. Hudspeth
Length: 192 pages
Genre-ish: Fictional Nonfiction
Rating: ★★☆☆☆- Pretty pictures, creepy and inaccurate
Philadelphia, the late 1870s. A city of gas lamps, cobblestone streets, and horse-drawn carriages—and home to the controversial surgeon Dr. Spencer Black. The son of a grave robber, young Dr. Black studies 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 a childhood spent exhuming corpses through his medical training, his travels with carnivals, and the mysterious disappearance at the end of his life. The second book is Black’s magnum opus: The Codex Extinct Animalia, a Gray’s Anatomyfor mythological beasts—dragons, centaurs, Pegasus, Cerberus—all rendered in meticulously detailed anatomical illustrations. You need only look at these images to realize they are the work of a madman. The Resurrectionist tells his story.– Goodreads
- The premise of The Resurrectionist is interesting. I think all lovers of fantasy like to think about whether mermaids and all the other mythical beasts could have been real. I love the idea of a “nonfiction” book diving into that concept.
- The illustrations in the second half of the book are lovely and very detailed with all the anatomy of various beasts.
- The first part of The Resurrectionist definitely felt like a real biography, complete with newspaper clippings and quotes.
- There were some flaws with the historical set up. Dr. Black refers to genes and inheritance quite frequently and while was working on his theory at the time the book was supposed to be set, he had no idea how inheritance would have worked because DNA and genes had not been discovered yet. It was quite annoying to someone who has studied genetics even briefly.
- We are going to continue on the science flaws bandwagon here with the flaws of how evolution was presented. While it is entirely possible these were on purpose because Dr. Black was obviously insane towards the end of his life, it still annoys and evolutionary scientist when evolution is presented as the body trying to reach a goal. That is not how it works at all.
- Further, what Dr. Black was doing in the second half of his life is not science at all. The Resurrectionist continues to refer to his madness as science, when he was really just performing macabre surgeries for carnivals….
- Finally, the whole story of The Resurrectionist was just waaaaay too creepy for me. Dr. Black is told to have sewn bird wings onto a living dog to try to prove it could work, and the torture and suffering of the animal is described in quite a lot of detail. Dr. Black didn’t keep to animals either, and there are hints of the horrible things he did to human beings to try to recreate harpies and snake-women…. Just too much for me personally.
If you enjoy a creepy story with lots of illustrations to accompany it, then you might enjoy The Resurrectionist more than I did. Unfortunately, The Resurrectionist had various scientific and historic flaws that I just could not let go of and the general tone of the story was not what I enjoy.