Monday, September 29, 2014

The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black

It's been awhile since I've had a chance to write about books. It feels nice, so let's get to it! Awhile back a Goodreads group I'm in was asked if we'd be interested in receiving a book from Quirk Books. Quirk is quickly (hehe) becoming one of my favorite publishing companies, everything with their name on it is always so fun and out there.

As a group we were asked to vote on which book from Quirk we'd like to read and discuss with each other, and the book that won was called The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr Spencer Black, by E.B. Hudspeth. When it came in the mail I was surprised by how great it looked (I already thought it would be good, but holding and seeing it sealed the deal), and couldn't wait to start. They also sent me a sweet poster with it! How nice.

The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black
Snorlax approved. 

"Philadelphia. The late 1870s. A city of cobblestone sidewalks and horse-drawn carriages. Home to the famous anatomist and surgeon Dr. Spencer Black. The son of a “resurrectionist” (aka grave robber), Dr. Black studied 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 his humble beginnings to 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 black-and-white anatomical illustrations. You need only look at these images to realize they are the work of a madman. The Resurrectionist tells his story."

I found the most interesting part to be the progression of Dr. Black as a student, to an esteemed doctor, and eventually into a madman. I don't think the synopsis describes it accurately enough - after he studies at the Philadelphia Academy of Medicine, he's known around the world for his work on human deformities, and people traveled from all over to see him. People thought he would become the greatest doctor of ALL TIME (ALL TIME! Sorry Kanye West joke.) He slowly starts to tire of this work and progresses onto another idea, which is to prove that mythical beasts really existed in another time.

The biography also includes letters to and from Dr. Black, which puts an interesting perspective on things. He wants to share his discoveries with the rest of the world, but one by one (and then all at once) he loses all support and his reputation as an esteemed doctor. Even when he's lost all his funding from the Academy of Medicine, he presses on.

The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black
Mermaids! This is also the image used on the poster they sent me. 

When simple research is no longer enough, things start to get really weird. Since none of his colleagues believe him, he decides to take matters into his own hands by recreating the creatures himself. Because if you can sew wings and an extra head onto a beagle, that obviously means two headed flying beagles existed before, right?

I won't go into detail on this (you have to read it for yourself), but there was one particularly eerie part in the book - when he shows his first animal creation to his wife, two sons and brother. HEARTBREAKING. I don't know if many of you will get the reference, but if you've watched or read the series Fullmetal Alchemist, it was very reminiscent of episode 4/chapter 5 with Shou and Nina Tucker. I wish I'd been warned so I could have been mentally prepared (and maybe have a few drinks first).

I can only accurately convey my emotions through gifs.

The biography only fills about 1/3 of the book. The rest contains his magnum opus: The Codex Extinct Animalia. It's a book he wrote with his detailed anatomical illustrations of all the creatures he claimed to be real. The illustrations while again, unsettling, are gorgeous in their own way. While Dr. Black was still in school, he worked part time as a science illustrator. They're all so intricate and well thought out that it made me wonder if the real author was in the same field (he's not, but wouldn't that be fun?)

The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black

My one and only wish for this book was that the biography was longer. It was only 66 pages, and even though Dr. Black's life and work was said to be shrouded in mystery, there was still much to be said. There were many gaps in the story and pieces that were said to be unknown, which I suppose is to add to the mystery, but I thought there were almost just too many gaps in the story to even bother writing about it. Either way, I'm glad they did, I just wish the story had a bit more meat to it. With that said, I still give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It would have been 5 if things were pieced together a bit more. I still plan to leave it out as a coffee table book through October, to see if I can get some interesting conversations going!

This was author E.B. Hudspeth's first book, and I'm interested in seeing what else he comes out with. You can visit him on his website (where he also has a blog), and on Facebook. I also want to thank Quirk Books and Goodreads, for making this reading pleasure and blog post possible!

17 comments:

  1. Added to my to-read list! This sounds so intriguing!

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  2. I like Quirk's Shakespeare Star Wars books.

    Cindy

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  3. I've seen this at the bookstore and have been quite intrigued to have it on my bookshelf.

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  4. Sounds interesting, very nice illustrations.

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  5. Wow, this definitely sounds very intriguing, I'm gonna have to add it to my reading list!

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    1. Do ittt! It's short, but quite a page turner!

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  6. Sounds like an interesting read. I enjoyed your review.

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  7. What an unusual topic! Nice to see that I'm not the only one who still prefers a real book to the electronic versions!

    V
    Life+1

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    1. While I do love my e-reader, nothing can ever beat a real, physical book!

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  8. This book looks really interesting! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it with Hump Day Happenings.

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  9. Looks interesting. Adding it to my reading list! Thank you.

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  10. I recently got this book from Quirk as well! My review is coming up on the blog too, I loved it as well! Although I agree with wishing the biography was longer! I wanted to know more about him and his sons!!!

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