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The Resurrectionist
by E. B. Hudspeth


In the late 1870s, the son of a resurrectionist – body snatcher and grave robber – was enrolled at the Academy of Medicine in Philadelphia. Spencer Black was a talented medical student with a special interest in mutation. As the years pass, the young doctor's studies become more and more unorthodox, until he makes a claim that shocks the medical community: mythological creatures like mermaids, satyrs and centaurs once walked the earth, and humankind descended from them. Ridiculed by his peers, Dr. Black persists in his belief, and spends the following decades attempting to re-create these ancient ancestors before mysteriously disappearing.

The first half of The Resurrectionist is a brief biography of Dr. Black, written like a historian outlining the basic life details of Dr. Black. To me, it was just like reading the introductory essay in a museum catalog for an art exhibition – there's just enough detail so that the reader gets a general sense of what happened, but it's not a full-fleshed biography with all the answers. There are a lot of unanswered questions raised by this section: what happened to Black's wife after she was horribly injured in a fire? Why was his son described as a “sleepless man”? Were Black's minotaurs and other fantastic beasts ever alive, or did he create composite creatures from corpses? Were his “performers” real hybrid creatures? On and on. I liked the ambiguity of Dr. Black's work. We know that he was a Frankenstein-esque scientist, performing gruesome and horrific experiments, but the exact nature of his surgeries is left unspoken, and the reader's imagination fills in the blanks.

Of course, the real beauty and treasure of this book is the second half, which is supposedly a facsimile of sketches created by Dr. Black of his creations. Eleven different mythological creatures, from sphinxes to sirens, are carefully dissected. One detailed drawing shows the skeleton, the next the musculature, while another shows the creature whole. It's just like looking at the pages of a particularly bizarre anatomy book. Again and again, I was blown away by the details of the images. They are so freakin' cool – the price of the book is worth it just for these drawings!

The one thing that I found wanting was that Dr. Black failed to explain the age-old question: how do mermaids reproduce? I had hoped for an image showing the sexual organs, just because I've always wanted to know if mermaids lay eggs or have live births! But alas, this was omitted, and I am left to wonder on.

5 out of 5 stars


To read more about The Resurrectionist, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.




Peeking into the archives...today in:
2012: Fashionista Piranha on hiatus until May 24th...
2011: Bending the Boyne by J. S. Dunn
2010: New York City Library & Improv Everywhere Bust Some Ghosts
2009: Museum of Human Beings by Colin Sargeant

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