Monday, May 13, 2013

Book Review: The Resurrectionist: The Lost Works of Dr. Spencer Black – E.B. Hudspeth

The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black

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.

This book was received as an ARC from Quirk Books.  Upon receiving it I paged through it and was very intrigued at the detailed drawings of the skeletal and muscular figures of these mythological creatures.  I am very interested in mythology so of course I was fascinated.  I read the story of Dr. Black’s life and work.  The life of Spencer is amazing with all the things he believes to be true and the lengths he went to prove it.  The descriptions of the way he “made” these mythological creatures are not for the weak of stomach as they were very descriptive.  Even myself not being grossed out by details was a little grossed out a the idea of someone doing this.  Thinking back to all the things that were truly done in the name of science back then I could very much picture a scientist doing these things.  I love the mystery of Black’s disappearance and even how his work affected his oldest son.  I would definitely read any follow up book to this.  The illustrations almost made me believe that mythological creatures were real.

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