This is a weird one. Part personal history, part fantastic anatomy, all strange.
I’m giving it four stars because I’ll probably read it again.
The Resurrectionist is book of two parts. The first half of the book consists of a history, drawn from letters and journal entries more than anything else, of a man, Dr. Spencer Black, who might have been drawn from the historical Dr. Mutter. Except for the part where he goes completely off the rails. Spanning the time from 1851 (his approximate date of birth) to 1908 (his point of disappearance), Dr. Black’s story is told in a history of primarily moments.
The moment when his father took he and his brother out grave robbing for a body.
The moment when Dr. Black went to medical school.
The moment he decided his life’s work was figuring out what causes childhood deformities.
The moment he decided this was not about mending children, but trying to figure out how to let them be what they were trying to become. Harpies. Fauns. Centaurs.
That last? Creepier than it sounds. The journal entries and letters we are allowed to read through transcription are just enough to give insight into what at first appears a deteriorating mind. And yet, there is just enough sincerity to allow doubt to enter the reader’s mind. Doubt as to whether Dr. Black is correct, or incorrect.
The second half of the book is given over to Dr. Black’s sketches of how people used to be, the old forms, the “monsters” that the body is no longer but that sometimes shows up in a deformed child. Anatomical sketches, primarily of skeletal structure and muscle, but occasionally of organ.
The sketches are incredibly well-done. The story is one of obsession and heartbreak.
I’m still trying to decide what I thought about it.
The Resurrectionist is a quick read, and one that might or might not give Island of Dr. Moreau-style nightmares. Good for fans of the macabre, certainly, but also I think people who enjoyed Dr. Mutter’s Marvels or Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet Of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology (I forget. Have I reviewed this one for CBR?), or who are intrigued by cabinets of curiosities.
Or just for those who like fantastical anatomy.