Book Review: The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black

Posted June 7, 2013 by Kara in book review, Kara / 9 Comments

Book Review: The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer BlackThe Resurrectionist by E. B. Hudspeth
Published by Quirk Books on May 21st, 2013
Genres: adult, horror
Pages: 191
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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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.

I think this review might be a short one. Simply put, The Resurrectionist was a work of fiction with a great premise but was majorly lacking in execution. It’s supposed to be a fake biography of this doctor who ends up doing horrible experiments on animals. The short biography is about his life growing up and descent into madness. The problem it, it’s too short. It’s dry, and it’s boring. 

Biographies tend to have this encyclopedic style that state the facts without much emotion, but still, I have read some great ones that managed to hold my interest throughout. This one took up less than half of the 208 pages, and even then I found my mind wandering and forcing myself to finish. It’s not poorly written if you are reading a desk set of Encyclopedia Britannicas. But I expected more. I was told about his life and experiments throughout the book and I wanted to be shown–I wanted to feel something, anything. But instead, I nearly fell asleep. 

And then…THEN the book gets really graphic. Which I wouldn’t have minded if there was something else with substance in its contents. There are some pretty gruesome vivisection scenes where he tries to create these mythological creatures with living animals, and BLECH. I should have known based on the blurb what I was getting myself into. I’ve read a lot of horror novels in my time, so I know I can handle it if I have to, but not if it’s the ONLY thing there.

Honestly, if it weren’t for the gorgeous illustrations at the end, I would probably be 1-starring this. But they ARE amazing drawings. Unfortunately, they are not enough to recommend buying this book. I wouldn’t mind having one up on my wall, in say, a library or a study, but it’s truly the only part of this book that’s decent. And then if you read the acknowledgements, it kind of explains why. The author did the illustrations first but had to build a story around them to get them published. After all, who would just buy a book with drawings of mythological creatures? Well, some might, but not most people. So yeah. I can’t really recommend this one and that makes me sad.

One of my favorite illustrations: The Minotaur


9 responses to “Book Review: The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black

  1. Oh boo! I had read a review for this one a few weeks back that left me super excited for it. Now I am definitely second guessing that. If you had to force yourself through it, then there is something wrong. Love the drawing that you chose! That’s so cool!

  2. Amy

    That illustration is awesome. Interesting that he wrote a book around illustrations he drew. I guess that can make things difficult. I read a review on this a little while ago that sounded awesome, but I definitely trust your judgement and it seems like this would just be okay to me. Great review!!

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