Saturday, January 3, 2015

Review: The Resurrectionist

The Resurrectionist
EB Hudspeth

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 Anatomy for 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.

My Thoughts:
I am a bit confused as to if this is complete fiction or not. And I'm terrified it's not. It doesn't have the disclaimer at the beginning saying it's fiction, but it is described as a fictional biography. I'm rather freaked out, but I'll review this as a fictional biography.

The amount of detail is incredible in this. Dates, names, and places all weave together to form a perfect biography of this man. He was interested in anatomy, later in "discovering" mythical creatures. He performed countless gruesome surgeries and created new creatures, such as Darwin's Beagle, a dog he sewed wings onto. This went throughout the entire story, and we got to see his life and relationships, which were just as gruesome as his work. I was upset with the turn-out of Alphonse, his son, only because I rather hoped he would grow up to be decent. I'm also sad about Spencer's brother's fate. Though both added to the story.

I am curious as to the accuracy of the dissections/surgeries. In the case of the dog, Spencer attached wings, which moved by the dog's accord. I couldn't help but wonder how he connected the nerves and muscles, or if he did. But that added to the feel of the story for me, the suspicion and mystery.

I LOVE the Codex at the end. It throws in some of Spencer's works and his studies. It adds some credibility and interest to the story. Again, the detail is fantastic. Every little bone, muscle, anatomical part was labeled and thorough descriptions were provided.

This book delves into the mind of a once-sane man who descends into insanity. Spencer starts out just working in the medical field but through his works, we can see he goes mad. The Codex reinforces that, as do the many quotes from spectators and colleagues.

There is a slight mislabeling on page 96, in the Codex. I think it was the pelvis or something, but the last two were wrongly labeled.

4 stars


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